Live State of the Union 2020: Coverage and Updates

For weeks, the Trump administration has fought speculation that it was no longer backing Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuelan’s opposition movement, frustrated that he has yet to push President Nicolas Maduro from power. On Tuesday, the White House gave Mr. Guaidó its most visible show of support yet: a seat in Mr. Trump’s guest box for the State of the Union address.

Mr. Guaidó left Venezuela last month, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s disputed government, to round up international support. More than a year ago, as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Mr. Guaidó declared that because Mr. Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was under dispute, he could not claim power. Instead, under the Venezuelan constitution, Mr. Guaidó, declared himself the country’s interim leader.

More than 50 countries, including the United States, recognize Mr. Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela. The Trump administration has imposed dozens of economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro and his government to help Mr. Guaidó push him from office.

Even before heading in his motorcade to the Capitol for the big speech, Mr. Trump was enjoying the day, reveling in the dysfunction of the Iowa Democratic caucuses and relishing new polling that showed his public approval at the highest point of his presidency.

The long-delayed counting of the opening round of the Democratic presidential nomination race gave Mr. Trump ammunition for his efforts to sow dissension among Democrats by claiming, without proof, that the party establishment was trying to rig the race against Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist he would like to face in the fall.

“It’s a fiasco that just plays right into us,” Mr. Trump told the network anchors, according to people in the room.

Mr. Trump said he did not know who would win the Democratic nomination but said that Mr. Sanders is “nastier and smarter” than the other candidates and expressed amazement that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was doing so well. Mr. Pence, a former governor of Indiana, then interjected that South Bend was a troubled city.

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