Trump impeached by House while holding campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich.

ByLiz Nagy via KABC logo
Thursday, December 19, 2019
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President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives while he held a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, Wednesday evening.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- Defiant in the face of a historic rebuke, President Donald Trump labeled his impeachment by the House of Representatives on Wednesday "a suicide march" for the Democratic Party.

"Crazy Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame," Trump told the crowd at a campaign rally in battleground Michigan, where he took the stage just minutes before becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. "It's a disgrace"

It was a dramatic and discordant split-screen moment, with Trump emerging from a mock fireplace like Santa Claus at the Christmas-themed rally as the impeachment debate in Washington was underway.

As he spoke - seemingly unaware of the unfolding votes for a stretch - the House voted to impeach him on two counts. 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 and his aides have tried to brush off the significance of the vote - noting there is little chance he will be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate and removed from office - allies say Trump has been fuming over the stain that impeachment will leave on his legacy.

"Think of how dishonest this all way," Trump told his supporters in Battle Creek. "They should not even be allowed to have an impeachment because it was based on dishonesty."

An asterisk will now mark the 45th president's name in history books.

"Through their depraved actions today, crazy Nancy Pelosi's House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame," Trump said. "And it really is, it's a disgrace. Democrat lawmakers do not believe you have the right to select your own president."

Yet even as Trump slammed his impeachment as "illegal" and accused Democrats of demonstrating "deep hatred and disdain" for voters, he spent much of his speech zigzagging through a litany of unrelated topics. He offered an extended riff on U.S. pilots being cuter than "Top Gun" star Tom Cruise, went after Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's difficult-to-pronounce last name and reveled - yet again - in his 2016 victory.

Thousands of voters braved the bitter cold to join Trump on the front lines as he fights not to be a one-term president.

"He's proven himself," supporter Mike McLaughlin said. "He's turning this country in the right direction."

"It's cold out here," he added. "We stood in line half froze to death, but willing to do it."

"It's ridiculous to impeach him over nothing. They wasted all this time going after him," said Maria Lacross, Trump supporter. "He's going to win again because he is a good president and looking out for the best of our country."

"Uplifting to be here with other Americans who feel the way I do," said Stephanie Wallbridge, Trump supporter, before the rally.

"Once in a lifetime chance to see the best president in history," said Brad Weeks of Jackson, MIch., who attended his first Trump rally.

But this snow-covered section of Western Michigan, like much of the country, is deeply divided.

"I'm so worried about the country, democracy, the Constitution," said Rolf Heubel, protester.

"I think it's disgusting that people are willing to come out and show support for a president who shouldn't have been in the White House in the first place," said Katie Dinkel, protester.

Bundled and braving the cold in snow-covered Battle Creek, Trump's voters want the president to know they support him.

"We're going to cheer loudly for him and support him," Wallbridge said.

"What has been wrong is Democrats trying to destroy the fabric of our country," said Timothy Regan, Trump supporter.

"I think we have two different worlds," said protester Tom Moran. "That's what worries me the most."

Outside the rally, each side barely acknowledged the other. And inside, an impeached Trump relished the battle cries of a re-election campaign.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report