President Trump threatened Wednesday to retaliate with a “warlike posture” should the new Democratic House majority use its subpoena power to launch investigations into his administration, warning that any probes would jeopardize prospects for bipartisan deals.
During a lengthy and at times combative White House news conference, Trump repeatedly praised Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who could reclaim the speaker’s gavel she lost eight years ago, and said his chances of striking agreements on legislation were greater with a divided government.
“The election’s over,” Trump said. “Now everybody is in love.”
The president, who had demonized Democrats in apocalyptic terms and attacked Pelosi on the campaign trail, said he looked forward to working with her on “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation.” He said they could find common ground on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, lowering the cost of prescription drugs and refashioning trade policy.
“Now we have a much easier path because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they’re looking at, and we’ll negotiate,” Trump said. He added, “From a dealmaking standpoint, we are all much better off the way it turned out” than if Republicans had kept control of the House.
But Trump said that he would react aggressively to any attempt to look into possible corruption in his administration or investigate his personal finances or conduct in office, as Democratic leaders have said they are planning to do. He vowed to respond with “warlike posture” that would extinguish any hopes for bipartisan progress.
“They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” Trump said, referring to the enlarged GOP Senate majority following Tuesday’s midterm election. “I could see it being extremely good for me politically because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually, but we’ll find out.”
Trump also claimed he has the power to immediately end special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s expansive investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election but that he wants to “let it go on.”
“I could fire everybody right now, but I don’t want to stop it because politically I don’t like stopping it,” Trump said. “It’s a disgrace. It should never have been started, because there is no crime.”
Trump answered questions from journalists for an extraordinary one hour and 26 minutes in a rare formal news conference in the East Room of the White House. He repeatedly lost his cool as reporters peppered him. He attacked CNN’s Jim Acosta, calling him “a rude, terrible person” and saying his network should be “ashamed” of him, and then snapped at Peter Alexander of NBC News and directed April Ryan of American Urban Radio to “sit down.”
When Yamiche Alcindor of “PBS NewsHour” asked the president whether by identifying as a “nationalist” he also was embracing the label “white nationalist,” he told her repeatedly, “That’s such a racist question.”
“To say what you just said is so insulting to me,” Trump responded to Alcindor, who is black.
Trump later denied that he had ever made racist comments. “I would never do that, and I don’t use racist remarks,” he said.
The president refused to take personal responsibility for any role his inflammatory rhetoric has played in the nation’s corrosive public discourse and instead assigned blame to the news media. “Hopefully the tone can get a lot better,” he said, “and I really believe it begins with the media.”
Trump claimed credit for helping expand the GOP’s Senate majority and claimed that his party beat expectations “significantly” in the House. He claimed that his “vigorous campaigning stopped the blue wave,” and he relished Republican victories in places where Democrats attracted big-name surrogates, including Oprah Winfrey and former president Barack Obama.
“I thought it was very close to complete victory,” Trump said, striving to put a positive spin on what was, at best, a mixed verdict from voters.
Trump was cutting in his criticism of some individual House Republicans who lost reelection, attributing their losses to their decisions to distance themselves from him because he was so toxic with voters in their districts. He cited Reps. Carlos Curbelo in South Florida, Mike Coffman in the Denver area and Mia Love in Utah, among others.
“Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost,” Trump said. In a mocking tone, he continued, “Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”
Democrats captured the House in Tuesday’s elections by leveraging voter frustration with Trump, especially in the nation’s suburbs and among women and minority voters. That ensures a change in power on Capitol Hill, dividing government in Washington for the first time in Trump’s presidency.
Pelosi said her party’s victory was about “restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration.”
In a morning tweet, Trump warned House Democrats not to “waste Taxpayer Money” on probes of his administration and said Senate Republicans would respond by investigating Democratic lawmakers for their alleged infractions.
“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level,” Trump said on Twitter. “Two can play that game!”
Trump declared a “Big Victory” in the midterm elections, despite the Democratic takeover of the House, and showed none of the humility his predecessors had conveyed at similar junctures. Obama called his 2010 midterm losses a “shellacking,” while President George W. Bush called his party’s 2006 defeat a “thumpin’.”
Trump wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet: “Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”
In a later tweet, Trump continued his with-me-or-against-me political posture from the campaign. “Those that worked with me in this incredible Midterm Election, embracing certain policies and principles, did very well. Those that did not, say goodbye!”