U.S. president rails against impeachment proceedings, the media, and Democrat rivals during press conference with Finland counterpart
Wednesday was a weird day to be a visiting president of Finland at the White House: the ceremonial greeting, the Oval Office chat… and Donald Trump fulminating about enemies and jockstraps. Seated in front of the beautiful Oval Office fireplace, President Sauli Niinisto and Trump outwardly resembled any two leaders starting what diplomats call a “bilat.”
But in impeachment crazy Washington—and especially in the besieged White House—normal is over.
Niinisto sat immobile during 17 minutes of monologues by Trump to reporters about the “disgraceful” attack on his presidency. The European visitor, however, could not control his eyes. They flickered and rolled, seemingly expressing every emotion from bewilderment to outright pain as Trump turned what was meant to be a photo-op into an impromptu press conference for the ages.
Or not a press conference—a cry of rage.
Trump’s main venom was for the Democrat leading the impeachment probe in Congress, Adam Schiff. “A shifty dishonest guy,” Trump said.
Comparing “lowlife” Schiff to his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Trump said the congressman wouldn’t be fit to “carry his blank strap.”
“You understand that?” he added.
Clearly many of the Finnish journalists following their president did not. By way of explanation, Trump hinted he was looking for a more delicate way of saying that Schiff was not fit to carry Pompeo’s jockstrap, the underwear worn by male athletes. Otherwise, he complained, the “corrupt,” “fake,” “phony” media would attack him for using vulgarity.
Never mind that barely an hour earlier he’d tweeted, all caps, an even more succinct view of the impeachment process: “BULLSHIT.”
Trump is accused of having pushed Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in a phone call to probe what he claims to be corruption by one of his main 2020 presidential election rivals, Democrat Joe Biden. To say that the Republican thinks he did nothing wrong is an understatement.
“It was a very nice conversation,” he said. “Perfect.” Schiff’s depiction of the conversation is “fabricated,” he said. “Horrible,” “a disgrace.”
“It should be criminal, it should be treasonous,” Trump said. “They should look at him for treason.”
Over and over Trump vented at Schiff and the senior Democrat in the lower house, Nancy Pelosi, while his bemused Finnish counterpart and the knot of journalists cramming into the Oval Office listened in silence. Sometimes his mind wandered to sunnier ideas.
Twice, he referred wistfully to images he’d seen of China’s massive military parades to celebrate the 70th anniversary of communist rule. Trump has often expressed admiration for military displays.
“When I look at that parade with military and millions of people and everything else, we better get smart,” Trump said.
But tiny Finland also finally got the president’s attention. When a Finnish reporter asked what could be learned from Finland, which according to a U.N. study is the happiest country in the world, Trump responded: “Well, you got rid of Pelosi and you got rid of shifty Schiff.”
The sentence was confusing, as often is the case, but clearly represented something like Trump’s ultimate fantasy.
“Finland is a happy country,” he said. Turning to the by now nearly forgotten Niinsto at his side, Trump said: “He’s a happy leader, too.”