'You can't impeach a president who did nothing wrong,' Trump says, as probe advances

Trump gave his most extended remarks since the House impeachment rules vote.

November 1, 2019, 6:36 PM

President Donald Trump on Friday, in his first extended comments on the House impeachment rules vote, said "you cant impeach a president who did nothing wrong" and praised House Republicans for sticking with him.

"You can't impeach a president that has the greatest economy of the history of our nation," he continued, speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Mississippi. "You can't impeach a president who has unemployment numbers historic. Never have so many people been working."

Trump praised Republicans for voting against the House resolution on impeachment on Thursday. He highlighted the fact that two Democrats broke ranks to join all Republicans in voting no.

"I think the Republicans have been amazing," Trump said. "We had 195 or 196 to nothing. We have tremendous support from the Senate we have tremendous support from the House. We even had Democrats go over to the Republican side yesterday in the House because they said, 'this is not impeachable.'

When ABC News' Kyra Phillips asked Trump what he would say to the White House officials who testified that his phone call was not "perfect" as he claims but instead alarming, he responded as he often does with a familiar phrase: Read the transcript.

"Well, all they have to do is read the transcript now the gentleman that came in yesterday ... he was terrific," Trump said. "He was supposed to be their primary witness and he was terrific. And he said he didn't see anything wrong with it."

Trump earlier thanked the White House official for his "honesty" after he testified that he, unlike others, was not worried that what he heard on a call between Trump and Ukraine's president was illegal, although he did have other concerns.

Tim Morrison, the senior director for Europe and Russia on the White House National Security Council, testified Thursday to House investigators that he was "not concerned that anything illegal was discussed" on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"Thank you to Tim Morrison for your honesty," Trump tweeted late Thursday night.

But what Trump did not mention was that in that same testimony, Morrison, the second current White House official to face investigators, corroborated elements of earlier testimony from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to open political investigations in exchange for military aid and a White House meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy. He was concerned about the possibility of the call notes leaking, and worried about "how it would play out in Washington's polarized environment" and potentially politicize bipartisan support for Ukraine and impact Ukrainian opinion of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.

President Donald Trump talks to journalists before departing the Whithe House to attend a "Keep America Great" rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, Nov. 1, 2019.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Trump praised Morrison's testimony during an interview with the Washington Examiner in the Oval Office earlier Thursday.

"Trump flicked through a pile of papers to hold up a copy of news clipping reporting on Morrison's opening statement and said it was 'fantastic,'" the Examiner reported. "He said: 'This was going to be their star witness.'"

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an interview with Fox News on Friday that the White House expected Trump to be impeached. She said the inquiry led by House Democrats "has been set up to make -- to impeach the president. So, that’s something that we're expecting."

"I wouldn’t say that it’s a foregone conclusion," she later added. "I would say that we’re expecting it, yes."

The House on Thursday passed a resolution to authorize the ongoing impeachment inquiry, including open hearings, taking a pivotal new step in the process to investigate Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

In the hours after that historic vote, the president's re-election campaign raised $3 million in online donations, according to the campaign.

Trump on Friday plans to hold a campaign rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, his first public political event since Thursday's House impeachment vote.

The White House has so far refused to cooperate with House investigators, but Grisham on Friday would not rule out future participation – although she cast doubt on whether the administration would view the process as fair enough for it to participate.

“If things are actually open and transparent as purported, I would imagine that we would participate,” Grisham said. “But again, if they’re going to have different rules and move the goalposts all the time, then that’s just not a fair process.”

She referred to the inquiry as “the stupid impeachment sham from these Democrats.”

On Thursday, Trump told the Examiner that he was considering reading aloud the rough transcript of his call with Zelenskiy for the American public to hear.

"At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it," Trump told the Examiner. "When you read it, it’s a straight call."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously held "fireside chat" radio broadcasts during his presidency in the 1930s.

He also floated a plan to create t-shirts with the slogan, "Read the transcript," according to the Examiner.

Grisham told Fox News that the "fireside chat" idea was, in fact, "a serious consideration" but she said she did not "know what the logistics of it would look like just yet" and did not know when it would happen, if it did.

ABC News' Rachel Scott contributed reporting.

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