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An impeached Trump tries looking ahead, but uncertainty threatens Senate vindication

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Kellogg Arena, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Battle Creek, Mich. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) 
After being impeached, President Donald Trump is hoping to move quickly to a vigorous defense in the Senate and is distressed the trial he hopes will vindicate him might be delayed.

"What are they doing?" Trump asked a top Republican ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, upon learning Thursday morning that House Democrats may withhold sending articles of impeachment to the Senate until they feel assured there will be a fair trial.
 
"I said, 'Mr. President, I don't know,'" Graham told reporters before traveling to the White House to discuss the matter further with Trump.
 
The uncertainty threw a wrench into long-laid plans by the White House to mount an effort at exoneration once the impeachment proceedings move across Capitol Hill to the upper chamber.
 
Trump and his aides have long eyed a Senate trial as the venue for eventual vindication in the saga, viewing the Republican-led chamber as a lock to acquit the President.
 
One possible avenue for Trump is looking back, to Barack Obama, with a suggestion -- supported possibly with Justice Department legal opinions -- that the former president should have been impeached for blocking congressional Republicans from fully investigating the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal.

Trump was spending the day at the White House, with two holiday receptions listed on his public calendar. He returned to a frigid Washington late Wednesday after a bitter and disjointed "Merry Christmas" rally in Michigan where he learned of the impeachment vote from a placard held aloft by a campaign aide.
 
The President met in the afternoon with Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the New Jersey lawmaker who is switching parties from Democrat to Republican in opposition to Trump's impeachment.
He said during the Oval Office meeting the impeachment felt anticlimactic.
 
"I don't feel like I'm being impeached because it's a hoax, it's a setup. It's a horrible thing they did," Trump told reporters when asked how it feels to be the third president impeached by the House.
 
Trump has hailed Van Drew's switch over the past several days, and used the unanimous Republican opposition to impeachment as evidence of the party's unity. He hopes the solidarity will extend in the Senate, but the future of the impeachment case was uncertain after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters she would only transmit the articles once the outlines of the trial were clear.
 
Despite his public confidence, Trump has complained in private about the historic indignity of his predicament. He has steeled himself for another political battle after years of facing down opponents in scorched-earth fashion. He previewed his approach during the Michigan rally, suggesting the state's long serving Democratic congressman John Dingell was in hell.
 
"He was at a political rally," his press secretary Stephanie Grisham explained on "Good Morning America." "I think as we all know the President is a counterpuncher."
 
It wasn't clear whether Trump would continue his attacks on the late congressman after his comments drew condemnation, including from the lawmaker's widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who said on CNN she felt "kicked in the stomach" by Trump's remark.


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