A mother who lost her Army husband to a roadside bomb in Iraq. A man whose brother was killed by someone the White House contends should have been deported rather than released from jail. A 2-year-old girl born at 21 weeks.
The three individuals are some of the “real people” who will help President Donald Trump highlight key messages in the State of the Union address he delivers Tuesday night.
Invited by the White House, the guests will sit in the House chamber, high up in the gallery. One or two of them will be given the honor of sitting alongside first lady Melania Trump.
U.S. & World
The White House released details about 11 guests, with a more complete list expected before the nationally televised speech.
When Trump looks up at Kelli and Gage Hake of Stillwater, Oklahoma, he will remind the nation about the targeted drone strike he ordered in January that killed Qassem Soleimani, then Iran's top military commander.
Kelli Hake was home with Gage, then 1-year-old, in the spring of 2008 when she was informed that her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, had been killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq. The White House claims the sergeant's fighting vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb supplied by Soleimani.
Trump has said he ordered the strike against Soleimani, who had just arrived at the airport in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 3, because he was actively plotting attacks on U.S. service members in the region.
Trump is likely to highlight his clamp-down on illegal immigration using the December 2018 killing in California of Rocky Jones, brother of State of the Union guest Jody Jones, of Farmersville.
The White House blames California's “sanctuary state” policy for allowing the release from jail of a man it said should have been deported instead. The man went on a crime spree and Rocky Jones was among the victims, according to local news reports.
California's former governor signed legislation in October 2017 prohibiting state and local agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities regarding people illegally in the U.S. who had committed crimes.
With credit to her medical team, 2-year-old Ellie Schneider of Kansas City, Missouri, is one of the youngest babies to survive in the U.S. after being born at 21 weeks and six days, the White House said.
Other guests' stories will help Trump call attention to his advocacy for school choice and opportunity zones, which he created in a 2017 tax law to give tax breaks to investors in low-income areas.
Also attending the speech will be Ivan Simonovis, the former police chief of Venezuela's capital of Caracas. Simonovis was imprisoned in 2004 and held for nearly 15 years on what he considered trumped-up charges of ordering police to fire on pro-government demonstrators during a coup against then-President Hugo Chavez. Simonovis escaped last year and was brought to the United States.
His detention has been a rallying cry for the opposition in Venezuela, currently led by Juan Gauido, who has the backing from the U.S. and nearly 60 nations that considered President Nicolas Maduro's 2018 election a fraud. These countries also blame Maduro's socialist policies for a political and economic crisis threatening the region's stability.
Meanwhile, Democrats will be sending a message of their own through their choice of guests for the State of the Union. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced House and Senate Democrats were inviting more than 80 patients, doctors and health care advocates meant to put a spotlight on a winning issue for Democrats.
“Tonight, President Trump will speak to an audience filled with Americans who are suffering because of his broken promises on prescription drug costs and his all-out assault on Americans with pre-existing conditions,” Speaker Pelosi said in a statement. “It is my privilege to have among my guests several brave Americans whose stories and experiences show the life and death stakes of President Trump’s assault on affordable health care.”
Democrats have made rising health care costs and preexisting conditions a central part of their party platform.
Among Pelosi's guests will be California resident Xiomara Hung, who has a chronic illness and receives treatment under medicaid, and her mother, Elena Hung. Xiomara's story aims to bring attention to Republican policies that threaten protections for preexisting conditions.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., invited 15-year-old Emily Kaufman who has diabetes. The congresswoman wanted to spotlight legislation that would try to reduce the costs of drugs by getting rid of a ban on Medicare negotiating directly with drug companies.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.