Moments before the House of Representatives made him only the third U.S. president ever to be impeached, Donald Trump greeted thousands of supporters in Michigan, wished them a Merry Christmas — and dismissed the congressional condemnation that had just been stamped on his presidency.
“By the way, it doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached," Trump said five minutes into his remarks Wednesday night in Battle Creek, Mich. “The country is doing better than it’s ever been doing before. We did nothing wrong and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party.”
His response to one of the most damning actions Congress can take against a sitting president, second only to actual removal from office in a Senate trial, was vintage Trump — combative and giving no political ground whatsoever. Democrats have spent months building a case that Trump abused his power by pressing Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically while also withholding military aid and a White House visit. Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and Republicans have dismissed the impeachment probe as illegitimate, even after testimony by a bevy of national security officials bolstered Democrats’ allegations.
“With today’s illegal and partisan impeachment, the do-nothing Democrats are declaring their ... disdain for the American voter," he said later. "This lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democratic Party.”
As Trump touted his trade policies, the House had started casting votes 600 miles away, capping a day of debate over impeachment. By 8:34 p.m., when the first article of impeachment was approved, Trump had hardly mentioned what was going on in Washington, talking instead about trade, his plan for a space force, and advances in Air Force technology.
In the wide-ranging speech, he bragged about the size of the crowds that show up to his rallies and criticized security’s handling of a protester whom he told them to remove.
“You gotta get a little bit stronger than that, folks,” he said to security guards. “The guy’s afraid he’ll grab her wrist lightly and he’ll be sued for the rest of his life.”
At about 9 p.m., someone informed Trump of the impeachment vote, and his attention turned to the historic moment. “So we have every single Republican voted for us. Wow," he said. "We didn’t lose one Republican vote.”
Trump said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was declaring “open war on American democracy.”
“You dare invoke the Founding Fathers ... yet your spiteful actions display unfettered contempt for America’s Founding," he said.
“You are the ones interfering in America’s elections," Trump added of Democrats. “You are the ones subverting America’s democracy.”
After Wednesday’s votes, Pelosi left open the possibility of delaying a procedural step that triggers a Senate trial, saying she might not name House impeachment managers and deliver the articles to the Senate unless Republicans there established a “fair” process.
“So far we have not seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously has signaled he was coordinating closely with the White House and would move quickly to acquit the president.
Ultimately, the final verdict on Trump’s conduct will almost surely be rendered by voters in the 2020 election. So it was noteworthy that, as he was being impeached, Trump rallied supporters in Michigan — one of three states, along with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where narrow surprise victories in 2016 put him over the top in the Electoral College and elevated him to the White House.
Trump’s comments on impeachment Wednesday largely echoed the six-page letter he sent to Pelosi the day before, in which he called the process “invalid,” “spiteful,” “egregious,” “meritless,” “terrible,” “disingenuous,” “baseless,” “preposterous,” “dangerous,” “fake,” “fantasy,” and “illegal.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump tweeted: “THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” He boarded Marine One to Michigan without stopping to talk to reporters.
In Michigan, Trump called it “a very dark era,” but added to laughs: “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time. It’s crazy.”