BOSSIER, La. — President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that the impeachment process was taking a personal toll, calling impeachment a “problem” that had been “very hard on my family.”
“I have one problem. And it has been very hard on my family,” he said at a campaign rally in Louisiana, adding that “impeachment, to me, is a dirty word.”
“It’s been very unfair, very hard on my family. Me, it’s my whole life, it’s crazy,” he said. “What a life I lead. You think this is fun, don’t you? But it’s been very hard on my family. Very, very hard.”
He did not elaborate on any specific impact.
The president left Washington, D.C. — and sporadic attempts to appear above the impeachment fray — behind Thursday night, attacking Democrats organizing the public hearings that began this week and the career diplomats testifying in those sessions.
“This game is already unraveling, you saw it yesterday,” Trump said during a rally here ahead of the state’s gubernatorial runoff vote. “How about when they asked these two Never-Trumpers ‘what exactly do you think you impeach him for’ and they stood there and went, like, what?”
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Trump’s comments came one day after that testimony, and just hours ahead of the Friday appearance of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who is expected to paint a picture of a politically motivated shadow foreign policy. More testimony is expected next week.
Despite his statement that impeachment had been tough on him personally, he claimed that Republicans in Congress want to see the process dragged out because they believe it is helping their poll numbers. “You know what they are doing now? ‘Sir, our poll numbers are going through the roof, could we keep this going?’ I said do me a favor, could we get it ended?” he said.
“Based on the poll numbers, the people of this country aren’t buying it,” he added of impeachment.
Public support for impeachment has changed little in recent weeks, with around 48 percent of Americans favoring impeachment and 44 percent opposing it, according to FiveThirtyEight’s impeachment polling tracker.
Trump took a more combative tone Thursday night than he had a day earlier when he tried to appear above the impeachment fray — claiming he was “too busy” to watch the proceedings while he spent much of the day in meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Beyond occasional tweetstorms — bursts consisting mostly of retweets quoting his defenders on Fox News — Trump had mostly refrained from responding directly to the substance of the hearings.
But in Louisiana, he accused Democrats of “ripping our country apart” and plotting “a sinister plan.” He said House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff should be indicted for his committee’s impeachment investigation.
In more than five hours of testimony, acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent painted a picture of a shadow foreign policy run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. They gave a detailed account of why they thought security funding for Ukraine had been contingent on it launching an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Trump and his allies have sought to discredit the witness testimony saying none of them had firsthand knowledge of Trump’s thinking on Ukraine since neither had directly spoken to him about it.
Taylor said he was basing most of his testimony off detailed notes he had taken of his conversations with Sondland, who was in direct contact with Trump. Sondland is expected to testify next week.
Taylor said in the hearings that he had been told on several occasions that security assistance to Ukraine wouldn’t flow until the country’s president committed to a public investigation of the Bidens. He said he was told this by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was in direct contact with Trump on the issue.
Democratic lawmakers have been sharpening their messaging on the probe, describing the president’s alleged offenses as bribery and extortion, language they think will resonate more strongly with voters than the “quid pro quo” charge that dominated the controversy’s early weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented evidence of bribery as Democrats seek to sharpen the focus of their impeachment inquiry. Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry.
Trump was in Louisiana for the third time in just five weeks in a bid to help Republicans unseat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. Senior Trump campaign officials have claimed his first trip helped force a runoff in the state’s jungle primary, propelling Republican candidate Eddie Rispone into a runoff with Edwards.
Monica Alba contributed.