On another day of wall-to-wall impeachment hearings, President Donald Trump convened his Cabinet to push the message that he’s focused on everything but impeachment.
The focus didn’t last long. He could not resist the urge to share his take on the news of the day – and finally comment on the fevered speculation that he’d experienced a medical emergency over the weekend.
Surrounded by Cabinet members bowed in prayer — “We pray for the president’s health and wisdom,” intoned Rick Perry at the beginning of the meeting, his last as Energy secretary — Trump, who couldn’t help but sneak glances at the surrounding cameras, began the meeting with several of his familiar lines: The economy was “the greatest economy we’ve ever had,” the Mexican border was more secure than ever, China was suffering in its ongoing trade war and his poll numbers were higher than ever.
Then he unleashed on his Democratic rivals holding impeachment hearings across town on Capitol Hill, launching a tirade against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
“What’s going on is a disgrace, and it’s an embarrassment to our nation,” Trump recounted to the reporters gathered alongside dozens of administration officials.
“The woman is grossly incompetent,” he said of Pelosi. “She only wants to focus on impeachment, which is a little pipe dream she’s got and she can keep playing that game, but I’ve been told — I have pretty good authority on it — that she’s using USMCA, because she doesn’t have the impeachment votes, but she’s using USMCA to get the impeachment vote.”
Pelosi has said a deal is “imminent” on approval of Trump’s revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada, which Trump has dubbed USMCA.
As for “little Shifty Schiff,” Trump accused him of running a “kangaroo court,” doing “something that the founders never found possible and the founders never wanted.”
It was Trump’s first public appearance since his mysterious and unscheduled trip to Walter Reed Medical Center on Saturday, a sudden hospital visit that spurred rampant speculation about his health in recent days.
And at the end of his initial remarks, Trump finally tacked on an explanation — blaming the “very corrupt media” who’d reported on it.
“I went for a physical on Saturday. My wife said, ‘Oh darling, that’s wonderful.’ Because I had some extra time. Because it looks like January could be a busy time if [Pelosi is] able to get a vote, which she should be able to. The woman’s highly overrated. She’s highly incompetent,” he added, for emphasis.
He was fine, he claimed, but the media outlets who speculated that he had a heart attack were the real enemies. “These people are sick. They’re sick. The press in this country is dangerous. We don’t have freedom of the press in this country. We have the opposite. We have a very corrupt media and I hope they can get their act straight because it’s very, very bad and very very dangerous for our country.”
With that, he dismissed the press — though he did add a comment about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s dramatic testimony on Capitol Hill (“I don’t know who he is”), another comment about Pelosi (“We can’t get USMCA approved because Nancy Pelosi is incompetent, she’s grossly incompetent”), and ongoing trade negotiations with China, before dismissing the press again.
Ahead of the meeting, the White House said “the American people will hear updates on the Trump Cabinet’s whole-of-government approach to supporting America’s veterans.”
Trump himself did not discuss veterans during the 16 minutes the press was present.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine