WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump used a White House ceremony Thursday to celebrate his impeachment acquittal, saying he had "been through hell" in a process he blamed on "leakers and liars" who had unfairly accused him of misconduct in his dealings with Ukraine.
After entering the formal East Room to the anthem "Hail to the Chief," Trump praised Republican lawmakers and his legal team as "warriors" and accused Democrats of trying to destroy the country by removing him from office.
"They brought me to the final stages of impeachment, but now we have that gorgeous word. I never thought a word would sound so good. It's called total acquittal," said Trump, standing before Cabinet members, Republican lawmakers and family members.
In 63 minutes of unscripted remarks, he called out dozens of people by name to thank them for defending him, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other lawmakers. McConnell and other senators served as jurors in the impeachment trial.
While Trump himself billed the event as a "celebration," it was also clear he was still seething over his impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House.
Impeachment is a "very ugly word to me. It's a dark word," Trump said.
Trump said the impeachment and the Ukraine investigation that preceded it were part of a years-long effort to go after him. He alluded frequently to the investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference by special counsel Robert Mueller.
"And it never really stopped. We've been going through this now for over three years. It was evil, it was corrupt, it was dirty cops, it was leakers and liars, and this should never ever happen to another president," he said.
Before the president appeared, Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow, the two lawyers who defended him in his impeachment trial, drew a round of applause as they entered the room.
"But today is a day to celebrate these great warriors, right?" Trump said.
Trump was joined by several allies in Congress, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Doug Collins of Georgia. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri were also in the audience.