While Donald Trump sounded more presidential at his recent address to Congress, the issue of Russian connections still lingers for team Trump. What does this all mean for the president, and for the Irish as the Patrick’s Day shamrock approaches? James Carroll reports.
“What we are witnessing today is the renewal of American spirit,” said Donald Trump, as he addressed Republicans and Democrats at congress in the United States.
His speech was light on policy but seasoned in some cliches that touched on his pre-election agenda. However, broadly speaking the speech was about public safety and security.
Although Trump adopted a more disciplined tone, he still found the time to take a swipe at the political establishment.
Plenty of his rhetoric was much the same, increased border security, a crackdown on illegal immigrants and wanting to rebuild the US by buying and hiring American.
His popularity, is supposedly at an historic low for a new president, with just 44% of Americans thinking he is doing a good job, according to RealClearPolitics.
His address was heavy in nationalism. “America must put its own citizens first, because only then can we truly make America great again,” he said.
“A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is a renewal of the American spirit,” he said.
The ascent of Marine Le Pen in France with her nationalistic views has the EU on edge. Although unlikely, the chances of a break-up of the alliance materialising are increasing.
“Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system,” he said.
“Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon,” he said.
He added, “switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration and instead adopting a merit-based system will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages and help struggling families, including immigrant families, enter the middle class.”
He said the Department of Homeland Security has set up an office called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE).
The undocumented Irish
There are between 11 and 12 million illegal immigrants in the US. Roughly, 50,000 of those are undocumented Irish.
The merit-based system will more than likely ease fears for many Irish looking to emigrate because of our skilled labour force. However, there is still plenty of uncertainty for the 50,000 or so undocumented.
Many are in the dark: if any of those undocumented have a minor criminal record will they be deported. There are thousands of undocumented who have families and careers.
The foreign direct investment conundrum
America is not in the top 30 highest taxed countries in the world but Ireland could face problems in the future in attracting global tech companies many of which are from the US.
In the future, companies will be hesitant about leaving the United States. Trump has plans on lowering the corporation tax and possibly raising taxes for companies that export jobs elsewhere in the world.
This is bad news for Ireland as our economy is heavily reliant on foreign direct investment.
If these potential tax plans were in place over the last 30 years, we would never have seen companies like Apple, Google, Facebook etc. setting up in Ireland.
Russia – an itch that will not go away
The Trump administration is facing further questions about its ties with Russia after it emerged that attorney general Jeff Sessions had misled senators when he lied under oath during his confirmation hearing when he denied he had any contact with Russia.
It was reported recently that Sessions had met with Russia ambassador Sergey Kislyak, at least twice.
Subsequently he announced that he would recuse himself from the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the Presidential election.
Sessions joined Trump’s campaign as early as February and oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading those investigations.
It is not long since another Trump aide, Mike Flynn, was forced to resign for not disclosing that he had talked to the Russian Ambassador prior to Trump being elected.
On top of all of this, Trump took to Twitter last Saturday to allege that Barack Obama authorised the tapping of his phones during the Presidential election, to ascertain if there was any contact between team Trump and the Kremlin.
The US President had given no details or evidence to back up his claim that his phones were tapped in Trump Tower last year.
Trump has not been as active on Twitter since making the claims on 4 March 2017.
Many of his critics and commentators have described these accusations as a deliberate deflection tactic because of the lingering Russia ties.
Update 14 March 2017
On 13 March 2017 , the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer spoke about Trump’s claims that conversations at Trump Tower were monitored during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election,” Spicer said. “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”
Spicer made his comments on the same day that the Justice Department asked the House Intelligence Committee for more time to investigate President Trump’s claims.
The White House has so far failed to produce any evidence to support these allegations.