President Donald Trump laid out a blistering attack in real time Wednesday against House Democrats’ vote to impeach him, saying the party showed “deep hatred and disdain for the American voter” and would pay for it in the 2020 election.
“This lawless, partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democratic party,” Trump told a crowd of supporters in Battle Creek, Michigan, as the final tally of a vote to impeach him was being counted on the House floor.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers “have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame,” he added.
Back in Washington, the House adopted two articles of impeachment against the president as he spoke at the rally, offering an unprecedented split-screen spectacle of the political strife dividing the nation. Underscoring the political reckoning for Trump, he spent the evening in Battle Creek -- a Republican stronghold that helped him win the otherwise Democratic state in 2016.
The setting offered the president a receptive audience to make his rebuttal. When a protester disrupted his speech, the crowd booed loudly and the president faulted the event’s security guards for not being more physical in removing the woman, who he called “disgusting.”
“You got to get a little bit stronger than that, folks,” Trump said.
The first portion of the speech touched on a range of issues unrelated to impeachment. As votes were counted on the first of two articles of impeachment -- that Trump abused the power of his office -- he was praising F-35 fighter pilots. When the House adopted the article, he was assailing the “crooked media.”
The frustration Trump has displayed reflects the potential harm impeachment does to his re-election campaign, which will be the first in postwar American history waged by an impeached president.
The rally was held in the district of Representative Justin Amash, who quit the Republican Party earlier this year over what he called the president’s impeachable conduct. As it was unfolding, Amash was at the Capitol -- voting for both articles of impeachment.
The historic votes Wednesday evening won the support of almost all Democrats in the House chamber but not a single Republican, leaving Trump as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
Trump was shown the results of the vote as he stood on stage in Battle Creek.
“So we had every single Republican voting for us. Wow,” Trump said. “We didn’t lose one Republican vote.”
Trump had spent the day preparing for the rally and watching television, according to people familiar with the matter. On the flight to Michigan, he wrote part of the White House statement on a federal appeals court ruling that a key piece of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. In the statement, he called the decision a “win for all Americans.”
Americans appear evenly divided on impeachment, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll published Wednesday, showing that 48% supported Trump’s removal and an equal percentage opposed it. The poll surveyed 900 adults from Dec. 14-17.
But the president’s campaign has insisted the impeachment effort has been a boon for him, releasing internal polling Tuesday that showed voters in swing districts won by the president in 2016 but by House Democrats in 2018 opposed impeachment by 10 percentage points.
“The contrast between President Trump and the Democrats couldn’t be more clear,” Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “And the only part of the vote that was bipartisan was in opposition. The president is just getting stronger while support for the Democrats’ political theater has faded.”
Earlier Wednesday, Pelosi opened the House debate, calling the president an “ongoing threat to our national security,” and declared that, “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.”
Democrats’ first article of impeachment finds Trump abused the power of his office by withholding military assistance from Ukraine and pressuring President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The second article finds that Trump obstructed Congress’s inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine, including by directing White House employees to defy lawmakers’ subpoenas to testify.
Still, Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate at a trial early next year, meaning he will remain in office.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the trial a “political process” and said he would not serve as “an impartial juror.”
“The House made a partisan political decision to impeach,” McConnell said. “I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
Trump has previously said he’s eager for the Senate to call witnesses -- including Biden and his son, whose work for a Ukrainian energy company was at the heart of the president’s call for an investigation -- as part of the trial. But on Tuesday, Trump said he would defer to McConnell on the procedure for the trial.
At the rally on Wednesday, Trump pilloried Democrats, but then expressed confidence in the political outcome.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time,” Trump told the crowd. “I’m not worried because it’s always good when you do nothing wrong.”