WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday celebrated his impeachment acquittal by excoriating Democrats and Mitt Romney, the only GOP senator to vote to remove him from office.
Trump, who was given a standing ovation and whooping cheers when he entered the White House East Room filled with Republican supporters, gave a free-form speech that ran more than an hour. During the largely ad-libbed talk, he also relived some of his well-trodden grievances, including the Russia probe and the 2016 election.
“It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars,” Trump said, claiming he had been targeted since the day he announced his candidacy in the summer of 2015.
House Speaker “Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person,” Trump said, calling both Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff “vicious.”
“Had I not fired [former FBI director] James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now,” he added. Comey’s firing in the spring of 2017 triggered the Justice Department’s appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“It was all bullshit,” Trump said. “It was hell.”
The Senate on Wednesday voted to acquit Trump of both counts in his impeachment trial: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The vote was the final step in a two-week trial marked by impassioned arguments from House Democrats that Trump was a danger to the nation, and stalwart support from Senate Republicans for a president who maintains a political stranglehold on their party.
Impeachment rules require 67 votes in the Senate to convict a president and remove him from office. With a 53-47 Republican majority, the odds that Trump would be convicted were slim from the start.
Romney, R-Utah, who delivered a searing condemnation of the president’s actions Wednesday on the floor of the Senate, broke with his party to vote to convict Trump on the abuse of power count.
During his remarks Thursday afternoon, Trump told Sen. Mike Lee, who also represents Utah, to tell voters there he’s sorry about Romney.
At one point, Trump held up The Washington Post front page, which proclaimed “Trump Acquitted.”
“We can take that home, honey, maybe we’ll frame it,” Trump said. “It’s the only good headline I’ve ever had in The Washington Post.”
Earlier Thursday, Trump spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, where he offered attendees, including Pelosi, a preview of his midday remarks.
“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by so doing very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”
Back at the White House, Trump said, “I had Pelosi sitting four seats away, and I said things a lot of people probably wouldn’t have said. but I said them, I meant every word.”
Trump’s speech, with its long tangents, frequent applause breaks and scathing attacks on his political opponents, resembled a campaign rally as much as it did an official presidential address from the White House.
“This is sort of a day of celebration, because we went through hell,” Trump said after spending more than 20 minutes heaping praise on his biggest Republican defenders in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rep. Devin Nunes of California and Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.
Before he left the podium, Trump gave members of his supportive audience the opportunity to stand up and make a statement.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., took him up on the offer, declaring, “We’ve got your back.”
As a final gesture, the president apologized to his family members for having been embroiled in the impeachment process. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and first lady Melania Trump then walked up and embraced Trump at the lectern.