Politics

A Trump, a Very Palpable Trump

The State of the Union as audience builder

President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump’s first State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Welcome back to Political Theater, Roll Call’s newsletter and podcast on the spectacle of politics and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the nation’s culture. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

The Trump Stage

Heading into year two of his presidency, can Donald Trump expand his reach and influence with skeptical Democrats in Congress, much less a skeptical public? At a minimum, he will need the minority party to advance any meaningful legislation, particularly in an election year.

“One of the goals of the State of the Union is to build coalitions so we can move forward,” says Ben Terris, national political reporter at The Washington Post. 

In the latest Political Theater Podcast, Terris and I discuss whether Trump used this week’s State of the Union to build those coalitions, and how he and Congress managed the tricky spectacle of this political gathering.

Podcast: Can The Trump Show Win Over a New Audience?

Listen to the full podcast:

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 A Train Wreck

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a train crash involving a garbage truck in Crozet, Va., on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. An Amtrak passenger train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck south of Charlottesville, Va. No lawmakers were believed injured. (Zack Wajsgrasu/The Daily Progress via AP)
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a train crash involving a garbage truck in Crozet, Va., on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. An Amtrak passenger train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck south of Charlottesville, Va. No lawmakers were believed injured. (Zack Wajsgrasu/The Daily Progress via AP)

It’s not every day a chartered Amtrak train carrying the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, plus staff and spouses, is involved in a deadly accident. 

Follow all the developments: Train Carrying GOP Lawmakers to Retreat Hits Truck

House of Retirement

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 11: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., takes off his tie as he leaves the Capitol following the final vote of the week on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., joined a growing crew of retiring lawmakers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The rush to the exits continues seemingly unabated. Earlier this week, it was Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee, calling it quits. Then Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the multi-haircutted and colorful chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Then Rep. Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., a veteran lawmaker from Philadelphia. Tough to keep up. 

Check out: Roll Call’s Casualty List of Departing Members

Jersey, Man

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: From left, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., talk before the start of President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address to the joint session of Congress in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
From left, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., talk before the start of President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address. A few hours later, the Justice Department dropped its corruption case against Menendez. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Robert Menendez, whose corruption trial ended last year in a mistrial but faced a retrial from the Justice Department, is in the clear. 

Just a couple weeks after announcing they would retry the New Jersey Democrat, federal prosecutors announced they were dropping the case. The turning point for the government case appeared to be a ruling last week from U.S. District Judge William H. Walls, who entered acquittals of seven of the 18 charges in the indictment against Menendez and his co-defendant, South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.

Menendez is up for re-election in November, and now won’t have a federal trial hanging over him. 

Read the full story: Justice Department Drops Corruption Case Against Menendez

The Kicker

 President Donald Trump speaks during the joint session of Congress to deliver his State of the Union Address in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
President Donald Trump speaks at his Jan. 30 State of the Union address. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) 

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