WASHINGTON (CN) – There was praise for his friends and pikes for his "evil" adversaries.
No longer holding his tongue on impeachment for the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump signaled political payback for those who opposed him in angry remarks at the White House on Thursday afternoon.
“It was all bullshit,” the third impeached president in U.S. history proclaimed, referring to both his impeachment and the Russia scandal that preceded it.
Entering to loud applause, a musical fanfare and a few bars of “Hail to the Chief,” Trump called his characteristically meandering, 90-minute address a celebration rather than a press conference, but he did not seem to be too happy. As usual, Trump demanded adulation, rewarded those who provided it, and used his White House bully pulpit to denigrate those who refused to comply.
"Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, I might not even be here," Trump declared, calling the former FBI director a “dirty cop.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that this act, and several others, by Trump met the elements of obstruction of justice, but Department of Justice policy barred his prosecution while in office.
“We've been going through this for over three years,” Trump said, referring to criminal investigations and scandals that have sent several of his aides, allies and confederates to federal prison. “It was evil. It was corrupt."
In a speech filled with insults and self-praise, Trump panned Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s repeated statements that she prays for the president.
"She may pray, but she prays for the opposite,” Trump said, shortly after insulting the lead House impeachment manager who called him a threat to U.S. democracy.
“Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person," Trump declared, referring to the California congressman and House Intelligence Committee chairman.
Trump provided fodder for the reelection campaigns of those who stood beside him, such as his impeachment advisors, Representatives Lee Zeldin and Jim Jordan, a former wrestler whose physique received Oval Office approval.
“He never wears a jacket,” Trump observed of Jordan.
In his paean to former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Trump did not mention that the California Republican was implicated in his Ukraine scandal. Phone records showed Nunes in contact with Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted associate Lev Parnas, shortly before the pair plotted a smear campaign against ousted ex-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch last year.
Defiantly brandishing a Washington Post headline “Trump Acquitted,” Trump repeated again and again that he did not do anything wrong. The decisive GOP votes against additional witness testimony came from senators like Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins, who believed that Democrats proved their case, but it did not rise to the level of removal from office.
Multiple witnesses from the House impeachment probe showed that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine to pressure the former Soviet satellite to gin up political investigations of his political rival Joe Biden and sow doubt on Mueller’s conclusions in the report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
No witnesses contradicted those claims, which were backed by extensive documentary evidence. Trump’s Senate loyalists blocked any additional witnesses that would further corroborate or contradict them.
Senate Republicans have expressed their willingness to make amends with Senator Mitt Romney for his history-making, if unsuccessful, vote to remove his own party’s president on Wednesday.
Asked on Wednesday how long Romney would be in the doghouse, House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell replied with a laugh: “We don't have any doghouses here.”
President Trump had other ideas.
Bitterly swiping at the Utah Republican, Trump attacked Romney’s religious justification for his vote: “Then you have some who used religion as a crutch," falsely claiming that the Romney had not spoken about religion before the Senate trial.
Romney, whom Trump described as a failed presidential candidate, is the most visible Mormon ever to hold U.S. public office.
Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s son, called for Romney’s expulsion from the Republican conference.
Trump’s broadsides against Romney have come from and far away from the podium.
On his personal Twitter account, the president shared a video depicting Romney as a secret agent for the Democratic party with his 72 million followers, validating for many reporting that the White House warned Republican defectors voting against the president would find their “head on a pike.”
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