President Trump watched his second impeachment Wednesday from the White House in seclusion, blacklisted by social media and reduced to issuing a formal statement and a video address telling his backers not to engage in violent protest.
Inside the West Wing and among former White House advisers, there was a sense of sadness mixed with frustration that Mr. Trump’s presidency, which ends Wednesday, was concluding on such an ignominious note.
Staffers and Trump loyalists used words such as “heartbreaking” and “depressing” to describe their feelings.
“It’s very sad,” said former White House domestic policy director Joe Grogan. “It’s sad for the country, it’s sad personally. Nobody expected this to happen, and nobody’s happy where the White House is, and nobody’s happy where the country is in the whole thing. The whole thing is awful.”
Unable to communicate with his 88 million followers on Twitter or other platforms, the president made a video address in which he never mentioned the impeachment but criticized Big Tech for “dangerous” censorship after the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In the address, Mr. Trump said the Secret Service had briefed him on more “potential threats” against Washington and state capitals.
“I cannot emphasize that there must be no violence, no law-breaking, and no vandalism of any kind,” Mr. Trump said from the Oval Office. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.”
The president said he has ordered thousands of National Guard troops “to secure the city and ensure that a transition can occur safely and without incident” next week when President-elect Joseph R. Biden is inaugurated.
He did not specifically mention Mr. Biden.
In stern language that many of his allies wished he used a week earlier, the president said, “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in, and everything our movement stands for. If you do any of these things, you are not supporting our movement, you’re attacking it, and you are attacking our country. We cannot tolerate it.”
Hours after becoming the first U.S. president to be impeached twice, Mr. Trump criticized censorship by social media companies against many on the right.
“These are tense and difficult times,” he said. “The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong and they are dangerous. What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another.”
Even in his relative isolation, Mr. Trump held an Oval Office ceremony minutes after he was impeached.
He awarded the National Medal of Arts to country singer Toby Keith and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs. The ceremony was closed to the press and was not listed on Mr. Trump’s public schedule.
During his first impeachment, in December 2019, the president tweeted or retweeted 71 times on the day of the House vote.
Mr. Trump often boasted after his first impeachment that not a single House Republican voted against him. This time, 10 voted to impeach him, including the chamber’s third-ranking Republican, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
It was another indication that Mr. Trump still holds enormous sway with the Republican base.
Several Republican lawmakers reportedly told colleagues privately that they feared for their lives if they voted against the president. In one poll, 76% of Republican voters said they would oppose any Republican lawmaker who voted for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
While some Republicans rebuked the president, there was not a wave of Republican defections that some predicted after Ms. Cheney announced Tuesday that she would vote to impeach. American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp observed that Ms. Cheney “had no coattails.”
Before the vote, the American Conservative Union notified lawmakers that it would count a vote for impeachment negatively in the score that the group assigns them. The ACU sponsors the annual CPAC convention that is a highlight on conservatives’ calendars.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican and one of the president’s strongest allies in Congress, didn’t pressure Republicans to vote against impeachment. Before the vote, Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the deadly storming of the Capitol by his supporters.
“He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” said Mr. McCarthy, who advocated censuring Mr. Trump instead of impeaching him.
A former ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he hasn’t decided how to vote in an eventual Senate trial — a startling acknowledgment that he hasn’t ruled out voting to convict Mr. Trump.
Supporters of Mr. Trump argued that the impeachment was pointless because a trial won’t begin until at least Jan. 19, the day before Mr. Trump’s term ends. Others said the impeachment was a partisan attempt to humiliate Mr. Trump that will bring an inevitable backlash against free speech.
“The cancel culture will come for us all,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.
The president’s business empire is being hit with cancellations as he prepares to return to the private sector.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that the city is cutting its business ties with the Trump Organization, following through on a threat to respond to last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“The president incited a rebellion against the United States government that killed five people and threatened to derail the constitutional transfer of power,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “The city of New York will not be associated with those unforgivable acts in any shape, way or form, and we are immediately taking steps to terminate all Trump Organization contracts.”
Mr. de Blasio tweeted, “New York City doesn’t do business with insurrectionists.”
The Trump Organization runs three concessions in New York City: the Central Park Carousel, the Wollman and Lasker skating rinks in Central Park, and the Ferry Point Golf Course. They brought in a reported $17 million last year.
As his presidency winds down, Mr. Trump did sign 19 relatively minor bills into law Wednesday. One of the measures elevates the post of a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism; another redesignates the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, Georgia, as the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park.
Some White House officials and former presidential aides have expressed concern that Mr. Trump has relied on a dwindling group of advisers since the election.
They have criticized Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, outside attorney Sidney Powell and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for indulging the president’s claims of election fraud, rejected by courts and state officials, that culminated in the storming of the Capitol last week.
“He doesn’t have many people around him right now,” Mr. Grogan said. “That’s never a good position for a leader to have, a limited number of perspectives. There is no question in my mind that [the riot and subsequent impeachment] is a direct consequence of a very small, limited number of people giving the president advice … not giving him good advice and giving him self-serving advice.”