The address will air at 9 pm Eastern time and be broadcast on multiple major networks, including NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and Fox’s broadcast networks; and cable outlets such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. C-SPAN will also carry the speech.
The networks’ decision to carry the address has been some cause for consternation, as many of those same outlets refused to air President Barack Obama’s 2014 speech on a series of executive actions on immigration in November of that year after talks over a bipartisan immigration reform bill broke down. Part of the explanation then was that it was “sweeps” month (though Trump’s speech will preempt new episodes of Black-ish, FBI, and Ellen’s Game of Games), but it was also because the networks found the topic of Obama’s speech to be too partisan.
In a joint statement released on Monday, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer criticized the networks’ decision to air Trump’s speech and demanded that they be given equal airtime to respond.
“Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime,” they said.
NBC has agreed to broadcast Pelosi and Schumer’s rebuttal.
How we got here, briefly explained
The government has now been partially shut down for more than two weeks amid an impasse between Trump and Democrats over his demand that he get $5 billion for border wall funding.
After the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to fund the government — without new wall money — in December, it seemed as though Trump would back down. But after watching some cable news and worrying how it might look to his base, he’s taken a hard line: He wants $5 billion for the wall or nothing, rejecting bipartisan bills to fund the government passed out of the House and Senate. He’s even floated the idea of declaring a national emergency if he doesn’t get his way.
An estimated 800,000 government employees have been affected by the shutdown — about 420,000 who are working without pay and another 380,000 on unpaid leave. And the longer the ordeal goes on, the more places its effects can be seen: at airports, in national parks, and in social safety net programs.
According to Axios, Trump’s Tuesday Oval Office address is part of an “urgent PR strategy designed to make up for what some Republican officials feel was a languid use of the president’s bully pulpit over the holidays.” Trump plans to hammer home his point that there is a “crisis” of illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border that necessitates a wall — a premise that just isn’t true.
On Monday, Trump tweeted about the speech, which he said would focus on the “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”
I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border. Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2019
The president and his aides have spent recent days pushing the notion of a “crisis” at the border and suggesting that the situation might be so dire that the president will declare a national emergency for wall funding. Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday that the White House counsel was looking at the legality of an emergency declaration and hadn’t yet made a decision.
Many legal experts say it is within Trump’s presidential powers to declare a national emergency, whether there is one or not, because under the current law governing such declarations, there are no criteria set for what counts as an emergency.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, a close confidant of Trump’s, said on his radio show on Monday that he thinks that’s the route the president will go. “I’m guessing he’s going to declare a national emergency,” he said.