President Donald Trump unleashed his fury against those who tried to impeach him at a prayer breakfast Thursday, a day after his acquittal by the Senate.
“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 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. He spoke from a stage where he was joined by congressional leaders, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who led the impeachment charge against him.
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“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 huge “ACQUITTED!” headlines as he took the stage.
It was a whiplash message in contrast to the speakers who came before him, including keynote speaker and Harvard professor Arthur Brooks, who had described 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, and then he proceeded to demonstrate it.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” he said in an apparent reference to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a longtime Trump critic who was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s removal.
“Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when you know that is not so,’” he said, in a reference to Pelosi.
His comments were a clear sign that the post-impeachment Trump is emboldened like never before as he barrels ahead in his reelection fight with a united Republican Party behind him.
Republican senators voted largely in lockstep to acquit Trump on Wednesday, relying on a multitude of rationales for keeping him in office.
For Trump, there was one overriding message to draw from his acquittal: Even at a time of maximum political peril, it’s his Republican Party.
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Trump avoided talk of impeachment in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. By the next day, he was already moving to use impeachment as a 2020 rallying cry.
The president and his allies sent giddy tweets needling his accusers and Democrats. In his first message once the trial closed, Trump posted an animated video using a Time magazine cover to suggest he would remain in office “4EVA.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2020
Democrats handed some more good news to Trump. The Iowa caucuses, the nation’s first presidential nominating contest, was thrown into disarray by a tabulating mishap. That deprived any candidate of a clear victory and allowed Trump to paint the Democrats as incompetent and corrupt.
The president told confidants during the trial that he was impressed not just by the robust defense offered by his lawyers, but by the TV interviews offered by GOP senators outside the chamber, according to three White House aides and Republicans close to the West Wing.
He crowed to advisers about the loyalty being shown to him and predicted the show of force bodes well for party enthusiasm in November’s election, the people said.
“I have never seen the Republican Party as Strong and as Unified as it is right now. Thank you!” Trump tweeted during the trial.
Trump has benefited from a new class of Republicans in Congress who have proved to be more partisan than their predecessors. Party members also know that Trump rains retribution on those who cross him.
Trump’s sky-high approval ratings within his own party acted as a deterrent that kept nearly all Republicans from breaking ranks. The fear was palpable among GOP senators worried not just about being the target of an angry tweet but about a Trump-backed primary challenger or a revolt among strong Republican supporters.
Trump is betting that he can sell his acquittal to the American people as a vindication, that he can activate his supporters and mollify even his skeptics in the center. Democrats are left with the more challenging task of explaining the details of the Ukraine case to the American people, and the White House believes Trump’s less complicated message will prevail.
The Associated Press contributed to this article