- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2019

President Trump spoke of his impeachment with an air of inevitability Monday as he and top advisers tried mostly in vain to focus the conversation in Washington on the strong U.S. economy and campaign promises kept.

“I think they want to impeach me because it’s the only way they’re going to win” the 2020 election, the president said of House Democrats. “They want to impeach, and they want to do it as quick as possible.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a “fact sheet” and video Monday that could provide hints about articles of impeachment that Democrats may pursue against Mr. Trump, accusing him of a “shakedown” involving Ukraine, abuse of power and a cover-up.

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Hosting his first Cabinet meeting since Democrats began their impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump also lamented that Republicans are not as unified or as ruthless as the opponents trying to drive him from office.

“We have some [Republicans] that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election,” Mr. Trump said.

Democrats “stick together. They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don’t have people like that,” he said. It was a dig at the Republican senator from Utah who has been increasingly critical of the president.

After a rocky week when fellow Republicans broke with the president for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and deciding to host a Group of Seven summit at his resort in Miami — the latter move quickly rescinded — the White House went back to basics Monday. Several of the president’s advisers highlighted strong economic news in the Cabinet meeting.

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow talked of a “middle-class boom.” He cited data from the private firm Sentier Research that median household income has risen about $5,000 under Mr. Trump to about $66,000. He said the gains of 8% are “better than anything our predecessors have done, be they Democrat or Republican.”

The president interjected, “Maybe ever, Larry, right? Maybe ever. I don’t think it’s ever been done.”

Mr. Kudlow listed some of the strong economic news: a 3.5% unemployment rate in September, the lowest in 51 years; an annual inflation rate of 1.4%; a roughly 50% increase in the stock market since November 2016 (actually about 35% since Mr. Trump took office, according to a Macrotrends running chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average); and disposable income growth at an annual rate of about 3%.

He pointed to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi’s “pocketbook model” forecasting that, if the economic conditions remain stable, the president should win 289 to 351 electoral votes in November 2020. Mr. Trump needs 270 to win reelection.
The president cut in, “So they’re predicting who is going to win the election, Larry?”

“Those are the kinds of numbers that suggest a very substantial victory,” Mr. Kudlow said.

But then there’s impeachment and the infamous phone call in which Mr. Trump did or did not pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden.

Mrs. Pelosi is making Democrats’ case that Mr. Trump committed a “shakedown” and “cover-up” by pressuring Ukraine this summer. In a widely distributed “fact sheet,” she outlined the major developments to come out of a whistleblower report and the closed-door sessions that are at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

It selects a handful of quotes about the “favor” that Mr. Trump referred to in the transcript released last month of his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The fact sheet also highlights that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are “entangled” in the allegations. It accuses them of doing nothing to stop the administration from holding up military aid for Ukraine.
While the Democrats outline core arguments in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans have started an all-out pressure campaign that frames the investigation as an unfair, secretive and biased process.

“Of course they want to impeach,” Mr. Trump said with apparent exasperation. “It’s so illegitimate. It cannot be the way our great Founders meant it to be. I have the strongest economy ever. ‘It’s the economy, stupid,’ right? We’re setting records. We’ve had the highest stock market over 100 times. You know why it went through the roof? Because they got rid of [former President Barack] Obama, and they got rid of Clinton.”

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon said the president can forget about Mr. Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the current Democratic front-runners. If the president survives impeachment, he said, then former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton likely will join the presidential race.

Bloomberg or Clinton could be very competitive,” Mr. Bannon told the New York Post. “She is a very formidable candidate, and I think Bloomberg would be very formidable.”

A person close to the president speculated that Mr. Trump might choose resignation if his chances of surviving impeachment become dicier.

“He’s not a fighter,” this person said. “He only fights when he knows he’s going to win.”

But Mr. Trump did fight to the end of the 2016 race, when virtually all pundits and pollsters predicted he would lose.

The president expressed frustration that he is forced to spend time and energy on impeachment when he is trying to keep on track his agenda of deregulation, fair trade and low taxes.

“I have to fight off these lowlifes at the same time I’m negotiating these very important things,” the president said. “The president of the United States should be allowed to run the country — not have to focus on this kind of crap. … I’m making a big difference for the country.”

He urged Mrs. Pelosi to take up the U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade agreement, a call echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blasted Democrats’ “3-year-old impeachment parade” for getting in the way of the trade deal and military funding.

“Unfortunately, the only thing that seems to really inspire House Democrats these days is their obsession with overturning the results of the 2016 election,” the Kentucky Republican said Monday on the Senate floor.

The three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry plan to interview more witnesses privately this week, including Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.

Despite the quickening impeachment probe, Mr. Trump is pointing to recent results in a special election in North Carolina and the governor’s race in Louisiana as evidence of momentum for the Republican Party. He also cites the massive attendance at his rallies, such as an event in Dallas last week that drew a capacity crowd of 20,000, with thousands more unable to enter.

He said the crowd’s response to his speech in Dallas confirmed for him that he is still on the path that he promised voters in 2016, including a pledge to bring home U.S. troops from “endless” wars in the Middle East.

“My largest cheer in Dallas [was] when I said we’re bringing our soldiers back home — the place went crazy,” the president said. “I have to do what I got elected on.”

Gabriella Muñoz and Ryan Lovelace contributed to this report.

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