WASHINGTON — An emboldened President Donald Trump took a vengeful victory lap from the White House less than 24 hours after his acquittal on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, lashing out at his adversaries, touting his perceived accomplishments and denying any wrongdoing.
In a disjointed, freewheeling speech from the East Room of the White House, the president railed at his adversaries, repeatedly going after former FBI director James Comey, and celebrated his triumph in the Senate trial, waving around a copy of The Washington Post with the headline "Trump Acquitted."
"It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars," Trump said of the investigations that have plagued his presidency since its early days.
At the start of his Senate trial, Trump smashed his own Twitter record for tweets sent in a single day. As the trial was heating up early last week, he continued his attacks against Democrats and his impeachment trial at a New Jersey campaign rally, accusing them of pursuing "deranged partisan crusades." And Trump did not hold back Thursday after weathering all the constitutional muscle Democrats could throw against him.
He also devoted time to thanking those who stood by him, heaping praise on Republican senators, many of whom were in the audience.
The crowd included a who’s who of his cable television and congressional allies, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump’s legal team was given a standing ovation as they entered the room.
But while Trump declared victory, he didn’t get the bipartisan vote he wanted, something White House officials had hoped would be a key talking point in his post-acquittal celebration. Instead, no Democratic senators broke ranks and one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voted with Democrats to convict Trump of abuse of power — something that clearly infuriated Trump.
Romney said Wednesday he felt compelled to vote to convict because "I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice." He also said he was sure he would hear "abuse from the president and his supporters" over his decision. "Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?" Romney said.
Trump accused him of using “religion as a crutch,” claiming Romney, a devout Mormon and the 2012 Republican nominee for president, had never previously cited his religion in making a political decision. He also repeatedly mocked Romney's loss to President Barack Obama.
"Things happen when you fail so badly running for president,” Trump said, telling Romney's fellow senator from Utah, Mike Lee, to tell the people from his home state, "I’m sorry about Mitt Romney."
Trump called Democrats “vicious as hell” and “stone-cold crazy,” saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a “horrible person,” and questioned her faith.
“I doubt she prays at all,” he said.
He refused to concede any wrongdoing, again describing his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that launched a series of events leading to his impeachment as "perfect" and "a very good call."
"I know bad phone calls," Trump said, and that conversation was not one. He added, “I’ve done things wrong in my life, I will admit, not purposely, but I've done things wrong."
The acquittal topped off what is shaping up to be a very good week for Trump. It began Monday, as he seized on the reporting meltdown in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa to launch attacks on the Democratic Party's competence and trustworthiness. On Tuesday, hours ahead of his speech, a new Gallup poll indicated the highest approval rating of his presidency.
Impeachment, he said, was a "very ugly" word.
"Totally appropriate call," Trump said, adding, "And they brought me to the final stages of impeachment."
But then, on the other hand, he mentioned he "never thought a word would sound so good."
"It's called 'total acquittal,'" he said.
He spent time blasting Comey, of whom he said: "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."
"We caught him in the act," Trump said of Comey, whom he later called a "sleazebag."
"Dirty cops, bad people. If this happened to President Obama, a lot of people would have been in jail for a long time already, many, many years."
It was Trump's second victory lap of the day. Earlier Thursday he spoke at the National Payer Breakfast, in which he excoriated the impeachment and his opponents while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat steps away. Trump said: "I had Nancy Pelosi sitting four seats away and I'm saying things that a lot of people wouldn't have said but I meant every word of it." And he criticized House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., as "a failed screenwriter."
"They're vicious and mean," Trump said of his opponents. "Vicious. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person."
Trump's remarks often went in bizarre directions and were akin to speeches at his raucous rallies. He not only discussed the impeachment, but whom he would cast in famous Hollywood films, Rep. Jim Jordan's workout routine, former New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson and having personally interviewed candidates for the Senate. Of Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., Trump said he liked her last name and that's why he "picked" her as the candidate to back in a GOP primary.
One by one, the president went around the room and praised Republicans as he spoke for roughly an hour.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whom Trump referred to as "Cryin' Chuck" during his speech, ripped the president's speech afterwards, calling it a "diatribe filled with mistruths and profanity." While Trump could have used his remarks to "show some contrition," Schumer said, he instead got on "his self-righteous high horse saying he did nothing wrong."
If that were true, the New York Democrat said, Trump would have welcomed witnesses and documents in the trial instead of blocking them. "His acquittal vote has no value," Schumer said, because a trial without witnesses or documents is "a sham."
"The bottom line is President Trump executed the largest cover-up since Watergate," Schumer said.
Trump's reaction was a far cry from former President Bill Clinton's post-acquittal remarks in 1999, in which he apologized for his actions.
"Now that the Senate has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, bringing this process to a conclusion,” Clinton said then, “I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events, and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people."