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'We went through hell': Trump defiant, unrepentant after impeachment acquittal

U.S. President Donald Trump took a victory lap on Thursday in a pair of speeches, including at the White House, lashing out at his perceived enemies and revelling in the acquittal the previous day in his Senate impeachment trial.  

After pleas for unity earlier at prayer breakfast, Trump speaks of 'dishonest and corrupt people'

Saying 'we went through hell', U.S. President Donald Trump spoke about his impeachment acquittal and the headlines it inspired. 1:11

U.S. President Donald Trump took a victory lap on Thursday in a pair of speeches, including at the White House, lashing out at his perceived enemies and revelling in the acquittal the previous day in his Senate impeachment trial.  

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Trump characterized his trials, including an earlier investigation into his campaign's interactions with Russian officials in 2016, as a years-long campaign by Democrats to smear him. Trump, occasionally resorting to profanity, repeated a litany of grievances about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance procedures and the intelligence document known as the Steele dossier.  

"We went through hell, unfairly, did nothing wrong," said Trump, repeating the last phrase.  

The Senate voted on Wednesday to acquit Trump of abuse of power stemming from his request that Ukraine announce an investigation into Democrat presidential contender Joe Biden, as well as the charge of obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses and documents sought by the House of Representatives.  

Trump on Thursday again insisted his controversial July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "perfect" and questioned the earnings of Hunter Biden from his sinecure on a Ukraine energy board. The younger Biden served on the board of Burisma for over two years while his father was U.S. vice-president.  

The president didn't rule out the possibility that he would be investigated at some future point by Democrats in Congress.

 "We'll probably have to do it again, because these people are stone-cold crazy," he said.

WATCH | 'It was all bullshit': Trump gives an unvarnished assessment of the Russia investigation: 

U.S. President Donald Trump expresses his disgust with how he says he's been treated over the past three years. 0:15

Shots at Pelosi, Romney

Earlier in the day, Trump triumphantly held up copies of two newspapers with banner "ACQUITTED!" headlines as he took the stage at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Trump was keen to tackle the impeachment topic early on in his breakfast speech.  

"As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people," he said. "They have done everything possible to destroy us."  

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, left, and Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, react as the president speaks on Thursday. Cipollone and Sekulow both advocated for Trump at the Senate impeachment trial. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who led the impeachment charge against the Republican president, was also at the breakfast. Pelosi, who had torn up the text of Trump's state of the union speech after his address on Tuesday night, preceded the president on the dais, asking for prayers for the poor and persecuted.

Trump did not acknowledge her. He then clearly took shots in his speech at both Pelosi and Mitt Romney, the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump on one of the articles of impeachment.  

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

Pelosi often says she prays for the president, while Romney in his speech Wednesday from the Senate floor justifying his votes on the two articles of impeachment, said he "swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice."  

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a newspaper with the headline that reads 'ACQUITTED' during the 68th annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton on Thursday. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Pelosi, at her weekly news conference later in the day, called the comments "so completely inappropriate, especially at a prayer breakfast."  

"He's talking up things he knows little about — faith and prayer," she said.  

Trump, at the White House later, said he "meant every word of it," regarding his breakfast comments. Later, he called Pelosi "a horrible person."  

WATCH | Trump calls Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer 'vicious and mean':

U.S. President Donald Trump attacks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer during his White House victory speech. 1:01

Pelosi said it was "up to him" if the two sides can work together on legislation going forward, pointing to the recent ratification of the trade deal with Canada and Mexico as an example.  

Aside from Romney, Republican senators voted to acquit Trump, relying on a multitude of rationales for keeping him in office: he's guilty, but his conduct wasn't impeachable; his July telephone conversation with Ukraine's president was a standard example of politicians trading favours; and that there's an election in 10 months and it's up to voters to determine his fate.  

During his breakfast speech, Trump urged his audience to get out and vote on Nov. 3.  

Trump tweeted after the Senate vote on Wednesday that he would mark his acquittal with a statement at noon Thursday to "discuss our Country's VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!" 

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is shown as Trump delivers his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Overall, the tone contrasted with that of Bill Clinton, the last president to be impeached. Clinton, in a statement after being acquitted at a Senate impeachment trial in February 1999, said he was "profoundly sorry … for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people."  

"This can be and this must be a time of reconciliation and renewal for America," Clinton said in his brief statement in the White House Rose Garden.

In his own statement, Trump apologized not to the country but to his family for what they had to endure and put the blame squarely on the Democrats.

Trump at the prayer breakfast highlighted his administration's record on the economy, citing historically low unemployment, as well as its efforts to champion pro-life policies and protect religious liberties around the world.

Pelosi shook her head at various points during Trump's remarks.

U.S. President Donald Trump set his sights on re-election moments after surviving an impeachment trial in the Senate, but November is still a long ways away — especially in politics. 2:02

Just minutes earlier, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy of California asked for prayers to help guide a divided Congress, while the conservative columnist Arthur Brooks implored the audience to not hold liberals in contempt.

"They're just Americans who disagree with us on public policy," said Brooks.

"I don't know if I agree with you," Trump said to Brooks as he took the microphone.  

Trump praises surrogates

At his weekly news conference, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called the trial result a "pyrrhic victory" for Republicans.

The New York Democrat targeted Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as having "failed to live up to what this country's all about," by marshaling his side to vote against hearing additional witness testimony during the trial.  

Schumer surmised that Republican senators feared the wrath of a "vindictive" Trump and conservative media outlets.

Trump at the White House implored McConnell to stand, praising his efforts on behalf of the White House.

"You did a fantastic job," the president said.

Trump also singled out for recognition some of his most vociferous defenders on Capitol Hill, including Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and members of congress Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Doug Collins, Debbie Lesko and Matt Gaetz.

"We've got your back," said North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows, another Trump loyalist.

Trump spoke for over an hour at the White House, largely unscripted, but did not take reporter questions.

Pelosi said the House will continue to provide oversight of the Trump administration, but did not specifically address a question whether Democrats in the chamber would subpoena from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. Bolton has written a book alleging the president pressured Ukraine and withheld military aid to announce investigations helpful to Trump's cause.

 

With files from The Associated Press

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