Updated Feb 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump cuts loose at acquittal celebration

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump let loose Thursday at a White House event to mark his impeachment acquittal, saying it was not a speech or a news conference but "a celebration."

The big picture: The 62-minute event was pure unchained Trump — a midday TV drama featuring his closest allies from the White House and Capitol Hill — that saw the president go scorched earth in a setting more akin to one of his campaign rallies than a traditional East Room gathering.

  • Like a rally, the focus didn't just stay on impeachment. The president relitigated the entire Russia investigation and a number of unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding it, claiming that former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page "were going to try and overthrow the government of the United States" and calling former FBI Director James Comey "a sleaze bag."
"There's nothing from a legal standpoint. This is a political thing. And every time I'd say, 'This is unfair, let's go to court,' they'd say, 'You can't go to court. Sir, this is politics.' We were treated unbelievably unfairly. You have to understand, we first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit."

The state of play: The president used the event to thank his allies and settle scores, despite already taking a shot at impeachment foils Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) earlier Thursday.

  • He referred to both Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as "horrible" people and said that Pelosi "doesn't pray."
  • He singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his "fantastic job" in leading the Senate's Republican caucus through the impeachment process and trial.
  • His extended victory lap featured a long list of members of Congress — from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — to single out for praise.

Between the lines: Trump repeatedly refused to admit that he had done anything wrong regarding the Ukraine affair, brushing it aside as a political witch hunt, despite the fact that a number of Senate Republicans have stated that his actions were wrong but not impeachable.

Flashback to the New York Times headline for former President Bill Clinton's first public statement after his impeachment acquittal in 1999: "The President Says He Feels Humbled and Is 'Profoundly Sorry.'"

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Trump takes aim at Pelosi and Romney during National Prayer Breakfast

Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump used his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday to take a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) over their roles in his impeachment.

"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 they know that that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on."
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The big picture: These dynamics are setting the pace as President Trump’s legal team speeds through arguments to seek a fast acquittal.

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