Why Trump Doesn’t Have to Deliver a State of the Union Speech to Congress

President Trump delivers the State of the Union in 2018.

President Trump delivers the State of the Union in 2018. Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump was expected to deliver a State of the Union address at the end of January. But given the ongoing government shutdown, Democratic leadership is asking him to postpone the speech.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent the president a letter on Wednesday recommending that Republicans and Democrats “work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened.”

Since the president addresses Congress per the body’s invitation, and since Democrats control the House, we could see a situation where Trump looks to alternative methods of communication—dare we say, a campaign-style rally in West Virginia or a more formal address at D.C.’s Trump International Hotel? While Article II of the Constitution states the president shall “from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union,” nowhere does it dictate how this summary must be delivered to members.

Subscribe to Observer’s Politics Newsletter

Thomas Jefferson was opposed to the idea of giving in-person speeches, writing in a letter preserved by the National Archives (which are currently closed due to the government shutdown), “it’s inconvenient to give a speech, it takes more time than reading and it robs legislators of the ability to think before responding.” Jefferson’s tradition of delivering written State of the Union summaries to Congress would continue until Woodrow Wilson in 1913; the last time a president submitted a written summary on the state of the nation was Jimmy Carter in 1981.

The National Archives are closed because of the government shutdown.

The National Archives are closed because of the government shutdown. Observer, Davis Richardson

In her request to Trump, Pelosi recommended that Trump deliver written remarks to Congress as Jefferson once did. Not one to kowtow to Democrats, or communicate with the written word, Trump may double down on his signature blockbuster spectacle.

There’s nothing in the Constitution preventing the president from delivering the State of the Union via Twitter…

Why Trump Doesn’t Have to Deliver a State of the Union Speech to Congress