Washington – On the day the House Judiciary Committee approved impeachment articles against him, President Donald Trump claimed it is strengthening him politically. And with those articles headed to the House floor next week, he appears to be warming to a quick election-year Senate trial.
In brief but animated remarks, the president defiantly declared of the shape and length of an expected Senate trial: “I’ll do whatever I want.”
The remark could have been a message to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans who favor a short trial with no GOP-White House witnesses; Trump favors the opposite.
But just as quickly, the president appeared to defer to McConnell, adding: “I’ll do whatever they want to do.”
A couple hours after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to send two impeachment articles – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – to the full chamber, the president called the panel’s action “a very sad thing for our country.”
But he cast the probe in political terms, contending Democrats might have hurt their chances at defeating him next year and winning other races.
“But it seems to be very good for me politically,” he said.
Before Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved ahead with the impeachment inquiry in September, polls mostly showed Americans favoring the president’s impeachment. Since the probe began, public opinion has mostly leveled.
A Monmouth University poll released this week, for instance, found 45 per cent of Americans want Trump impeached and moved out of his job. Despite public hearings in recent weeks, that is only 1 percentage point higher than the same poll found in the two previous months.
An average of polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight found a relatively stable level of opinion about impeachment, with less than half of Americans favoring the House making Trump only the third sitting president to be impeached.
The president also took a shot at Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council Ukraine expert who testified during the impeachment probe and raised concerns about an American president asking another government to investigate US citizens.
“The ‘lieutenant colonel,’” Trump said, bringing up Vindman Friday without being prompted. “He’s another beauty.”
The president also repeatedly slammed Democrats, saying they have misused impeachment, calling it “something that shouldn’t be allowed,” adding: “I’ll tell you what, some day there will be a Democratic president and a Republican House.”
Under such a scenario, he said he suspects his fellow Republicans will “remember that,” referring to his expected impeachment.
In a lighter moment, Trump – who agreed to a still-murky “phase one” trade pact with China as Republican and Democratic lawmakers claimed to have struck a spending deal – noted, “This has been a wild week.”
Next week likely will only be wilder.
The House is slated to take up that year-end spending package on Tuesday that is needed to avert a government shutdown next week. The impeachment articles are expected on the floor Wednesday, followed by his proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact on Thursday.