WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump strode into the White House East Room on Thursday to celebrate his acquittal in the Senate that prevented his immediate removal from office.
“I've done things wrong in my life, I will admit. Not purposely,” said Trump. “But this is what the end result is,” the president added, displaying a copy of the front page of The Washington Post with the headline “Trump acquitted.”
The crowd, mostly composed of his legal team, some members of his Cabinet, Republican lawmakers and White House staff, applauded repeatedly throughout the president’s 63 minutes of remarks.
“That’s a very ugly word to me,” said Trump of impeachment. “Now we have that gorgeous word ... total acquittal.”
The president singled out for criticism the lone Republican senator, Mitt Romney, who voted to remove him from office on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power.
Romney, a “failed presidential candidate,” Trump said, “used religion as a crutch.”
Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. It’s the dominant religion in his home state of Utah.
Earlier in the day, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, 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.”
In a dramatic speech ahead of Wednesday’s votes in the Senate, Romney said, “What the president did was wrong, grievously wrong,” in asking Ukraine to launch an investigation of one of Trump's chief 2020 Democratic challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company.
The articles of impeachment from the U.S. House of Representatives charged Trump with abusing his power by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch the Biden investigations while the U.S. president withheld $391 million in military aid to Kyiv to help fight pro-Russian separatists.
Trump released the assistance in September without Zelenskiy’s announcing any Biden investigations, which Republicans said was proof Trump had not engaged in a quid pro quo — U.S. military aid in exchange for the politically tinged probes.
“A very good phone call,” Trump said Thursday at the White House, recalling his July 25, 2019, conversation with Zelenskiy. “I know bad phone calls.”
A significant portion of Trump’s White House remarks a day after his acquittal was unscripted and devoted to recognizing his Republican supporters in Congress, whom he called warriors, for defending him from the push by the opposition Democrats to remove him from office.
“We’ll probably have to do it again because these people have gone stone-cold crazy,” said Trump, predicting a possible second impeachment attempt by the Democrats, whom he also characterized as evil, vicious and mean.
Prior to the president's remarks, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the Democratic-led House of Representatives, told reporters the president could hold aloft any headlines he wants, but “you're impeached forever. You're never getting rid of that scar and history will always record that you were impeached for undermining the security of our country.”
Trump and Pelosi were in the same room at the prayer breakfast where the president also held up front pages of newspapers headlining his acquittal in the Senate.
Third such trial
Trump's impeachment trial was the third against a U.S. president in the country's 243-year-old history that resulted in an acquittal after a Senate trial. President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998 were both exonerated and remained in office to finish their terms.
Trump is running for re-election this year and faces only token opposition within his Republican Party. A number of Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to unseat the president in November’s general election. Their top candidates include Biden; Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar; a young former mayor from Indiana, Pete Buttigieg; and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is funding his own campaign from his vast fortune.