Trump's day of rage: Profanity, false accusations and a press spat

The president lashed out at Hill Democrats as House leaders announced a fresh round of potential White House subpoenas.

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By Shannon Pettypiece and Adam Edelman

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's growing frustration with Democrats' amped up impeachment efforts was on stark public display Wednesday as he spent the day openly raging against the media and his political rivals.

In the stretch of a few hours, Trump called Democratic impeachment efforts "BULLSHIT," got into a verbal altercation with a reporter during a press conference, and delivered unfounded claims about his political rivals. His anger was visible — his face flushed at times, his voice raised, his gestures increasingly animated.

“Nancy Pelosi and shifty Schiff, who should resign in disgrace, and Jerry Nadler and all of them, it’s a disgrace what’s going on,” the president said at a White House event, the visiting Finnish president by his side. “They’ve been trying to impeach me from the day I got elected. I’ve been going through this for three years.”

Trump's advisers have looked to downplay the seriousness of the impeachment threat, with his lawyer Jay Sekulow describing it as a "skirmish" and counselor Kellyanne Conway saying the White House doesn't need a war room, since the president is "the most battle-tested person I've ever met."

Still, Trump's sharp reactions Wednesday suggested the process might be having an impact.

The day started with Democrats outlining the next steps in their impeachment efforts, and signaling that the White House's refusal to comply with their requests would be used as evidence against him.

That sparked a tweetstorm from Trump moments in which he called House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a “low life,” blamed declines in the stock market on the Democratic impeachment efforts and suggested staffers were inappropriately listening to his phone calls.

“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016,” Trump tweeted as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schiff spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill.

“[G]et a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!" he added.

Roughly half an hour later, a combative Trump lashed out at Schiff from the Oval Office, calling him “shifty” and a "dishonest guy" who "couldn’t carry" Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's “blank strap.” Those words appeared to be a reference to "jock strap."

"I won't say it, because they'll say it was so terrible," Trump told reporters, sitting alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Earlier Wednesday, Schiff had said he was “deeply concerned about Secretary Pompeo's effort now to potentially interfere with witnesses whose testimony is needed before our committee.”

Trump reacted with fresh calls for scrutiny of Schiff himself. “Frankly, they should look at him for treason,” Trump said.

Trump ended the photo op by declaring the press "truly is the enemy of the people."

During a press conference several hours later, Trump snapped at Reuters White House reporter Jeff Mason, who repeatedly asked the president to answer his question about what he had wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “to do with regard to Joe and Hunter Biden.”

Trump sidestepped the questions and, growing agitated, slammed the Bidens as “stone cold crooked” before angrily insisting Mason submit a question to the Finnish president.

“Ask this gentleman a question,” Trump said. “Don’t be rude.”

Trump then cut the press conference short, preventing the Finnish president from taking another question from one of his country's reporters, as is customary.

Despite his public display of frustration, Trump denied during the press conference that the political storm is having an effect on him.

"I'm used to it, it's like putting on a suit," Trump said when asked by a reporter how the impeachment would affect his foreign policy.

House Democrats have launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump centered on a July 25 phone call between him and the president of Ukraine during which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the family of the former vice president, Trump's possible 2020 opponent.

The White House has since released a detailed description of the July call, while the House Intelligence Committee made public a lightly redacted version of the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that brought to light the allegations against Trump. The complaint alleged that Trump, in the July phone call, used the power of his office “to solicit interference from a foreign country" in the 2020 election.

The whistleblower also alleged that the White House tried to “lock down” all records of the call between the two leaders because officials understood the gravity and potential consequences of what had transpired during the conversation.

Schiff and members of his committee, as well as multiple other House committees, are investigating the matter.

Trump, during his Oval Office rant Wednesday, tore into the whistleblower, whose identity is not known, at the center of his Ukraine scandal, calling the complaint "very inaccurate."

The summary of the July 25 phone call released by the White House, however, largely backs up the substance of the whistleblower complaint. And Trump's own acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, testified last week to the House Intelligence Committee that the complaint "is in alignment" with the call summary.

When he was confronted by reporters with the fact that even some Republicans, like Sen Chuck Grassley of Iowa, had expressed concern over threats against the whistleblower, Trump said, "I don't care."

"Look, I think a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower's legitimate," Trump said.

Democrats, Trump said, “have been trying to impeach me from the day I got elected.”

"And they failed," he added.

He then took some swipes at Biden, saying he has “never been a smart guy and he’s less intelligent now than he ever was,” before ending the rant with his feelings on the media.

“I don't even use ‘fake,’ anymore,” he said, referring to his preferred nickname for the news. “I think I'm going to switch it largely to ‘corrupt news.’”

“And it truly is the enemy of the people,” he said.

Trump, after being asked to respond to a New York Times report that Schiff had received warning of the whistleblower’s accusations against Trump before the whistleblower made a formal complaint with the intelligence community inspector general, misrepresented the information in the story and attacked Schiff by alleging he "helped write" the complaint himself.

Patrick Boland, a spokesman for Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC News that “at no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance.”

"When a whistleblower seeks guidance, staff advises them to get counsel and go to an IG," Schiff said on Twitter. "That’s what they’re supposed to do. Unlike a president pressing a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political opponent. That’s not what a president is supposed to do. And we all know it."

Trump also doubled down on his attack against the whistleblower, saying that he has “a lot of respect for whistleblowers, but only when they’re real.”

Trump's long day of remarks followed his Tuesday night suggestion that the impeachment inquiry process amounted to an attempted coup.

The president's allies have struggled to mount an organized defense from inside or outside the White House in the week since Pelosi announced she was starting the formal impeachment process, leaving Trump's Twitter feed as the main method of counterattack.

House Democrats announced Wednesday that they would subpoena White House officials by the end of the week if their demands for documents related to Trump's July call with the Ukrainian leader were not met.

White House officials did not directly respond to the question of whether they would comply with the subpoena, instead focusing criticism again on the impeachment process itself.

"This is nothing but more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong. The Dems can continue with their kangaroo court, the President will continue to work on behalf of this country," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

After Pelosi spoke about her desire to work with Trump to pass legislation on drug pricing and trade, Trump tweeted that “it is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment.”

Inside the White House, though, staffers have continued to try to work with congressional aides despite the feuding. Staffers for Pelosi on the Energy and Commerce Committee were scheduled to meet Tuesday with White House aides to talk about drug pricing, according to a person familiar with the meeting.