Split screen: Trump holding rally as impeachment vote looms

National News

President Donald Trump arrives at W.K. Kellogg Airport to attend a campaign rally, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Battle Creek, Mich. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — In a vivid split-screen moment, President Donald Trump arrived Wednesday night at the site of a campaign rally in Michigan just as the House was preparing to vote on his impeachment.

An indignant and defiant Trump has been staring down the impending votes just as he has every obstacle in his presidency: by broadcasting his grievances via tweet. Though the White House had said Trump would be busy working rather than focused on the proceedings, the president spent much of his day tweeting and retweeting.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” Trump wrote in one of 45 tweets posted before noon. He asked his followers to “Say a PRAYER!”

As members of the House debated the articles of impeachment, Trump’s urgency appeared to escalate as he switched to all capital letters: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” he wrote.

For Trump, it was an acknowledgment of the inevitable: that he will become just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. While he and White House officials have tried to brush off the significance — noting there is little chance he will be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate and removed from office — allies nonetheless acknowledge that Trump has indeed been angry over the stain the episode will leave on his legacy.

Trump is facing two articles of impeachment. The first charges him with abuse of power for allegedly pressuring the president of Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals while crucial U.S. security aid was being withheld. The second charges him with obstruction of Congress for stonewalling investigative efforts.

While Trump had little on his public schedule as the debate was taking place, he set up his own evening counterprogramming in battleground, Michigan.

As the debate wore on, Trump aides, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, fanned out across Capitol Hill to bolster the president’s message that impeachment is helping Republicans and damaging Democrats. Vice President Mike Pence got to Michigan ahead of Trump for a daylong bus tour before the Battle Creek rally. He called the expected votes a “disgrace” and said he marveled at the president’s resilience and “determination to go forward.”

Pence also accused Democrats of “trying to impeach this president because they can’t defeat” him, predicting that Trump would once again carry the state, in part, because of the energy generated by impeachment.

The president’s middle son, Eric, told reporters during a campaign conference call that he and other Trump surrogates would be working to target Democrats in districts his father won in 2016.

“We’re going to win this thing again. They are handing it to us,” he said. “But this is very sad that they are putting the country through this.”

Conway said recent polling and the influx of money suggest “this entire exercise has blown up in the Democrats’ face.” Polls indicate the public is divided over whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office, though opinions have generally remained steady.

Trump’s campaign has experienced a surge in contributions and volunteers during the proceedings and was hoping to raise an additional $2 million Wednesday ahead of the votes.

Trump, for his part, had plenty to say via tweet, declaring that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “Will go down in history as worst Speaker.” He also generously retweeted allies’ comments from his favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” as the hosts sought to reassure conservative voters that Trump remains in good spirits despite the looming vote.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, and Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, said they were among a group of GOP lawmakers who met with Trump at the White House on Tuesday evening to talk strategy about Wednesday’s House session and the likely Senate trial in January.

McCarthy insisted that Trump remains focused on moving forward with his agenda, despite the implications for his legacy.

“Anybody else, this would be traumatic for them,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never seen a man so strong. He is focused on what the American people need.”

It was a message repeated by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who insisted on “Fox & Friends” that the president has been a voice of calm for top administration officials, despite his public fury.

“He is such a focused president,” Grisham said. “I must tell you that while he’s frustrated… he is also so focused, and he is leading our White House and keeping us calm and telling us, ‘That’s OK, we’re going to move forward, we’re focused, this is going to take us through to 2020.”

Colvin contributed from Washington. Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

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