Trump rages over 'bulls***' inquiry in rambling speech on live TV after impeachment acquittal

President calls his enemies 'evil' and 'corrupt' a day after his Republican allies voted to clear him of abuse and obstruction

Trump calls impeachment trial 'evil and corrupt'

Donald Trump called his impeachment and the Russia investigation "bulls***" during a televised White House speech to supporters and the nation, a day after his Republican allies in the Senate acquitted him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The president came to the East Room victory lap event with scores to settle aplenty, bemoaning the special counsel's Russia election meddling probe and other investigations of his 2016 campaign and presidency.

"It was all bulls***", Mr Trump said of those investigations and House Democrats' impeachment probe. He mocked Democrats over former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which failed to state clearly if he committed any crimes and explicitly stated it would have exonerated him if Mr Mueller had concluded no crimes were committed.

He went after Senator Mitt Romney, the lone Republican to vote for his removal, who cited his Mormon faith as a reason because he swore an oath to god before the trial began. Mr Trump contended that Mr Romney "used religion as a crutch", taking a swipe at his failed 2012 White House bid by adding: "Things can happen when you fail so badly running for president."

The East Room fell silent as he ripped into Mr Romney, once the GOP's leader.

The third president to be impeached predicted that House Democrats would be likely to impeach him again, though that came seconds after he told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy he would soon be speaker because voters would punish Democrats over the impeachment affair at the polls in November. That outcome would strip Democrats of their House majority and impeachment powers.

The president called House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff a "vicious" politician and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a "horrible person", adding: "These are vicious people."

The president called House Democrats' investigation of the Ukraine matter and vote to impeachment him "evil" and "corrupt". He accused Democrats of "making up facts", attacking Mr Schiff during a rambling presentation that darted from the present day to 2016 at random.

Mr Trump contended again he did "nothing wrong", saying he had made mistakes in his life – but not in his dealings last year with Ukrainian leaders. In a rare moment, he apologised to his entire family, saying the impeachment affair was difficult on them.

He hugged and gave kisses, separately, to daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. "I want to thank my family for sticking through it," he said. "This was not part of the deal."

He suggested worse might have happened to him had he not fired former FBI Director James Comey – then delivered a warning, though he continues to leave out any proposal he has in mind to avert future impeachment inquiries.

"It should never happen to another president, ever. I can tell you at a minimum, you got to focus on this because it can get away from you very quickly. We've all been through a lot together. ... It's been a very unfair situation," Mr Trump said of the House impeachment inquiry and Senate trial.

About an hour before Mr Trump entered the East Room as "Ruffles and Flourishes" played and the invited guests applauded and cheered, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham sent a shot across the bow of Democrats and Mr Romney during a Fox News appearance.

The president intends to, as he mentioned at an event earlier on Thursday, talk about "how horribly he was treated, and maybe, you know, people should pay for that".

Mercedes Schlapp, a former White House communications official who advises his re-election campaign, was asked to define the "pay" threat minutes later on CNN.

"The payback is the president will win re-election in 2020," Ms Schlapp said. "I will tell you, there are Democrats (voters) out there, there are independents out there, who are tired with the political sham from the Democrats. They are wasting the people's time."

Ms Schlapp – who frequently defended Mr Trump on cable news while she worked at the White House before leaving when Ms Grisham became communications director and press secretary – made clear that the White House was targeting Mr Romney. That's a break with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he was "disappointed" by Mr Romney's removal vote but would not put the Utah lawmaker in a "doghouse".

"He wants to be the senator from the Acela corridor," she said of Mr Romney, referring to the Amtrak train express line that runs from Washington, DC to Boston. "He wanted the president to endorse him for his Senate bid ... and the president stood by Mitt Romney. ... It just shows that Mitt Romney has no loyalty."

Trump calls impeachment trial 'evil and corrupt'

But Mr Trump has shown he will cast aside senior aides and even personal consigliaries like former attorney Michael Cohen, who now resides in federal prison for work he did on behalf of Mr Trump.

Asked about Ms Grisham's threat, Ms Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol "that language ... is nothing that surprises anyone".

"They have to know when the White House speaks, it weighs a ton. They are giving encouragement to people to do things," she said, noting the president said there were "good" people on "both sides" of the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, around events sponsored by white supremacist groups.

"We've had a strained relationship for a while," Ms Pelosi said during her weekly press conference before the president spoke about impeachment. "I do think that they should rein in their comments, because what they are saying is there's going to be payback to us for upholding the Constitution of the United States."

Many of Mr Trump's top Capitol Hill defenders were in attendance. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, as well as Congressman Mark Meadows, sat in the front row. So too did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Also receiving a front-row seat was Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who Democrats wanted to testify in the impeachment investigation and trial, only to be blocked first by the White House then Senate Republicans.

Entering to a standing ovation just minutes before Mr Trump entered the East Room were the members of his Senate trial defence team, all smiles as they relished their victory.

When Mr Trump told Mr McConnell he did a "fantastic job" with the Senate trial, the invited guests responded with another standing ovation. "This guy is great," the president said. "And I appreciate it, Mitch. ... He understood, this was crooked politics."

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