Donald Trump castigated opponents from both parties and decried the “terrible ordeal” of impeachment at a prayer breakfast on Thursday, in his first public remarks since the US Senate acquitted him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.
“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Mr Trump said at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“They have done everything possible to destroy us, and by doing so, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”
Although he did not mention them by name, Mr Trump also took aim at two politicians who have incurred his wrath in recent days: Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican who broke with his party to vote to convict Mr Trump on one impeachment charge; and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House who ripped up a copy of Mr Trump’s State of the Union address after he delivered it on Tuesday.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so,” he said.
Mr Romney cited his Mormon faith as the reason he on Wednesday became the first US senator in history to vote to convict a president from his own party in an impeachment trial, despite the certain political blowback.
“I’m aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters I will be vehemently denounced,” Mr Romney said.
“I’m sure to hear abuse from the president and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe that I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?” he added.
Nancy Pelosi, who was also in attendance at Thursday’s breakfast, is a Catholic who has frequently said she prays for the president.
The president’s remarks were unusually political and pointed given the setting: an annual Washington networking event hosted by members of Congress and the Fellowship Foundation, a US-based Christian organisation.
Mr Trump is only the third US president in history to face an impeachment trial in the Senate. For the president to have been removed from office, it would have required two-thirds of US senators to vote to convict him. He was acquitted by a vote of 52-48 on the first charge of abuse of power, as Mr Romney voted against the president, and by a vote of 53-47 on a second charge of obstructing Congress.
Mr Trump is due to give a formal statement on impeachment at noon local time in Washington.