In more than an hour of improvisational ramblings that appeared more like propaganda than a White House event, President Donald Trump on Thursday declared victory the day after Senate Republicans acquitted him in impeachment proceedings that were largely favorable toward him.
As the former reality television host walked to his lectern, he received a standing ovation while “Hail to the Chief” played, before launching into an unhinged riff targeting some of his favorite and most frequently mentioned subjects, listing them off in a Mad Libs-like frenzy.
The speech, which resembled his ad-libbed campaign rallies, was held in the East Room, typically reserved for more measured and sometimes somber official White House events.
“We had the witch hunt. It started the day we came down the elevator,” he said, referring to his campaign launch in June of 2015. “And it never really stopped.”
“It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers, it was liars, and no president should ever have to go through this,” he continued. “Dirty cops. Bad people.”
“We went through hell, unfairly,” Trump continued, after pontificating on various subjects, as he does at his campaign rallies. “We did nothing wrong.”
He then held up the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post, with the headline “Trump Acquitted.”
“It’s the only good headline I’ve ever had in The Washington Post,” he said of the newspaper, a frequent subject of his attacks against the media.
“We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit,” he continued, with his remarks turning into a comedy roast at times.
At the end of his hour-plus remarks, he offered his only apology: to his family “for having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people.”
On Wednesday, in an expected party-line vote, the Republican majority in the Senate voted to acquit Trump on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. During the trial, they voted down Democrats’ efforts to demand witness testimony and documents, which Trump and the White House had repeatedly refused to provide.
Only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), joined the Democratic minority in voting to convict Trump on the abuse of power article.
“The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” he said on the Senate floor. “What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values.”
Trump and his allies immediately began attacking the senator and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, including spreading conspiracy theories, such as suggesting “slick, slippery, stealthy Mitt Romney” threw the 2012 race, which he lost to President Barack Obama.
Earlier Thursday, Trump also went after Romney in a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, traditionally a venue where presidents have promoted bipartisanship.
Instead, Trump treated the event — attended by lawmakers of both parties, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — as an airing of grievances.
“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” he said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation.”
His East Room remarks were similarly an airing of grievances, before turning into an extended thank-you speech, as if he were accepting an Academy Award. He devoted much of his remarks to thanking numerous Republican lawmakers and allies, sometimes taking personal credit for their electoral victories.
While thanking House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Trump spent several minutes graphically detailing the 2017 shooting that wounded Scalise and several other lawmakers, police officers and aides.
At several points, he described multiple GOP representatives as “straight out of central casting,” underscoring the speech as a self-indulgent spectacle — fit for a former reality television show host obsessed with the performance of being president.