On Wednesday evening, just shy of 8:30 p.m. ET, President Trump was inaugurated into one of the most exclusive boys’ clubs in the world: He became just the third president in all of American history to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives.
And just as lawmakers on Capitol Hill were clearing the voting threshold to impeach him, Trump was on stage at a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, talking about how he’s met U.S. fighter pilots who are right “out of central casting” and who are even hotter and more “handsome” than Tom Cruise.
Shortly after that, the president moved on to bragging, to raucous cheers and applause from his fans, about how he defeated 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the “Blue Wall” state of Michigan. He then cracked a joke about whether Bill Clinton calls her “Crooked Hillary” behind closed doors.
It was a quintessentially Trumpian political rally, full of jabs and mean-spirited quips at his Democratic enemies, flamboyant braggadocio, casual recommendation that police and security personnel be more violent with anti-Trump protesters, and wrong, bizarre claims of bringing “Merry Christmas” back in vogue. The difference on Wednesday night was that it would be the only rally of his lifetime during which he’d take the stage as a president who could honestly say he’d never been impeached, only to leave the stage an impeached leader.
As he basked in the glow of the Republican voters and his devoted followers, he appeared determined to put on a happy face and serve up another buoyant, smirking performance. “I’m having a good time,” the president insisted. “I’m not worried, I’m not worried.”
In private, Trump has bitterly fixated on the effect of impeachment on his legacy and his “résumé.” And he craves vengeance.
This month, the president has been calling around regularly to old friends and informal advisers, some of whom tell The Daily Beast that they hadn’t heard from Trump for a long time, soliciting their views and advice on impeachment. In recent weeks, Trump has told confidants and administration officials that he wants Democratic leaders to somehow pay for what they’ve done to him, and he has revived his talk about wanting to sue liberal lawmakers such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, after the impeachment process in the House has concluded, according to two sources who’ve heard Trump discuss this over the past three weeks.
It’s unclear, as typically is the case with Trump, if he’ll end up following through on this legal threat. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani—a central figure in the president’s scandalous, impeachment-triggering crusade to recruit the Ukrainian government into investigating the Bidens—told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that there has, indeed, been recent “movement” on a Schiff-related lawsuit, though he wouldn’t elaborate when asked what he meant by that. For many years, Trump has been known for frivolous lawsuits and hurling wild legal threats, and said in October that he told his lawyers they should sue Schiff even if their legal defeat is certain or the case gets thrown out.
For much of the rest of Trumpworld, Wednesday’s historic event was also an opportunity. For the president’s re-election campaign, it was an opportunity to fundraise and nudge Trump devotees. “We noticed you haven’t stepped up to defend Pres Trump before the Impeachment Vote. It’s up to YOU to end this. Contribute NOW for a DOUBLE MATCH,” Trump 2020 texted to its supporters on Wednesday afternoon.
For Trump’s top aides, it was another chance to own some libs and chastise media outlets.
At the White House mid-afternoon, shortly before the president flew out to Michigan, senior staff enjoyed their final hours of having a boss who hasn’t been impeached. One of those officials, Trump’s White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, took the time after a TV hit in the briefing room to field questions about impeachment and the Trump-Ukraine scandal.
For the better part of an hour, Conway stuck firmly to a roster of popular Trump talking points: The presidency has seen great things for Asian-American and African-American employment; Trump did nothing wrong; the president is in a fine mood today; Trump’s enemies in the media and Democratic Party have no case; and so on and so forth.
But she made sure to devote a chunk of her press briefing to mocking some of the journalists present. Multiple times, she made fun of reporters for asking questions she said had already been asked. “I don’t think you’re asking anything,” Conway told one reporter, before telling him he was doing a lousy job at being “neutral.”
In Battle Creek that evening, it was full-on Trump-y excess.
The president said “ass” on-stage repeatedly, to the audience’s great delight. He riffed on the marital drama and affair involving the “FBI lovers” he despises so much, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. He told the crowd he’d say “that state let me down” if Michigan doesn’t help send him back to the White House in 2020. He complained about how people had to flush their toilets “10 times, right?” just to flush properly nowadays. He talked about how energy-efficient light bulbs were to blame for “always” making him “look so orange.” He nicknamed Comcast “Commie-cast.” He bashed The Washington Post as a “stupid” rag. He took Schiff to task for not being “exactly the best-looking guy” he’s ever seen. He insisted that “I could have Barron Trump go into Central Park and he’d get a crowd” larger than what “Crazy Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren has drawn. And Trump once again rolled out his recurring laugh line… about execution.
“If that were me, it’s the electric chair, they would bring the electric chair back,” the president said at the rally, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden being “on tape” boasting about pushing Ukraine to oust a top prosecutor. “In many ways, I’d like to have him win [the Democratic primary].”
And the fact that the president wanted dirt, even if it was completely baseless dirt, on his potential 2020 general election rival Biden is the very reason Trump stepped off that stage around 10 p.m. ET an impeached man.