WASHINGTON (AFP) - A defiant US President Donald Trump left Washington on Friday (Nov 1) for a rally in Mississippi to push his fight against impeachment, buoyed by strong Republican support and good employment figures.
“The Democrats are crazed, they’re lunatics,” Trump told reporters before leaving the White House on the Marine One helicopter.
“You can’t impeach a president who has the greatest economy in the history of our nation.”
The rally in Tupelo was to be Trump’s first since the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, but along sharply divided party lines, to put the impeachment probe on a formal track.
That vote on Thursday set in motion a likely unstoppable surge toward Trump becoming only the third American president to be impeached.
He is accused of abusing his office by withholding military aid to pressure Ukraine into opening a corruption probe against one of his 2020 election rivals, Joe Biden.
But while Democrats advance against the president, Trump is focusing on a strategy that relies on party loyalty and flat out denial that his pressure on Ukraine was illegal.
As long as the Republican majority in the Senate sticks by him, the lower house impeachment will fail to remove him from office. And Trump thinks he has that support locked up, thanks to backing from his powerful voter base and thus far supportive party.
“The Republicans have been amazing,” he said.
Earlier, Trump told the Washington Examiner newspaper that impeachment has “energised my base like I’ve never seen before.”
Trump is also putting more effort into highlighting the economy, a point that Republicans might wish he stuck to more often, rather than his frequent diversions into more controversial territory.
Trump got a boost on that score with jobs figures Friday that showed employment growing at a steady pace. The 128,000 new jobs reported by the Labour Department exceeded predictions.
Unemployment rose slightly to 3.6 per cent but is still near the lowest rate in decades.
The picture looks less rosy for Trump on impeachment, which he told the Examiner is a “sham.”
Trump said he is confident that he did nothing wrong when he called the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and asked him for a “favour.”
Trump even said he might “sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call” to the nation.
But House committees have heard from a stream of witnesses saying they were concerned by the way Trump dealt with Ukraine, bolstering the Democrats’ case that he abused his office.
Trump did get some help on Thursday when Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s just-resigned top adviser for Russian affairs, said he “was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed.”
At the same time, Morrison confirmed that he had seen a link between the request for a probe against Biden’s family and the granting of badly needed military aid.
A new Washington Post/ABC poll found that Americans remain almost evenly split on the crisis, with 49 percent saying he should be impeached and removed from office while 47 per cent say he should not.
Even more telling, Democrats are 82 per cent in favor of Trump’s removal and Republicans 82 per cent opposed.
The key for Trump is whether he can keep Republicans in lockstep – a big reason why he will maintain a steady pace of rallies like the one in Tupelo over the coming weeks.
According to the poll, the long sky-high approval within the Republican electorate for Trump’s performance has slipped to 74 per cent. This is down eight percent from September’s findings by the same pollsters.