'Dishonest and corrupt': Trump unloads at National Prayer Breakfast after acquittal

The Senate found the president not guilty on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges Wednesday.

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump blasted "dishonest and corrupt" people Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, bashing his impeachment at the nonpartisan event with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just steps away.

"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. "They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country."

"Weeks ago, and again yesterday, courageous Republican politicians and leaders had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right," he continued.

Entering the stage, Trump lifted up a copies of USA Today and The Washington Post with headlines reading "ACQUITTED" and "Trump Acquitted" splashed across the front pages, displaying them to the crowd.

President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper with the headline that reads "Trump acquitted" during the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast, at the Washington Hilton, on Feb. 6, 2020, in Washington.Evan Vucci / AP

The moment comes one day after the Senate voted to acquit Trump on both impeachment charges he faced — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted to convict Trump on the abuse of power article, the only GOP member to vote for Trump's conviction.

In an apparent shot at both Pelosi, D-Calif., and Romney, Trump said: "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," he continued. "And I'll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House."

At her Thursday press conference, Pelosi called that remark "just so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast."

"I don't know if the president understands prayer or about people who pray," she added, saying that she prays "hard" for Trump "because he's so off the track of the Constitution and our values."

She said Trump's remark aimed at Romney "was particularly without class."

"He's talking about things he knows little about — faith and prayer," she said.

Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke after Trump arrived, offering prayers to the gathering. They did not mention Trump's gesture, which was greeted with some applause. The event is typically a reprieve from charged political rhetoric.

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Trump did not raise his hand when Harvard University professor Arthur Brooks asked those in attendance to raise their hands if they love someone whom they disagree with politically.

As the president continued his speech, he referenced his record-high approval rating of 49 percent in a Gallup poll this week and promoted his administration's policies. His address was met with cheers in the audience at various points throughout.

Nearly 200 members of Congress and a handful of foreign dignitaries were in attendance.

Nearing the conclusion of his address, Trump said people of faith sometimes "hate" people, adding, "When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy folks."

Trump said he was doing "my best" to try otherwise, which drew some laughs.

In impeaching the president, the House charged Trump for pushing Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and Democrats while he withheld nearly $400 million in congressionally approved aid to the country and an official White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and for obstructing Congress' efforts into investigating the matter.

While Romney was the only Republican to vote for Trump's conviction, several Republicans said Trump's actions were wrong though they did not meet the threshold for removal from office.

Trump has made news at the National Prayer Breakfast before. In 2017, he drew laughs when he asked attendees to "pray' for "The Celebrity Apprentice," which was then briefly hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"But we had tremendous success on 'The Apprentice,'" Trump said. "And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger — to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went right down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster."

He added that the show's producer, Mark Burnett, "will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, OK?"