7 Feb 2020

Trump marks acquittal by slamming 'evil' opponents

7:50 am on 7 February 2020

US President Donald has described his impeachment as evil, as he spoke about the trial in the Senate that ended yesterday in his acquittal on both charges.

US President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper that displays a headline "Acquitted"  while speaking about his Senate impeachment trial in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 6, 2020.

US President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper while speaking about his Senate impeachment trial in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

After walking down a red carpet to a standing ovation from Republican lawmakers, administration officials and conservative media figures in the White House, Trump re-aired old grievances and accused Democrats of staging a "corrupt" effort to undermine his presidency.

"I've done things wrong in my life, I will admit ... but this is what the end result is," Trump said, holding up a copy of the Washington Post with the headline "Trump acquitted."

Trump lashed out at his critics who oversaw the impeachment process: "It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers, it was liars," he said.

The Democrats who led the impeachment inquiry, Speaker Nancy Pelosind lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff, were specific targets.

"Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person," Trump said. "Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person."

Republican senator Mitt Romney was also in the firing line. The Utah senator voted to convict the president on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power.

Romney said yesterday that his decision was based on his religion and his Mormon faith was at the heart of who he was.

But Trump was dismissive of that rationale. "Then you have some who used religion as a crutch. They never used it before. Never heard him use it before. ... But you know it's a failed presidential candidate, but things can happen when you fail so badly."

US Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) is seen during a recess of the impeachment trial proceedings of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill January 30, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Mitt Romney is under attack from the Republican party for his vote to support removing Donald Trump from power. Photo: AFP

Earlier, at a national prayer breakfast in Washington, Trump described his impeachment as a terrible ordeal, for him, for his family, and for America.

Trump said the Democrats who pursued the impeachment knew it was wrong.

"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. They have done everything possible to destroy us and in so doing very badly hurt our nation."

He hinted he could take action to make it harder to mount impeachment proceedings.

Trump, who has strong support from evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics, faulted some of his opponents for invoking their religious faith during the impeachment battle. Trump did not mention anyone by name.

Pelosi, a Catholic who launched the impeachment inquiry in September, said in December that she does not hate Trump and that she prays for him. Romney, a Mormon, was the only Republican to vote for conviction. No Democrat voted to acquit.

"I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say 'I pray for you,' when they know that that's not so," Trump said.

He avoided greeting Pelosi, who sat steps away on the other side of the dais.

Pelosi said later that Trump's comments were inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast.

"He's talking about things he knows little about - faith and prayer," she told a news conference.

Asked if House Democrats could still work with the White House following impeachment: "That would be up to him. It certainly hasn't changed in terms of us."

She said Democrats were willing to work with Trump and his Republican allies on legislative efforts to lower healthcare costs and raise household income through infrastructure programmes.

"There's no such thing as eternal animosity," she added. "Everybody is a possible ally in what comes next."

Republicans turn their fire on Romney

Meanwhile, Romney is facing a backlash from Republicans angered by his decision to vote against Trump in his impeachment trial.

The failed 2012 presidential candidate made history on Wednesday as the first US senator to vote to remove a president from their own party.

Republican figures, including Trump himself, have slammed him as a "sore loser" and a secret Democrat.

Influential figures in conservative media called on Romney to step down from the Republican Party, with one claiming that she would move to Utah to run to unseat him in 2024.

Asked after the vote whether Romney would be ostracised from his party, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters: "We don't have any doghouses here. The most important vote is the next vote."

Author Anne Coulter called Romney a "useful idiot" for Democrats, adding that he is "now finished in national politics".

"Romney's speech proves he IS John McCain. Fine, Republicans, do the cowardly thing, but please stop demanding that we admire your courage."

Florida Senator Rick Scott tweeted that his colleague "is wrong". "His decision to buy into [Democratic Congressman] Adam Schiff's partisan charade is disappointing. And he will ultimately be judged by the voters of Utah."

Florida Republican Congressmen Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lee Zeldin of New York both called Romney a "sore loser".

"Mitt Romney absolutely despises that Donald Trump was elected POTUS & he was not," tweeted Zeldin.

"The sore loser mentality launched this sham impeachment & corruptly rigged & jammed it through the House. It looks like Schiff recruited himself a sore loser buddy on the GOP side to play along."

Romney's own former campaign spokesman, Rick Gorka, said his old boss was "motivated by bitterness and jealousy".

Sam Nunberg, a former adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, rhetorically asked if Romney was "making a last ditch effort to become" the Democratic 2020 nominee.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with a copy of President Donald Trump’s speech after tearing it up at the State of the Union speech to Congress, 4 February 2020.

Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of the president's State of the Union speech. Photo: AFP / Alex Wroblewski / CNP

- BBC / Reuters

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