Donald Trump has signed an executive order to keep the controversial Guantanamo Bay military prison open.
In his maiden State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, the pugnacious US President attempted to strike a more conciliatory tone as he heralded “a new American moment”.
“There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” he declared. “No matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time.”
The State of the Union speech is delivered by the President to Congress once a year.
Calls for unity after a polarising year
Mr Trump is known for going off script and rambling during speeches, but he was more collected in this address. As Republicans cheered and Democrats looked on grimly, he said he wanted ‘to seek out common ground’ and summon unity.
Mr Trump, whose approval ratings have fallen a year into his presidency, claimed America was finally seeing rising wages “after years and years of stagnation”. He said 2.4 million jobs had been created since his administration came to power.
But his speech deviated away from this positive tone when he continued to push for a harder line on immigration, the need for a border wall, and announced plans to keep Guantanamo Bay open in Cuba.
Barack Obama signed an executive order to shut down the prison within a year in 2009. He transferred 197 detainees out, leaving 41, including five cleared for release, but failed to close it.
Guantanamo Bay to stay open
“Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil,” Mr Trump said. “When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them. But we must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants.”
“In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists only to meet them again on the battlefield, including the Isis leader, al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who we released.”
His 80-minute speech was one of the longest to be delivered by a president. It was also the most tweeted State of the Union or Joint Session address, according to Twitter.
North Korea, Dreamers and the NFL
Mr Trump has angered many by withdrawing protections for around 1.8 million people brought to America illegally as children known as Dreamers and apparently couldn’t resist taking a swipe when he said: “Americans are dreamers too.”
However, he then appeared to offer a compromise when he said he extended “an open hand” to work with both Democrats and Republicans “to protect our citizens, of every background, colour and creed.”
He also appeared to make a dig at the NFL kneel protests, telling Congress: “We stand for the national anthem.”
Mr Trump denounced North Korea’s “reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles” which he said “could very soon threaten our homeland.”