by Hans Izaak Kriek*
President Donald Trump declared victory over impeachment at a rambling self-congratulatory White House event Thursday, carried live on national TV, calling the investigations into his presidency ‘evil’ and Democrats ‘vicious as hell’ as Republican allies laughed and applauded.
"It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars," Trump said. His remarks, in the White House East Room, were meant to be a “celebration," he said, "after we were treated unbelievably unfairly. We went through hell, unfairly, did nothing wrong, did nothing wrong," he said.
In stark contrast with apologetic remarks President Bill Clinton made after his impeachment trial concluded in 1999, Trump offered no remorse or regret. Speaking for more than an hour, he repeated his belief that he did nothing wrong. "It was all bull shit”, Trump said.
"This is what the end result is," and he holding up a copy of Thursday’s Washington Post with the banner headline ‘Trump acquitted’.
The official event was entirely political in nature, reminiscent of a Trump campaign rally, with the president blasting specific Democratic lawmakers, thanking a long list of Republican allies on Capitol Hill, and reserving particular ire for Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, the lone GOP senator to vote to remove Trump from office.
He called Romney, who ran for president in 2012, ‘a failed presidential candidate’, saying: "things can happen when you fail so badly running."
He questioned the devout Mormon’s faith, which Romney cited on Wednesday as guiding his decision when he announced he would vote to convict Trump. "You have some who used religion as a crutch," Trump said at his speech.
Donald Trump in December became only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached and face trial , on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. On Wednesday, the Senate acquitted him on both articles.
"Now we have that gorgeous word," Trump said, "I never thought a word would sound so good. It’s called total acquittal."
Occasionally referring to notes on his lectern, Trump lashed out at those who have investigated him during his time in office, from House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to special counsel Robert Mueller. "These people are vicious," the president said of Democrats. "Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person."
As he often does during his campaign rallies, he even harkened back to the 2016 election, criticizing his former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, and he took shots at former FBI Director James Comey, whom he called a ‘sleazebag’. "Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now," Trump said. "We caught him in the act. Dirty cops. Bad people." He said it was ‘almost like’ the Democrats ‘want to destroy our country’.
A multitude of Republican lawmakers sat in the audience, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The vice president and a range of Cabinet secretaries watched as Trump spoke, as did members of the president’s defense team, who received a standing ovation when they entered the East Room.
Television networks carried the lengthy remarks live as Trump went on extended digressions, such a description of Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s workout sessions and a detailed account of when Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot during practice for a congressional baseball game in 2017. "This is sort of a day of celebration because we went through hell," the president said.
While Trump stopped short of expressing any regret for his actions, he did offer an apology, of sorts, to his family.
"I want to apologize to my family for having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people," Trump said, asking his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka to stand and then come up for a hug, while also noting his 13-year-old son Barron was in the audience. First lady Melania Trump came up for a kiss.
Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier that day, Trump rejected calls from the keynote speaker to ‘love your enemies’. "So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on," the president said in a hoarse voice, "And I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House."
That comment came just after he launched into an attack on his impeachment, saying he and the country had been put through ‘a terrible ordeal’ by ‘very dishonest people’.
“They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation,” he said.
At the prayer breakfast, what is supposed to be an annual non-political event where politicians and others come together to pray, Trump appeared to target Romney.
"I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong," Trump said.
"Nor do I like people who say, I pray for you, when they know that that’s not so," an apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sitting nearby, who has said she prays for Trump daily.
At the White House, Trump said he was, in fact, referring to Pelosi, whom he labeled a ‘horrible person’. "I had Nancy Pelosi sitting four seats away," Trump said. "I’m saying things a lot of people wouldn’t have said. I meant every word.
Trump repeated that attack on Pelosi, a devout Catholic, during his White House remarks. "She wanted to impeach a long time ago when she said, ’I pray for the president’,
”She doesn’t pray. She may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all.”
As he did at the White House, when he entered the prayer breakfast, Trump brandished newspapers with banner headlines saying he had been acquitted.
Romney aside, the president praised “courageous Republican politicians” who stood by him. “Weeks ago, and again yesterday, courageous Republican politicians and leaders had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right,” Trump said.
In an interview on Fox News Thursday morning, after the president spoke, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president was going ‘to talk about just how horribly he was treated’ in the White House remarks.
“Maybe people should pay,” she said.
Pelosi, at her weekly news conference Thursday, said Trump used his State of the Union address and Congress as ‘a reality show’. "They say there’s going to be payback for us, for honoring the Constitution," she said, responding to a question about Grisham’s comments.
"He’s impeached forever," she said of Trump, "no matter what he says or what headlines he wants to carry around.
I don’t think the president understands about prayer or people who do pray," she said.
President Trump said about this: “Speaker Pelosi is a horrible person and I’m still the President of the United States. Our long national nightmare is over.
*International political commentator for European Business Review and editor-in-chief at Kriek Media