By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump emerged confident and ready to press on with his re-election effort on Wednesday after the Democratic-led impeachment drive that he denounced as illegitimate crashed to a halt in the Republican-led Senate.
Trump plans to speak about the issue at the White House on Thursday. A source close to the president described his address as a “vindication speech” that would combine some magnanimity with an “I told you so” tone.
Next, advisers said, Trump would proceed at full steam on his political and policy goals, throwing himself fully into his re-election campaign and efforts to fulfill promises he has made to his supporters and the electorate.
“The president is pleased to put this latest chapter of shameful behavior by the Democrats in the past, and looks forward to continuing his work on behalf of the American people in 2020 and beyond,” the White House said in a statement after the verdict.
Trump was acquitted largely along party lines on two articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that accused him of abusing his power by pressing Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a contender for the Democratic nomination to face him in the Nov. 3 election, and obstructing Congress’ attempts to investigate the matter.
But he did not come out of the process unscathed.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear, the impeachment will be part of his legacy, and Republican Senator Mitt Romney’s vote to convict him on the abuse-of-power charge deprived the president of the ability to dismiss the process as entirely partisan.
But Republican officials noted record fundraising during the impeachment process, leading Trump’s re-election effort to bring in $155 million in the last three months of 2019 alone, boosted by a support base that is both pumped up and ticked off.
Although the bruising impeachment battle is certain to be a factor for voters considering whether to re-elect Trump in November, his campaign is claiming victory.
“Acquittal means total vindication,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director. “The Democrats’ decision to move forward with impeachment will go down as the worst political miscalculation in American history.”
In a sign of confidence, minutes after senators found him not guilty, the president tweeted a video of himself with campaign signs projected well into the future, suggesting he wanted to be president for decades to come.
U.S. presidents are constitutionally limited to two elected terms in office. Trump faced accusations of being autocratic and king-like during the Senate impeachment trial.
Trump released another video several hours later that referred to Romney as a “Democrat secret asset” and said the senator tried to “infiltrate” the president’s administration when Trump considered him for the position of secretary of state.
As the impeachment drama dragged on over the weeks, Trump gyrated between feeling upbeat and aggrieved. Advisers said he complained that his trade deal with Mexico and Canada did not get the media coverage it deserved because of the focus on impeachment.
With the threat of removal from office behind him, Trump is expected to bask in the glow of a strong economy and hammer Democrats for their efforts to take him down, even as supporters anticipate that Democrats will keep investigating him.
“I think President Trump and all of his allies are keenly aware of the fact that Democrats are going to keep this barrage up all the way through the November election,” said Jason Miller, a campaign adviser in 2016.
Trump plans to headline a rally in New Hampshire next week and more frequent rallies are expected in the coming months.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Cooney)