President TrumpDonald John TrumpLA Times editorial board torches Trump on climate Spotify to pause the selling of political advertising Fed study: Trump tariffs backfired, caused job losses and higher prices MORE has made attacking House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLA Times editorial board torches Trump on climate Biden says he would not comply with a Senate subpoena in Trump’s impeachment trial The rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 MORE (D-Calif.) a theme of his holiday break at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Trump’s comments suggest he is lingering on impeachment and that Pelosi’s central role in it is very much on his mind going into 2020.
As of Friday, Trump had tweeted or retweeted messages about Pelosi more than 20 times since he left Washington for a two-week stint at his Palm Beach, Fla., resort, and he’s addressed her during two public appearances he has made on his vacation.
In particular, Trump has complained about Pelosi’s decision to hold off on sending articles of impeachment against the president to the GOP-controlled Senate until Democrats understand what the rules will be.
The president, who is hungry for vindication in a Senate trial, has attacked the Speaker as “crazy,” accused her of ignoring her “filthy” district in California and suggested she shouldn’t be allowed to impeach him without any support from Republican House members.
He’s accused Democrats of treating him unfairly throughout the process and claimed they have no case, painting impeachment as a partisan exercise designed to damage him.
“She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party,” Trump told reporters Tuesday, following a video teleconference with U.S. troops, calling Pelosi “desperate.”
Allies say that Trump is trying to call into question the seriousness of Democrats’ effort and hammer home the White House’s argument that Democrats are motivated by partisan politics.
“Impeachment is a political tool and it is largely waged in the court of public opinion. The president is making sure everyone understands how the process works and the political motivations behind Pelosi’s actions,” said Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerFormer Trump staffer suing Trump, campaign over sex discrimination The Memo: Impeachment’s scars cut deep with Trump, say those who know him ‘A Warning’ replaces Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘Triggered’ as No.1 book on NYT bestseller list MORE, former White House press secretary under Trump, who argued Trump was succeeding in hardening the resolve of his supporter base.
Spicer argued that Trump isn’t necessarily frustrated or irritated, but that he’s “more trying to expose the pure political nature of what she’s done.”
Still, the result has been the appearance of a president increasingly possessed by anger at Democrats over his impeachment as the timeline surrounding Trump’s expected acquittal by the Senate is pushed back.
Trump’s relationship with Pelosi has been tumultuous since the start of the year, when the top Democrat reclaimed control of the lower chamber following a resounding victory for House Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections. The two began the year sparring over funding to end the government shutdown.
Pelosi has assumed a pivotal role in the three months since revelations about a whistleblower raising concerns about his dealings with Ukraine finally moved her to jumpstart a formal impeachment inquiry after months of resisting doing so despite calls from within her own caucus.
In that time, Trump’s attacks on her seem to have grown in fervency.
“He’s obviously angry about impeachment. Nobody wants to be impeached,” said Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, who argued Pelosi presents an ideal foil for Trump because of her low favorability rating, particularly among Republican-leaning voters.
“Ultimately, this impeachment is going nowhere. Everybody knows this. So, he’s making it look as if it’s punitive,” Nunberg said.
Pelosi has tried to strike a somber and measured tone when talking about impeachment. In a rare moment of anger, Pelosi lashed out at a reporter in early December who asked if she hated Trump.
“This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president’s violation of his oath of office,” she said. “As a Catholic, I resent your use of the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone … and always pray for the president.”
Democratic strategists suspect Pelosi’s endgame in delaying the articles is twofold — she is seeking leverage over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he would not comply with a Senate subpoena in Trump’s impeachment trial Amy McGrath files for Kentucky Senate bid against McConnell Blumenthal: Five to 10 Republicans have ‘severe misgivings’ about McConnell strategy MORE (R-Ky.) to help Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerKarl Rove argues Clinton’s impeachment was ‘dignified’ Trump attacks Democrats over impeachment following call with military members Impeached, with a solid base and no apologies — Trump becomes the only issue of 2020 MORE (D-N.Y.), the minority leader, press for a trial that isn’t tilted toward the president while biding time to see if more damaging information comes out.
“The president could say something or do something to dig himself into a deeper hole and created a situation where some Republicans may feel like they need to break ranks and convict the president on articles of impeachment because he has gone too far,” said Democratic strategist Basil Smikle.
But the strategy carries several risks. Pelosi could be seen caving to McConnell when Congress returns to Washington after the holiday recess. Indeed, the majority leader has shown no willingness to acquiesce to Democrats’ demands for witness testimony from acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump goes after Pelosi in early morning tweets complaining about impeachment GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial Trump attacks Democrats over impeachment following call with military members MORE and others.
The longer the delay, the more impeachment could distract from the 2020 Democratic primary and remove senators vying for the nomination from the campaign trail.
Some Democrats also concede that Pelosi could play into Trump’s argument that Democrats are wasting time on impeachment.
“It gives the president an opportunity to say, ‘Look they have nothing, they’re bluffing,’” said Smikle. “I think that is probably the most detrimental to the party.”
The Republican-held Senate is widely expected to acquit Trump on the articles of impeachment once a trial gets under way.
Still, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBlumenthal: Five to 10 Republicans have ‘severe misgivings’ about McConnell strategy Murkowski ‘disturbed’ by McConnell’s pledge for ‘total coordination’ with White House on impeachment Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Alaska) in a recent interview with local station KTUU said she was “disturbed” when she heard McConnell pledge full coordination with the White House, a signal there is at least some Republican discomfort with the appearance of the Senate conducting a trial that favors the president.
Murkowski, seen as one of a handful of swing Republican votes, also criticized the House process as rushed and said she hadn’t yet made up her mind on how she would vote.
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, said Sunday that the White House views Pelosi’s situation as “untenable” and that she would eventually yield and send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“He’s frustrated [with] what he found to be a completely unreasonable impeachment,” Short said of Trump on “Fox News Sunday.”
“So, sure, he’s frustrated by that, but he’s also anxious to get not just acquitted, but exonerated in the Senate. So, he’s looking forward to his opportunity to have a fair trial in the Senate.”
Juliegrace Brufke contributed.