At Davos, Trump calls impeachment trial a long-running 'hoax'

As his trial in the Senate gets underway, the president will be counterprogramming at the gathering of the world's elite in the Swiss mountains.

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By Shannon Pettypiece

DAVOS, Switzerland — President Donald Trump repeatedly called the impeachment trial set to start in Washington later Tuesday a "hoax" shortly before touting his economic achievements in a speech to some of the world's richest and most influential people at the mountainside gathering here.

"It's a witch hunt that's been going on for years and it's, frankly, it's disgraceful," the president told reporters as he headed into the packed conference hall to give his remarks.

"That whole thing is a total hoax, so I’m sure it is going to work out fine," he said after his speech.

Trump used the moment on the world stage to take a victory lap on the economy and divert attention from the drama playing out back home and to give the appearance of a president hard at work. It’s a strategy used by then-President Bill Clinton, who scheduled events across the country during his impeachment, though he didn’t travel abroad.

In his address, Trump rattled off a long list of economic metrics that show improvements in the U.S. economy — attributing them to his tax cuts, new trade deals and rollbacks in regulations. In the mostly scripted remarks, a toned down version of his rally stump speech, Trump sounded at times like a salesman pitching the United States to a room of business executives as a place to invest, and at others like a candidate trying to appeal to a domestic audience thousands of miles away.

"I knew that if we unleashed the potential of our people, if we cut taxes, slashed regulations — and we did that at a level that’s never been done before in the history of our country in a short period of time — fixed broken trade deals and fully tapped American energy, that prosperity would come thundering back at a record speed," Trump told the crowd. "And that is exactly what we did and that is what happened."

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Trump received a mostly warm welcome from the audience of mostly business executives, financiers and foreign dignitaries, many of whom have benefited from the surge in the stock market under his term, as well as his corporate tax cuts.

Despite the populist, anti-globalist rhetoric that helped get him elected, Trump has sought to bolster his relationship with Wall Street and the business community, often inviting executives to the White House and promoting how his administration has enriched them.

Trump has meetings throughout the day with business executives, the prime minister of Pakistan, the president of the European Commission, and the president of the Swiss Confederation. He is expected to travel back to Washington on Wednesday. Those meetings could also give Trump the opportunity to take questions from reporters during photo ops.

But back in Washington, the domestic drama continued.The Senate will resume its impeachment trial Tuesday afternoon during which a number of procedural items are expected to be raised. Arguments by Democrats will begin Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, when Trump is scheduled to be traveling back from Davos.

Trump will be briefed throughout the day on the developments in the impeachment hearings, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters.

The economy will be key to Trump's re-election and his remarks here were catered almost as much to a domestic audience as a global one.

"We are determined to ensure the working and middle class reap the largest gains," Trump said.

Trump signed the first phase of a hard-fought trade deal last week with China, capping a bitter 18-month battle between the world's two largest economies that has roiled markets and slowed economic growth worldwide. The U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent in December, the lowest level in 50 years, but the month's payroll and wage growth numbers missed expectations.