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U.S. President Donald Trump was not in the mood to forgive and forget the Democrat-led bid to remove him from office on Thursday, even as other speakers at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., made pleas to bridge America’s partisan divide.
Trump triumphantly held up copies of two newspapers with banner “ACQUITTED!” headlines as he took the stage after avoiding becoming the first president ever removed from office by the Senate.
Within his first minute of speaking, Trump had referred to his impeachment.
“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.”
“So many people have been hurt and we can’t let that go on,” he said, promising to speak more on the subject Thursday at the White House.
Trump appeared in good spirits when he arrived at the annual Washington event, which was also attended by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who led the impeachment charge against the Republican president.
‘So completely inappropriate’
At the prayer breakfast, Pelosi, who had torn up the text of Trump’s state of the union speech after his address on Tuesday night, gave brief remarks, asking for prayers for the poor and persecuted. Trump did not acknowledge her.
He then clearly took shots in his speech at both Pelosi and Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump on one of the articles of impeachment.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” said Trump. “Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so.”
Pelosi often says she prays for the president, while Romney in his speech Wednesday from the Senate floor justifying his votes on the two articles of impeachment, said he “swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice.”
Pelosi, at her weekly news conference later in the day, called the comments “so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast.”
“He’s talking up things he knows little about — faith and prayer,” she said.
Pelosi said it was “up to him” if the two sides can work together on legislation going forward, pointing to the recent ratification of the trade deal with Canada and Mexico as an example.
Aside from Romney, Republican senators voted to acquit Trump, relying on a multitude of rationales for keeping him in office: he’s guilty, but his conduct wasn’t impeachable; his July telephone conversation with Ukraine’s president was a “perfect call”; and that there’s an election in 10 months and it’s up to voters to determine his fate.
During his breakfast speech, Trump urged his audience to get out and vote on Nov. 3.
Trump tweeted after the Senate vote on Wednesday that he would mark his acquittal with a statement at noon Thursday to “discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!” The president’s supporters were being invited to join him in the East Room.
Overall, the tone contrasted that of Bill Clinton, the last president to be impeached.
Clinton, in a statement after being acquitted at a Senate impeachment trial in February 1999, said he was “profoundly sorry … for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.”
Trump received applause for nearly a minute before speaking at the breakfast.
He highlighted his administration’s record on the economy, citing historically low unemployment, as well as its efforts to champion pro-life policies and protect religious liberties around the world.
Pelosi shook her head at various points during Trump’s remarks but didn’t otherwise acknowledge the president’s attack.
Just minutes earlier, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California asked for prayers to help guide a divided Congress, while the conservative columnist Arthur Brooks implored the audience to not hold liberals in contempt.
“They’re just Americans who disagree with us on public policy,” said Brooks.
“I don’t know if I agree with you,” Trump said to Brooks as he took the microphone.
At his weekly news conference, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called the trial result a “pyrrhic victory” for Republicans.
The New York Democrat targeted Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as having “failed to live up to what this country’s all about,” by marshalling his side to vote against hearing additional witness testimony during the trial.
Schumer surmised that Republican senators feared the wrath of a “vindictive” Trump and conservative media outlets.
Pelosi said the House will continue to provide oversight of the Trump administration, but did not specifically address a question whether Democrats in the chamber would subpoena from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. Bolton has written a book alleging the president pressured Ukraine and withheld military to announce investigations helpful to Trump’s cause.