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Trump Gives Defiant Speech, Lashing Out At 'Evil' Impeachment Opponents


President Trump took a victory lap today at the White House, celebrating what he called total acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. And he slammed Democrats for pursuing impeachment over a request he made to the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rivals.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We went through hell unfairly, did nothing wrong - did nothing wrong. I've done things wrong in my life, I will admit...


TRUMP: ...Not purposely - but I've done things wrong. But this is what the end result is.


CORNISH: The president's unscripted remarks lasted more than an hour. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith was there. Welcome back, Tam.


CORNISH: What was it like in that room?

KEITH: So this was essentially a victory rally in the East Room of the White House, with the president surrounded by everyone who stuck with him through impeachment. I'll just let President Trump describe what it was.


TRUMP: And this is really not a news conference. It's not a speech. It's not anything. It's just - we're sort of - it's a celebration.

KEITH: There was no teleprompter. He had a few notes on paper. There was a lot of riffing. At one point, he held up today's Washington Post with the headline "Trump Acquitted." And you know, a big part of this hourlong event was just President Trump going through the names of members of Congress who he called warriors, who helped him through impeachment.

And there were a lot of weird comments. When he got to House majority - House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Trump went on for a long time describing the congressional baseball shooting, where Scalise was severely injured.


TRUMP: I think you set a record for blood loss. And Steve Scalise, I - actually - honestly, I think you're better-looking now. You're more handsome now. You - you weren't that good-looking.


TRUMP: You look good now.

KEITH: Trump also said that he wished President Lincoln were there because he'd, quote, "give him one hell of an introduction."

CORNISH: The president also had sharp words for people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Utah Senator Mitt Romney - right? - the only Republican to vote to convict Trump, at least on that first article of impeachment.

KEITH: Yeah, this was not a day for forgiving and forgetting. In fact, this morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, he ripped into both of them. He didn't say their names, but it was clear who he was talking about. And at the time, Pelosi was seated just a few feet away from him.


TRUMP: I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong, nor do I like people who say, I pray for you, when they know that that's not so.

KEITH: I mean, it was really personal, and then it continued back in the East Room. He wrote Romney off as a failed presidential candidate and further went after House Democrats as vicious, mean, horrible, a lot of other words. Trump also renewed his complaints about the investigations into him and his campaign. He called the Russia investigation something we cannot say on the radio and explained at length why his call with the president of Ukraine was, in his words, perfect.

So in other words, he was delivering a pretty clear rebuttal to the Republican senators who said they thought that he had learned something from the experience of impeachment.

CORNISH: How does that compare to former President Bill Clinton? I mean, after his impeachment trial in 1999, I recall him expressing remorse for his actions, said he hoped for reconciliation and renewal. I mean, did President Trump do anything in that direction?

KEITH: Yeah, I mean, these remarks couldn't have been more different. Clinton spoke for two minutes in the Rose Garden in 1999, and it was all about trying to move on. What Trump did was defiant, though at one point he did apologize to his family.


TRUMP: For having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people.

CORNISH: What now? Doesn't sound like he's going to be forgiving. What can we expect going into an election year?

KEITH: Yeah. The State of the Union this week and today's remarks are a pretty clear indication that we are headed straight into election season - though in his remarks today, President Trump did express some wistfulness about an inability to work across the aisle on prescription drug pricing. That's something that he would like to accomplish, he says. But even his own party's pretty divided on that.

CORNISH: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thanks for your reporting.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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