WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump responded to those who tried to remove him from office Thursday, a day after his acquittal by the Senate in his impeachment trial.
In the East Room of the White House, Trump waved a newspaper front page — “TRUMP ACQUITTED” — and declared the impeachment proceedings a “disgrace” and labeled his foes as “scum,” “sleaze bags” and “horrible” people. “It was evil, it was corrupt,” Trump declared at the White House. “This should never ever happen to another president, ever.”
He conceded nothing in regard to allegations that he improperly withheld U.S. military aid in an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic foe Joe Biden and other political matters.
“We went through hell, unfairly,” he insisted. “We did nothing wrong.”
For more than an hour, Trump railed against against the impeachment process and ticked off names of the “vicious and mean” people he felt had wronged him: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and former FBI Director James Comey. But then he reveled in the 52-48 verdict on the abuse of power article of impeachment delivered by the GOP-controlled Senate the day before.
“Now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought it would sound so good,” Trump said. Ït’s called ‘total acquittal.’”
As Trump spoke, the White House East Room was packed with hundreds of supporters. Among them: Republican senators who voted to acquit him, Cabinet members and staunch House allies.
Trump’s speech pushed beyond his State of the Union address two nights earlier, during which he stuck to the script and made no mention of impeachment. Not using a teleprompter this time, Trump delivered remarks saluting “a great group of warriors,” name-checking GOP lawmakers who had backed him both in the Capitol and on television.
He declared that the Republican Party had never been more unified and predicted momentum from the acquittal would carry him to reelection this November. But he also predicted that he may have to fend off another impeachment challenge, perhaps for something as trivial as jaywalking.
“We’ll probably have to do it again because these people have gone stone-cold crazy,” the president said.
Earlier, speaking first from a stage at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he was joined by congressional leaders, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the impeachment charge against him, Trump acknowledged the impact of impeachment.
“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 at the annual event. He spoke hours before he was to deliver a full response to the impeachment vote at the White House.
“They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation,” said Trump, who triumphantly held up copies of two newspapers with banner “ACQUITTED” headlines as he took the stage.
His remarks came after a series of scripture-quoting speeches, including a keynote address by Arthur Brooks, a Harvard professor and president of a conservative think tank, who had bemoaned a “crisis of contempt and polarization” in the nation and urged those gathered to ”love your enemies.”
“I don’t know if I agree with you,” Trump said. “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.”
“Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when you know that is not so,’” he said. Pelosi, has previously said that she prays for the president when the two leaders have sparred publicly.
The House speaker shook her head at various points during Trump’s remarks, but did not appear to interact with Trump personally. Earlier she had offered a prayer for the poor and the persecuted.
She said later that Trump’s remarks were “so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast.” She reiterated that she does pray for the president.
Republican senators voted Wednesday to acquit Trump on both articles of impeachment.
Trump had avoided talk of impeachment in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, holding his tongue until the Senate had cast its official acquittal vote.
By the next day, he was moving to use impeachment as a 2020 rallying cry.
Trump tweeted after the Senate vote that he would mark his acquittal with a statement to the nation at noon Thursday to “discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” The president’s supporters were being invited to join him at the East Room event.
Asked what Trump would say, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News Channel that he would talk about “just how horribly he was treated, and you know, that maybe people should pay for that.”
“People should be held accountable. The Democrats should be held accountable,” she said. “People need to understand what the Democrats did was dishonest and it was corrupt.”
The final vote Wednesday reflected a unified GOP with only Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a longtime Trump critic, voting for removal on one article of impeachment.
Romney seemed to anticipate retribution, telling Fox News, “I have broad enough shoulders to bear the consequences.”