President Donald Trump on Thursday night used a political rally in Louisiana, billed as a late-race assist to the Republican candidate for governor, to blast the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and insult House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff.
“While we are creating jobs and killing terrorists, the radical left — Democrats — are ripping our country apart,” he said to boos from the crowd inside the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City. He later accused Democrats of trying to “sabotage our democracy.”
Trump went after “small-necked” Schiff, trying to paint the California Democrat as physically and intellectually tiny. “What size shirt do you need?” the president said, mimicking a tailor talking to Schiff, whom Trump then said would reply: “Um, size 9.”
The president accused Democrats of “trying to overthrow the last election because they know they’re not going to win the next election.” Democrats, however, say Trump tried to bribe Ukraine’s new president with military aid and a White House meeting in return for a public declaration that he would investigate Democrats.
Onstage Thursday, Trump read from a printout of a story from the conservative Daily Wire that he said should exonerate him.
The story began this way: “Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Thursday that the United States Ambassador Gordon Sondland did not link financial military assistance to a request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.”
With another public impeachment hearing slated for 9 a.m. Friday, Trump touted his “great group of Republicans,” who’ve stuck by his side. Though Democrats appear to have ample votes in the House to impeach Trump, no Senate Republican has yet to support his removal at the end of a possible trial in that chamber.
Trump was not briefed by senior aides about the House Democrats’ first public impeachment hearing Wednesday and did not watch it in full after he wrapped his workday, a White House official said Thursday.
“This was more than a win for the president. It was a win for the American people. Why? Because we’re one step closer to getting this whole sham … behind us. These hearings now prove the president’s done nothing wrong. And the Democrats know it,” said the official, granted anonymity to speak candidly.
The Trump factor
Thursday’s trip was Trump’s third to Louisiana in a little over a month as Republicans try to flip the governor’s mansion in a state the president carried by 20 points in 2016.
Polls have shown a close race between Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards and GOP nominee Eddie Rispone ahead of Saturday’s runoff.
Trump painted Edwards as a “radical liberal,” who, he said, bends to the demands of top Washington Democrats when they call with marching orders. “He’s failed,” the president said of Edwards, adding: “He’s probably a tool of that guy, Shifty Schiff.”
Invited to speak at the presidential lectern, GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham, who finished third behind Edwards and Rispone in the gubernatorial jungle primary last month, got folksy when talking about the impeachment probe. “In Louisiana, we know what horse manure looks like,” he said, adding that Schiff and other House Democrats are “up to their necks in it.”
The Louisiana race is viewed as a test of Trump’s 2020 coattails as the GOP tries to keep the White House, expand its Senate majority and take back the House. The president has campaigned for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Mississippi and Kentucky this fall. While Republicans held on to the Mississippi governor’s mansion, Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin narrowly lost to Democrat Andy Beshear and conceded Thursday.
“Beshear ran as a Trump-friendly Democrat in Kentucky. All other Republicans won easily,” a Trump 2020 campaign spokeswoman said in an email.
At the start of Thursday’s rally, Trump implored supporters to vote on Saturday. “You can go to your football game and have a lot of fun,” he said of Louisiana State University’s road football game against the University of Mississippi. “But you’ve got to vote first.”
GOP strategists and political observers say a Rispone loss might make some Republican incumbents and candidates nervous about tying themselves too closely to Trump, but they are unlikely to break with him on policy matters or his often-brash conduct.
“President Trump’s whole brand is winning. Losing anything, anywhere, particularly a statewide race in a red state, hurts that brand,” said Michael Steel, who was an aide to former Speaker John A. Boehner and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said this week that regardless of what happens in Louisiana, “Hill Republicans know their political fortunes are tied to Trump, period.”