WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump used a White House address about his impeachment acquittal to attack the one Republican senator who voted with Democrats to convict him, Sen. Mitt Romney.
“Things can happen when you fail so badly,” Trump said of the Utah Republican during the speech Thursday. “I’m sorry about Mitt Romney.”
Romney became the first senator in the nation’s history to vote to convict a president of his own party. The vote robbed Trump of the ability to say that Republicans were unified against his removal.
Trump also attacked the impeachment effort against him as “evil” and “corrupt,” and the work of “dirty cops.”
“We’ve all been through a lot together,” he said, lumping in the impeachment process with other investigations, including the probe into Russia’s election interference by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
“And it never really stopped. We’ve been going through this now for over three years. It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars and this should never ever happen to another president,” he said.
Before the president appeared, Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, the two lawyers who defended him in his impeachment trial, drew a round of applause as they entered the room.
Trump was joined by several allies in Congress, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Doug Collins of Georgia. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri were also in the audience.
After laying out a laundry list of gripes, Trump pivoted briefly touted the stock market and the soaring economy. He discussed his State of the Union, saying he received high marks from people he spoke with after his address.
But then he almost immediately returned to impeachment, retelling his version of the investigations dating back to the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“We went through hell, unfairly,” Trump said.
“But this is what the end result is,” he said holding up the front page of The Washington Post with a headline “Trump acquitted.”
Embracing a line he often uses at his campaign rallies, Trump claimed that the investigations were “all bulls-.”
Trump referred to his appearance at a prayer breakfast Thursday morning, when the defiant president unloaded on those who tried to impeach him, telling the crowd he was put through “a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.”
Tensions were palpable as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presided over the impeachment drive, sat nearby at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
“I had Nancy Pelosi sitting four seats away and I’m saying things a lot people wouldn’t have said but I meant it. I meant every word,” he said later at the White House as the crowd laughed.
He then unloaded on Pelosi, calling her “a horrible person.”
Democrats are “vicious people” and “lousy politicians,” he said, but “they stick together like glue.”
“That’s how they impeached,” he added, saying, “They’ll probably come back for more.”
Trump to address impeachment acquittal in speech
President Donald Trump appeared poised to unload on Democrats in remarks about his impeachment Thursday, a day after the Senate voted to acquit him on charges that he abused his power and obstructed the investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.
Trump is set to speak from the East Room of the White House at noon. White House aides arranged the room as they might for the announcement of a Supreme Court nomination, with about 240 chairs placed in a semi-circle around a stage
The event represents an inflection point in Trump’s presidency, allowing him to march toward the 2020 election free from the shadow of a major investigation for the first time since 2017. Trump has lumped the impeachment process into previous investigations, including the probe of Russian election interference by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
It also comes at a high point in Trump’s presidency, with a soaring U.S. economy and Democrats playing defense after embarrassing glitches in the Iowa caucuses. During impeachment, opinion polls showed little impact on Trump, suggesting he weathered the crisis, if not benefited from it. Earlier this week, a Gallup poll put Trump’s popularity at 49%, his highest mark since taking office, while others showed his approval rating roughly the same as before impeachment.
Trump, who has used those probes to sell an us-against-them theme on the campaign trail, appears likely to sharpen his criticism of Democrats in the remarks. Another potential target: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican who joined Democrats in voting to convict Trump on one of the charges.
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“He is going to be honest, going to speak with honesty and with humility,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Fox News. “He and the family went through a lot.”
“I think he’s gonna also talk about just how just horribly he was treated and that maybe people should pay for that,” she added.
Such a reaction would represent a departure from the past several weeks during the trial when Trump largely held his tongue on day-to-day impeachment news and steered clear of attacking any of the wavering centrist Republican senators such as Romney who expressed reservation about his interactions with Ukrainian officials.
The harsh criticism of Romney began immediately after the vote. In her first statement following the acquittal, Grisham described Romney as a “failed Republican presidential candidate.” Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, was elected to the Senate in 2018 from Utah.
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As was long expected, Democrats fell far short of the 67 votes needed to remove the president from office. The Senate voted 52-48 on Wednesday to acquit Trump on the charge that he abused his power and 53-47 on the charge that he obstructed Congress.
Trump’s victory lap began early Thursday as he used an address at the National Prayer Breakfast to attack supporters of the impeachment drive against him.
“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said.
The president, who said he would expand on those thoughts in the noon address, told religious leaders that impeachment supporters “know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”
Trump’s White House response will likely draw comparisons to President Bill Clinton’s remarks following his acquittal on impeachment charges triggered by his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
“I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and the American people,” a contrite Clinton said during a Rose Garden speech on Feb. 12, 1999.
Clinton asked all Americans to “rededicate ourselves to the work of serving our nation and building our future together.”
“This can be, and this must be, a time of reconciliation and renewal for America,” he said.
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