BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Shortly before the House of Representatives crossed the threshold of votes needed to impeach President Donald Trump, making him the third president in U.S. history to face a Senate trial, Trump climbed on stage here to the roar of his fans for a historic split-screen evening.
"It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached. The country is doing better than ever before, we did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we've never had before," Trump said in remarks that lasted more than two hours — his longest rally speech ever — offering one line of defense after another from a stage adorned with Christmas decorations.
"Tonight, the House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans," he continued, later saying that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, should have been the one facing that penalty. "Why didn't the Republicans impeach him?" he asked.
Trump accused Democrats of "declaring their deep hatred and disdain for the American voter" and characterized their support for his impeachment as an "eternal mark of shame": "They have nothing. They're the ones who should be impeached, every one of them."
Trump — who delayed the start of his remarks by an hour to watch the tail end the House debate — took the stage as the chamber started voting on the measures Wednesday night. White House officials had described Trump as in "disbelief" and "prepared for war" as the day began, something he repeatedly made clear on Twitter, sending dozens of tweets and retweets from his account as the House debated.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found Americans deadlocked along party lines over whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office.
Although Trump is widely viewed as likely to survive a trial in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required for removal, the survey raised a potential red flag for his re-election hopes: About half of registered voters, 48 percent, said they were certain to vote against the president in November, compared to 34 percent who said they were certain to vote for him. The survey of registered voters was conducted Dec. 14-17 and reported a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
"Have you seen my polls in the last four weeks? You know we have an election down the road?" Trump asked the crowd Wednesday night, suggesting that his impeachment would be politically beneficial. He called it a "political suicide march for the Democratic Party" and vowed to "vote [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi the hell out of office" in 2020, along with other House Democrats.
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Trump asked the crowd, as he often does, whether there was "any better place in the world" than at one of his campaign rallies — and for the president, on this night, there may not have been: Staffers have used rallies in the past to boost Trump's mood, and few states could be more crucial to him than Michigan, which he won in 2016 by about 11,000 votes out of more than 4.4 million.
This was Trump's second time campaigning in Michigan this year. Vice President Mike Pence made a swing in the state, as well, on Wednesday for the second time this month, holding a campaign event in the solidly blue-collar city of Saginaw before taking a bus tour across the state to the rally here, following an event in the state headlined by Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser, on Tuesday night.
Still, on this cold Michigan night, the president's mind kept straying back to Washington. Trump again complained that the impeachment process had been "very, very unfair to my family" — although he celebrated the unity demonstrated by Republicans throughout.
"The Republican Party has never been so affronted, but they have never been so united as they are right now," he said to cheers. "Never. Never."
Shannon Pettypiece and Monica Alba reported from Battle Creek, Michigan. Lauren Egan reported from Washington.