A defiant President Donald Trump on Wednesday painted Tuesday’s midterm elections as a historic event, declaring his efforts helped Republicans defy history and overcome a major Democratic fundraising advantage and negative media coverage.
He appeared in the East Room of the White House just hours after Republicans lost control of the House but expanded their narrow Senate majority. Trump focused mostly for Senate Republican candidates in the races final weeks, opening the door for him to declare victory — though his critics do not see it that way.
House Democrats soon will be armed with investigative and subpoena power with several likely committee chairs eying probes of many facets of the Trump presidency and some in the caucus want to begin impeachment proceedings even as their leaders urge caution.
“Americans have spoken and they have empowered a Democratic House Majority to fight for the people. It is now up to us to get to work and take action that raises wages, lowers health care costs, and cleans up corruption,” House Appropriations ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
Watch: Trump Declares Success in the Midterms, Spars With CNN Reporter
Trump opened the press conference by noting first-term presidents typically lose seats during their first midterms, saying Republicans “exceeding expectations” on Tuesday.
He said he campaigned for 10 candidates in the race’s final days, “and nine won.”
“We were getting bombarded by money on the other side,” he said, lamenting Democratic “special interests.” He did not mention that conservative groups that would fit the same definition regularly give money to GOP candidates.
Trump noted a too-close-to-call Arizona Senate race between GOP Rep. Martha McSally, and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema “looks really good.” If McSally wins, it would keep the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake in the Republican column.
The president predicted Republicans and Democrats should be able to compromise on legislation, but he did not elaborate during his opening remarks.
“The Democrats will come to us with a plan for health care [and] a plan for infrastructure,” he said, striking an optimistic tone by adding “and then we’ll compromise.”
Trump also took on the specter of his administration facing unprecedented oversight from House committees headed by Democrats who will set the agenda.
“They can play that game,” he said of House Democrats’ expected investigations, “but we can play that game better.”
He warned against “investigation fatigue,” echoing experts that such a climate likely would stifle any efforts to craft passable and signable bills.
Trump signaled Republicans will use the Senate as a check against left-leaning policy and spending bills. “We have a lot in common on infrastructure,” he said, stopping short of saying he expects to sign a bill to upgrade roads, bridges, airports, tunnels and seaports. His plan last year never gained traction.
As he can be when reading prepared remarks, Trump sounded like other presidents who lost a chamber in midterm elections. “Now is the time for both parties to join together,” he said, calling on both parties to join forces to maintain the “economic miracle” and “protect the military.”
“Government comes to a halt” if Democrats hit him with a slew of subpoenas, Trump said when asked about the 2019 agenda. He again said the two sides “agree very much” on infrastructure and other issues.
After threatening in the past to shutter the federal government unless Democrats give him more funding for his southern border wall, Trump said Wednesday of taking that action now that he has to negotiate with House Democrats: “Not necessarily.”
“We’re going to be fighting for it,” he said of wall monies. “Their whole agenda has been not giving me anything for the wall.”
After a tense and angry back-and-forth, Trump told CNN’s Jim Acosta he is a “terrible” person and said the network should be “ashamed” of itself for employing him. The two continued to bicker even after Trump moved to a NBC reporter in a remarkable scene that pushed well beyond traditional exchanges between a president and the media — even contentious ones.
Trump later barked “Sit down!” at reporter April Ryan when she tried to ask a question without being called on, describing her as “rudely interrupting” another reporter.
Trump denied he is putting Americans against one another and adding to the country’s tribal politics, noting “we won a lot of elections last night.”
In a lighter moment, when asked if Vice President Mike Pence would be his 2020 running mate, Trump asked his No. 2 on the spot. Seated in the front row, Pence nodded his agreement.
“That was unexpected,” Trump said to laughter. “But I feel fine.”
Trump said trading middle-class tax rate reductions for raising rates on corporations and the most wealthy Americans “could be” on the table as he must negotiate next year with a Democratic-run House Ways and Means Committee. He said he still wants to pass such a bill despite losing the House.
Should Rep. Nancy Pelosi be short of the required votes to become speaker in January, Trump said he believes he has enough allies in the House Republican conference to give her the gavel. He said his morning tweet saying she deserves the job was not sarcastic.
Asked about critics who said his declaration on the campaign trail that he is a “nationalist” was a code word for white supremacy, Trump denied it and told an African-American reporter it was “a racist question.”
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