Peas, one of the South Dakota-bred turkeys that received a presidential pardon Tuesday, pleaded the Fifth. But President Donald Trump had a warning for the creature about House Democrats.
The bright white bird merely pranced around in the Rose Garden and let out nary a gobble as Trump warned him that he may be among the first target of several investigation-minded House committees next year.
“Even though ‘Peas’ and ‘Carrots’ have received a presidential pardon, I have warned them that House Democrats are likely to issue them both subpoenas,” the president quipped, also referring to another turkey who escaped a Thanksgiving dinner table.
The incoming chairs of several House panels that will be under Democratic control come January — Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Intelligence — have already made clear they intend to use their investigative powers to look into the Trump 2016 campaign and presidency, using their coming subpoena authorities to compel witnesses close to the president to testify about a range of issues.
During an appearance in the White House briefing room earlier in the day - though without his identity yet revealed — Peas declined to as much as squawk or chirp at a single shouted question from a group of reporters.
“Nevertheless... I will be issuing both Peas and Carrots a presidential pardon,” Trump said of Democrats’ possible interest in their testimony.
Long gone are Barack Obama’s presidential dad jokes that drove his two daughters to sit out his last two turkey pardoning ceremonies, replaced by talk of investigations, subpoenas and federal court actions.
“Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that your pardons won’t be enjoined by the Ninth Circuit,” Trump told Peas and Carrots. “Always happens."
The Ninth Circuit has shut down this president before, including on his “travel ban” that tried to block individuals from some Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
While some might think the humorous event is not the place for such jokes, one GOP strategist said of Trump: “He does and says these controversial things on purpose. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And in many ways, it does work for him.”
The president also jabbed several Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates who demanded recounts earlier this month during the midterms — but ultimately lost.
“The winner of this vote was decided by a fair and open election conducted on the White House website. This was a fair election. Unfortunately, ‘Carrots’ refused to concede and demanded a recount,” the invited guests laughed.
“We're still fighting with ‘Carrots’ ... Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you the results did not change,” Trump said before, as his predecessors have in the annual event’s awkwardness, teasing a turkey. “That’s too bad for ‘Carrots.’”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Trump took the short walk to a table positioned near his podium and uttered these words with his right arm high in the air: “Peas, I hereby grant you a full pardon.”
But the scripted event went off with a cloud of controversy hanging over the Rose Garden on a crisp November day. As reporters were waiting to be escorted into the event, the White House issued a remarkable statement — which bore Trump’s fingerprints — siding with senior Saudi leaders over his own intelligence agencies about the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in the statement, which began with two lines the likes of which are rarely seen in an official White House statement: “America First!” and “The world is a very dangerous place!”
Social media users, including several foreign journalists, used the timing to post a common joke of their own.