President Donald Trump, throwing what he called a “celebration” Thursday at the White House, said the nation could have accomplished more by now if not for the time put into his impeachment and legal defense.
“Think what we could have done if the same energy was put into infrastructure, prescription drug prices. Think of what we could have done, and I’m now talking to both sides,” Trump told a friendly audience packed into the East Room of the White House.
The president spent much of the occasion, which went more than an hour, thanking individual Senate and House Republicans who helped to defend him.
Lawmakers, Cabinet members, staffers, and other supporters joined the president one day after the Senate voted to acquit him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress that grew out of his July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s president.
After the partisan ordeal, Trump did have one nice thing to say about Democrats:
I will say it’s genius on the other side and even more so, because they took nothing and brought me to a final vote on impeachment. That’s an ugly word for me, that’s a very dark word. … But now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought a word would sound so good. It’s called total acquittal.
Trump did not use the event to address the nation, as many had expected, but instead expressed gratitude directly to his White House audience.
Trump praised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and other specific Republican lawmakers who stood by him, often telling personal anecdotes.
And the president contested some who objected to his raising apparent issue of conflicts of interest in Ukraine for former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden in his call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“You know, I had some that said, ‘Oh, I wish he didn’t make the call.’ That’s OK if they need that. It’s incorrect. It’s totally incorrect,” Trump said.
For the second time Thursday, the president referred to the lone Senate Republican vote against him cast by Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the party’s presidential nominee in 2012. This time, he eventually identified Romney by name.
“Then you have some that used religion as a crutch. They never used it before,” Trump said. “But it’s a failed presidential candidate, so things can happen when you fail so badly running for president.”
Romney, a Mormon, invoked God and his faith on the Senate floor Wednesday in explaining why he would vote to remove Trump from office for abuse of power.
Trump had harsh things to say about Democrats, primarily House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, both California Democrats.
“These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. She wanted to impeach a long time ago,” Trump said.
The president said he doesn’t believe Pelosi’s repeated claims that she prays for him.
“She doesn’t pray for the president. She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all,” Trump said, adding:
These are vicious people. But they do two things. They stick together—historically—like glue. That’s how they were able to impeach. …
They stuck together and were as vicious as hell, and they’ll probably come back for more. But maybe not, because the Republican Party’s poll numbers have now gone up more than any time I think since 2004 and 2005. The Republican Party’s poll numbers and Donald Trump’s poll numbers are the highest I’ve ever had them. …
It’s no way to get your poll numbers up. Because from my family’s standpoint, it has been very unfair for my family and it’s been very unfair to the country.
Trump also had referred to Romney and Pelosi that morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, although not by name.
At the White House, Trump said Democrats’ impeachment effort began with “tremendous corruption,” an opposition-research dossier on him, and FBI officials such as former Director James Comey whom he referred to as “dirty cops.”
As he had at the prayer breakfast, Trump also held up a copy of The Washington Post with its big headline saying “Trump acquitted.”