A defiant US President Donald Trump, buoyed by strong Republican support and good employment figures, was to take his fight against impeachment to a Mississippi rally yesterday.
Trump’s rally in Tupelo will be his first since the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, but along sharply divided party lines, to put the impeachment probe on a formal track.
That vote Thursday set in motion a likely unstoppable surge toward Trump becoming only the third American president to be impeached, this time by a Democratic-led House.
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 are advancing against the president, Trump appears to be finding his feet with 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.
Impeachment has “energized my base like I’ve never seen before,” Trump told the Washington Examiner newspaper in an interview Thursday.
“My poll numbers are very good... they’re very good,” he said.
Trump also highlighted a talking point that Republicans might wish he stuck to more often, rather than his frequent diversions into more controversial territory: the strong economy.
“I’ve got the strongest economy in the history of a presidential run by far. We’ve got a powerful military, the most powerful we’ve ever had, relatively speaking, and it’s been rebuilt. The best job numbers that we’ve ever had,” he told the Examiner.
Trump got a boost on that score with jobs figures yesterday that showed employment growing at a steady pace. The 128,000 new jobs reported by the Labor Department exceeded predictions.
Unemployment rose slightly to 3.6 percent 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 Zelensky, and asked him for a “favor.”
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 Thursday when Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s just-resigned top advisor 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 percent say he should not.
Even more telling, Democrats are 82 percent in favor of Trump’s removal and Republicans 82 percent 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 percent. This is down eight percent from September’s findings by the same pollsters.