The White House increasingly is viewing impeachment, considered by many administration officials just weeks ago as an unfair partisan slam dunk, as something that is losing its aura of inevitability.
Or as those formerly Latin-loving House Democrats might understand, the quid pro quo is not a done deal.
After three days of low television ratings and often confusing impeachment hearings, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the effort is faltering.
“I don’t consider it a foregone conclusion that [Democrats] have the votes to pass,” Mr. Pence said on a radio show, adding that the public isn’t buying impeachment.
“I honestly believe the more the American people see and hear, the more Congress is going to hear from the American people,” Mr. Pence said on “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM. “And the more we’re going to see the people of this country demand that Congress set aside this partisan impeachment and go back to work on the issues that matter most.”
The second day of hearings Friday drew 1 million fewer viewers than the first day. The number was also 35% lower than viewership of former FBI Director James B. Comey’s testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2017.
Mr. Trump, who watched some of the hearings Wednesday morning from the White House, said he believes Democrats lack the votes to impeach him right now.
All but two House Democrats voted Oct. 31 to move ahead with a formal impeachment inquiry, but the president said Tuesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, is holding up passage of a key trade deal to build more support among lawmakers for impeachment.
“All she wants to do is focus on impeachment, which is just a little pipe dream she’s got,” the president said at a Cabinet meeting. “And she can keep playing that game. She’s using [the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement] because she doesn’t have the impeachment votes. So she’s using USMCA to get the impeachment vote.”
Some Republicans see the Democrats losing momentum amid a methodical examination of the allegations against Mr. Trump. Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, said the president is benefiting from “a simple approach that this was a miscalculated effort in the first place to try to delegitimize the election in November of 2016.”
“We don’t need to belabor it,” he said on a podcast hosted by former White House strategist Steve Bannon. “We started … debunking it, and I think [Democrats] now are wondering how long they want to do it.”
Mr. Trump predicted that Americans soon will understand the scope of Mrs. Pelosi’s negligent leadership.
“She is incompetent, and you’re about to find that out,” the president said. “They’re using this impeachment hoax for their own political game, to try and damage the Republican Party and damage the president, but it’s had the opposite effect. I’m the highest I’ve ever been in the polls.”
Still, an ABC/Ipsos poll released Monday showed that 70% of Americans think Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine were wrong and 51% think he should be impeached and removed from office. One-fourth of respondents said Mr. Trump’s actions were not wrong, according to the poll, which was conducted Saturday and Sunday.
The president said officials from Canada and Mexico have been calling him to ask when the trade agreement will be completed.
“We have to get [the trade deal] signed. Nancy Pelosi can’t get it off her desk,” the president said. “The Democrats want to have it, the unions want it, the farmers want it, the manufacturers want it. I think the woman is grossly incompetent.”
The president said he watched some of what he called a “kangaroo court” and was pleased with Republicans’ defense of him.
“We don’t have lawyers, we don’t have witnesses, we don’t have anything,” Mr. Trump said. “And yet I just got to watch, and the Republicans are absolutely killing it. They are doing so well because it’s a scam. It’s an embarrassment to our nation.”
Asked about the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council, the president said, “I understand somebody had the misfortune of calling him ‘Mister,’ and he corrected them.”
“I understand now he wears his uniform when he goes in [to testify],” the president said. “No, I don’t know Vindman at all. … I watched him for a little while this morning, and I think he — I’ll let people make their own determination.”
He also referred to State Department official George Kent, who testified last week, as the man “with the wonderful bow tie. Maybe I’ll get one for myself someday.”
The president ridiculed the Democrats’ case against him as hearsay.
“All these people were talking about — they heard a conversation of a conversation of another conversation that was had by the president,” Mr. Trump said. “What’s going on is a disgrace.”