President Trump on Friday painted himself as the victim of an impeachment effort years in the making.
The president portrayed the investigation in harsh terms during a rally in Tupelo, Miss., equating it to a clandestine plot by his Democratic detractors. He decried the impeachment inquiry — a process laid out in the constitution — as “an attack on democracy itself” and an effort to undo his 2016 election win.
“Yesterday the Democrats voted to potentially nullify the votes of 63 million Americans, disgracing themselves and bringing shame upon the House of Representatives,” Trump said, referring to Thursday’s adopted House resolution that codifies an impeachment inquiry into his alleged abuse of power. “They’ve been plotting to overthrow the election since the moment I won.”
Trump singled out individual Democrats at the forefront of the probe, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), claiming that the party had collaborated with the press to orchestrate “the deranged impeachment witch hunt.”
“This is one I never thought I’d be involved in,” he said. “The word ‘impeachment,’ to me it’s a dirty word.”
— GOP (@GOP) November 2, 2019
Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet for much of the past week. He made few public appearances and only spoke to reporters twice: once during a brief chat under the wing of Air Force One on Monday and again at a lengthier gaggle before departing for Mississippi earlier Friday evening.
But in the friendly confines of a state that he won by nearly 18 percentage points in 2016, Trump let loose, lobbing unfounded allegations that he was spied on in 2016, ripping the impeachment inquiry and mocking his would-be challengers in the Democratic presidential primary.
The president was in Mississippi to boost support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves ahead of next week’s election. However, within minutes of taking the stage he began railing against the House investigation, providing a raw display of how he might tackle an impeachment that his own aides seem to view as inevitable.
“We are prepared for an impeachment to happen,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News Friday afternoon.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also told reporters later in the day that she’s “prepared for the president to be impeached.”
However, the White House has yet to form any type of war room or official apparatus to combat impeachment, with administration aides arguing that no such thing is necessary because Trump maintains his innocence.
The president has projected confidence that he will ultimately benefit politically from the impeachment process, asserting on Friday night that Republicans have been unified by the fight.
“The American people are fed up with Democrat lies, hoaxes and extremism,” Trump said. “The Democrats’ outrageous conduct has created an angry majority that will vote many ‘do nothing Democrats’ out of office in 2020.”
But there is some concern from Republicans in Congress about the lack of a cohesive strategy from the White House, particularly given Trump’s penchant for making new headlines while trying to defend himself against old ones.
Democrats have alleged that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden. The basis of the impeachment push center around a rough transcript of the call, a whistleblower complaint about the conversation, and closed-door testimony from officials raising concerns about the administration’s policy toward Ukraine.
Thursday’s House vote established open hearings and the ability for Republicans and the White House to question witnesses. Not a single Republican supported the measure, while two Democrats opposed it in something of a win for Trump.
Pelosi said public hearings could begin this month, but the White House has dismissed the resolution as failing to give Trump proper due process rights.
Even so, Trump said as he left the White House for Friday’s rally that he felt the public hearings would benefit his case. He expressed confidence in his position on the issue, pointing to his campaign’s recent fundraising hauls and middling support for impeachment in swing states.
“The impeachment thing is a hoax. Now, whether or not they try pulling it off, it would be a disgrace,” Trump said at the White House. “You can’t impeach a president who did nothing wrong.”