- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Newly impeached President Trump said Democrats were on a “suicide march” with their historic vote Wednesday night, as his campaign team planned to make Democrats pay at the polls in 2020.

Addressing supporters at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, while the House was impeaching him back in Washington, Mr. Trump served notice that his status as an impeached president running for reelection will haunt his Democratic opponents at the ballot box.

“This lawless, partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democratic Party,” Mr. Trump declared, noting his rise in approval ratings. “Have you seen my polls in the last four weeks?”

Clearly enthused by the crowd’s support, Mr. Trump also told his audience, “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”

Shortly after the House voted to impeach a president for only the third time in history, a campaign aide brought a sign to the front of the stage to show Mr. Trump the vote totals while he was in the midst of his speech.

“Every single Republican voted for us,” Mr. Trump said, reacting to his impeachment in real time. “So we had 198. … We didn’t lose one Republican vote. Every single Republican voted for us? Wow. We didn’t lose one Republican vote. We have a great Republican Party. We have to take back the House.”

He added, “The Democrats always stick together Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side. That’s unheard of.”

The campaign rally, long scheduled, capped a dramatic day of split-screen television coverage with a buoyant Mr. Trump reveling with his supporters in a 2020 battleground state as the House Democrats pushed through two articles of impeachment on party-line votes. The vote sets up a trial next month in the Republican-led Senate, where Mr. Trump’s acquittal is virtually assured.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the impeachment “the culmination in the House of one of the most shameful political episodes in the history of our nation.”

“The president is confident the Senate will restore regular order, fairness, and due process, all of which were ignored in the House proceedings,” she said. “He is prepared for the next steps and confident that he will be fully exonerated.”

Shortly before the House rebuked the president over his dealings with Ukraine, Mr. Trump told the packed Michigan arena of about 6,000 people that “the country is doing better than ever before.”

“We did nothing wrong,” Mr. Trump said. “And we have tremendous support in the Republican Party. This sacred season, our country is thriving.”

The president said he’s not bothered personally by his impeachment, but added, “What they put my family through is a disgrace. They ought to be ashamed. We should get apologies all over the place.”

Pointing to what he called unfairly partisan impeachment standards, Mr. Trump also said Republicans should have impeached President Barack Obama for some of the scandals during his presidency, including the IRS targeting conservative groups and the “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation in the Justice Department.

“Why didn’t the Republicans impeach him?” Mr. Trump said. “How about giving Iran $1.8 billion in cash? Did anybody try to impeach him for that? Everybody knew it was wrong.”

Mr. Trump singled out two Democrats who voted against him, Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Carolyn Maloney of New York.

“Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” he said of the lawmaker, noting he was watching her on TV during impeachment proceedings. He said he gave her family all possible considerations — “the A-treatment” — after her husband, Rep. John Dingell, died.

She told him in an emotional call that Mr. Dingell was “thrilled” looking down from heaven.

“Maybe he’s looking up,” Mr. Trump said, drawing some moans from the crowd.

He also said he gave campaign donations to Mrs. Maloney years ago when he was a real estate developer and joked of her impeachment vote against him, “Give me my damn money back.”

Some of Mr. Trump’s 6,000 supporters in Battle Creek waited overnight in freezing temperatures to see him on the momentous day. The event was billed as a “Merry Christmas rally,” featuring two Christmas trees on stage topped with red Make America Great Again hats.

Mindful of the need to win Michigan again next year, Mr. Trump spoke of a resurgent auto industry under his leadership. Ford has announced it will spend $1.5 billion in two auto factories in Michigan to create thousands of new jobs; Fiat Chrysler announced a $4.5 billion investment in Michigan, including a new auto plant; and GM announced a $300 million at its Orion assembly plant.

“You’re back, I’m very proud of you. I said I was going to bring car companies back. These companies are coming in.”

The president began his day in Washington by asking the nation to pray.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” Mr. Trump tweeted at 7:34 a.m. “A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again. Say a PRAYER!”

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee say impeachment is already backfiring on Democrats, spurring donations to the GOP, generating more Trump campaign volunteers and swaying independent voters in battleground states to support the president.

“They look like a bunch of fools,” Mr. Trump said of the Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “They’ll receive a big backlash at the [ballot box]. We want to take back the House, we’ll hold the Senate, and we’ll keep the White House.”

Calling the impeachment effort a “phony, dangerous charade,” he added, “It’s all going to end soon, and it’s going to come out to a beautiful, great victory for the Republican Party and for this nation.”

“I know one thing — Americans will show up by the tens of millions next year to vote Pelosi the hell out of office,” he said.

The Trump campaign will push online fundraising based on impeachment, officials say. In the past week, the Trump campaign and the RNC have raised a combined $10 million in small-dollar donations since the House Judiciary Committee passed its two articles of impeachment.

White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway referred to an Axios report that said the RNC has gained 600,000 new donors since the start of impeachment, saying “God bless them, they couldn’t stay on the sidelines anymore. They’re putting their money where their frustration is.”

Throughout the day on social media, the Trump campaign’s rapid-response team called out 30 House Democrats in pro-Trump districts for putting party over country. Those lawmakers also have been the target of a $10-million-plus advertising campaign by Trump allies urging them to vote no on impeachment.

The campaign is also targeting Democratic leaders such as Mrs. Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Jerrold L. Nadler of New York and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California with real-time fact-checking online during the impeachment debate in the House.

In one tweet, the campaign’s “Trump War Room” account showed a video clip of Mr. Nadler arguing on the House floor against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998.

“#OnThisDay in 1998, @RepJerryNadler said ‘we have no right to overturn the considered judgment of the American people.’ What changed?” the campaign tweeted.

Campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine ahead of the impeachment vote said, “Democrats are preparing to make the biggest mistake in American history because they can’t get past their blind hatred of President Trump.”

“Team Trump will hold Democrats accountable for every lie they make today and voters will hold them accountable in November 2020,” she said.

She said events on Wednesday offer “a clear contrast — Dems in the swamp on one side overturning the 2016 election and the other side President Trump is rallying freedom-loving Americans who gather today to celebrate the greatness of our country.”

As the House impeachment debate dragged on Wednesday, the mood at the White House was a mixture of disgust at Democrats and an air of inevitability. White House staffers said they were treating the day like any other, working for the nation and the president’s agenda.

“Is it frustrating? Sure,” said one White House aide. “But as my dad texted me this morning, they [Democrats] have been trying to do this for three years.”

Ms. Grisham said Mr. Trump was briefed on the debate throughout the day, and that he likely caught some of the televised coverage “between meetings.”

In the late afternoon, the president greeted supporters and dodged the media on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One to start his trip to Michigan.

Mrs. Conway, who met with a group of Republican senators at the Capitol on Wednesday to discuss the looming impeachment trial, said Mr. Trump’s mood was “fine.”

“His mood is good,” she told reporters. “It hasn’t stopped the president at all.”

But she added, “he doesn’t understand how we got here and why this is happening.”

Mrs. Conway said of her colleagues in the White House, “we all feel pretty disgusted by what happened in the House.”

She said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will defend Mr. Trump in the Senate trial next month, adding “we are still finalizing that team.” Mrs. Conway said she spoke with GOP senators about impeachment “strategy, messaging, public opinion, precedent.”

A new Gallup poll released Wednesday showed that opposition to impeachment has risen to 51% and that Mr. Trump’s job-approval rating has climbed 6 percentage points since the impeachment inquiry began.

Mrs. Conway also shared with the senators media clippings about Hunter Biden, son of Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden, who held a lucrative job with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings while his father was serving as vice president. Mrs. Conway suggested the media coverage about Hunter Biden will serve as a defense for the president, who had asked Ukraine’s president to investigate possible corruption involving the Bidens.

“When the president says ‘people were talking about Biden and his son,’ you bet they were,” she said. “Burisma was known, nakedly and openly, as one of the most corrupt [companies]. Ukraine was seen as a fairly corrupt country.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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