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Special report: A defiant Trump takes grievance-filled victory lap at ‘celebration’ of Senate acquittal

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Washington (CBS News)—With little left to hold him back now, President Trump is airing his grievances and declaring victory over not just the impeachment saga that has forever marked his legacy, but over everyone and everything that has gotten in his way since he took office. 

The president declared a Thursday East Room event, surrounded by Republican members of Congress and other allies, a “celebration” not just because of his acquittal, but because of perseverance through the Mueller investigation, race against Hillary Clinton, and tenure of fired FBI director James Comey. 

“We went through hell unfairly, did nothing wrong,” the president told his exuberant crowd, as he continued to insist his conduct regarding Ukraine was “very good.” Several Republican senators have explicitly said what the president did was inappropriate or wrong. 

You can watch the full address below:

“They took nothing, they took a phone call that was a totally appropriate call,” the president said of Democrats. “I call it a perfect call, because it was. And they brought me to the final stages of impeachment. But now we have that gorgeous word, I never thought a word would sound so good. It’s called total acquittal. Total acquittal.” 

The president also took a moment to apologize to his family for all they’ve had to go through because of “evil” people. 

Mr. Trump’s legal team received a standing ovation as they walked into the East Room. When the president himself walked in, he was greeted with thunderous applause, and clapped along with the crowd, as he so often does at campaign rallies.

“We’ve all been through a lot together, and we probably deserve that hand for all of us, because it’s been a very unfair situation,” the president said, adding a “tremendous thing” was done over the last few years.

Mr. Trump insisted that he’s been enduring a witch hunt essentially ever since he announced his run for office. 

“We’ve been going through this now over three years. it was evil. It was corrupt,” Mr. Trump said. “It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars. And this should never ever happen to another president.” 

The president went on to blast former FBI Director James Comey, standing by firing him in the spring of 2017. 

“Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now,” the president said. 

The president used his bully pulpit to continue his attacks on Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict him on Wednesday, and to praise Republicans who defended him throughout the trial. Romney cited his faith in announcing his conviction vote and dedication to his oath to do impartial justice. 

“And then you have some that used religion as a crutch,” the president said in a clear hit at Romney, making a reference to his 2012 loss to former President Barack Obama.

The president called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “horrible person,” and gave the same label to House Intelligence Committee Chairman and lead impeachment manager Adam Schiff.

The president also went off on some strange tangents, including about House minority whip Steve Scalise, who nearly died when a man opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in 2017.

“He got whacked,” the president said, going off for several minutes in the retelling of the horrific event.

Mr. Trump said Scalise’s wife was a “total mess,” and reacted differently than most wives, who wouldn’t care. He went on to tell the gruesome story of that congressional baseball practice. 

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News earlier Thursday that the president would address how horribly he was treated and “that maybe people should pay for that.” 

The remarks aren’t his first on impeachment since the Senate vote. The president took advantage of a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast to blast those who opposed him, in rhetoric that resembled more of a rally than a prayer breakfast. As CBS News’ Fin Gomez has reported, the president’s legal team was surprised by Romney’s vote to convict the president. 

“Weeks ago and again yesterday, courageous Republican politicians and leaders had the wisdom, fortitude, and strength to do what everyone knows was right. I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” the president said.

During the prayer breakfast speech, Mr. Trump also took thinly veiled shots at Pelosi, who was seated feet away from him at the prayer breakfast. Mr. Trump, without saying Pelosi’s name, suggested she doesn’t pray for him, and she has said she does.

Mr. Trump, who in 2015 famously said he doesn’t think he’s ever asked God for forgiveness, ahead of the prayer breakfast held up a newspaper with the headline, “ACQUITTED.” 

“When you impeach them for nothing then you’re supposed to like them, it’s not easy,” the president told the bipartisan crowd at the prayer breakfast. 

 

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