Trump State of the Union guests never benefitted from policies he used them to boast about

Two people Donald Trump invited to his State of the Union address have little to do with the policies that he brought them there to amplify.

A Philadelphia fourth grader was surprised with a scholarship after the president highlighted his administration’s attempts to rescue students “trapped in failing government schools” with $5bn (£3.8bn) in federal tax credits for contributions to scholarship programmes. But Janiyah Davis already attends a sought-after tuition-free charter school and previously attended a $5,200-a-year private school.

The president invited a formerly homeless veteran to tout the success of a programme that provides tax breaks to companies hiring in poor neighbourhoods. But Tony Rankins doesn’t work at a site taking advantage of the breaks and never has done so, according to the Associated Press.

Critics have criticised the president for relying on his two guests to manipulate support for significant tax breaks for wealthy people that would support his signature proposals.

At his State of the Union address, the president said: “After struggling with drug addiction, Tony lost his job, his house and his family. He was homeless. But then Tony found a construction company that invests in Opportunity Zones … He is now a top tradesman, drug-free, reunited with his family.”


A few days later, the president spoke at the Opportunity Now summit in North Carolina to sing the programme’s success, even inviting Mr Rankins to that event as well.

Mr Trump said: “One of the Americans benefitting from this gusher of new investment is a man who became very famous the other night because I introduced him during the State of the Union: Army veteran Tony Rankins of Cincinnati, Ohio. … After struggling with drug addiction, Tony lost his job, his house, his family. And he was homeless. He lost everything. But then Tony found a construction company that does work in Opportunity Zones. And the company saw Tony’s great skill and talent.”

Mr Rankins thanked the president for signing the legislation, saying that “without it, I wouldn’t be standing here before you right now”.

The president said that the construction business where Mr Rankins is employed “is working to help 200 people rise out of homelessness every year by investing in the Opportunity Zones”.

Mr Rankins started a job four months before the US Treasury Department listed eligible neighbourhoods. He’s currently working at a site that is eligible for Opportunity Zone credits but has not used them, the Associated Press reports.

Travis Steffans, the CEO of the company that Mr Rankins works for, said the tax break that has routinely helped him employ people like Mr Rankins was passed in 1996 under then-president Bill Clinton.

The Opportunity Zone program, part of the president’s 2017 tax package, offers developers significant tax savings if they work in 8,000 designated poor neighbourhoods. But critics warn that the programme stands only to benefit wealthy developers while fuelling gentrification and pushing out the black families that the president said would benefit most from the programme.

Mr Trump’s “school choice” proposal provides up to $5 billion in federal tax credits to effectively use taxpayer money to support private school education, without adjusting a budget for public schools, largely attended by more students from lower-income families than private schools that require significant tuition fees. 

Janiyah’s mother Stephanie Davis told The Philadelphia Inquirer that she doesn’t view her daughter’s current school  “as a school you want to get out of at all. I view it as a great opportunity”.

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Trump news – live: President makes odd Elton John boast, as Denmark pours scorn on ‘mad’ plan to buy Greenland

Trump was busy touting Corey Lewandowski in New Hampshire yesterday, who greeted him upon his arrival in Manchester and was present for his rally speech, as his former campaign manager mulls a run for the Senate in his home state.



Trump praised Lewandowski as “a very outstanding guy” in an interview on the New Hampshire Today radio show before his evening rally. The president said he thought Lewandowski would be hard to beat if he decides to challenge Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen.

“Well, first of all, I have to tell you that I think he would be fantastic. He’s got great energy. He’s terrific on television .. He’s a really good guy,” Trump said in the interview. While he said he didn’t think Lewandowski had made up his mind yet, Trump said that, “If he ran, he would be a great senator” and “hard to beat.” 


Meanwhile in DC, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Lewandowski and another for ex-White House aide Rick Dearborn as part of its investigation into Trump’s conduct in office. 

Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he committee wants to hear publicly from Lewandowski and Rick Dearborn on 17 September “as part of its efforts to hold the president accountable.” 

Lewandowski and Dearborn were both “prominently featured” in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Trump’s possible obstruction of justice. The report says Lewandowski and Dearborn were aware of Trump’s efforts to have Mueller fired. 


The Trump administration has been blocking former aides from testifying before Congress, setting off a legal battle that is expected to deepen in the fall. It is now considering the possibility of invoking executive privilege to shield Lewandowski from having to comply with the subpoena, according to CNN, despite his never having worked for the president at the White House.


The administration did the same to prevent ex-White House counsel Don McGahn from having to appear before the same committee earlier this year.

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