President Trump celebrated his Senate acquittal Thursday at a White House event that stretched more than an hour, expressing no contrition and calling Democratic leaders “vicious and mean” while portraying his impeachment as the continuation of scrutiny he has faced since he announced his run for the presidency in 2015.

“We've been going through this now for almost three years. It was evil, it was corrupt,” he told a packed East Room crowd. Trump expressed no remorse related to the allegation that he inappropriately pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, despite some Republican senators calling his actions wrong.

“This is a day of celebration because we went through hell,” he said.

Shortly before he spoke, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chided Trump for his comments lashing out at Democrats and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at the bipartisan, multifaith National Prayer Breakfast. Romney was the only Republican to vote for Trump’s conviction.

●In historic vote, Trump acquitted of impeachment charges.

●Pelosi laces into Trump, defends tearing up his State of the Union speech

●Trump appears to swipe at Romney and Pelosi at the National Prayer Breakfast.

1:00 a.m.
Link copied

Sanders says Trump learned from impeachment process that he can get away with ‘corruption’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Trump learned from his impeachment and subsequent acquittal that “he can get away with corruption, continuing to lie, being a president who believes he’s above the law.”

Sanders, a leading Democratic presidential candidate vying to challenge Trump in November, was asked whether Trump learned a lesson from the experience at the top of a CNN town hall.

He said the “worst part is it sets a precedent for future presidents of this country — that won’t be me, I won’t operate that way” — that a governor or foreign leader who doesn’t support him won’t get their fair share.

“And the precedent set last night is that presidents don’t have to cooperate with Congress: ‘You don’t like it, Congress? Tough luck.’ And it bothers me very much,” he said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked if anything would stop Trump from reaching out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again and asking for him to start an investigation.

“Apparently not,” Sanders said. “With the exception of one Republican, it also disturbs me,” he said, referring to the vote by Romney in support of one article of impeachment. “There are Republicans who know exactly what is going on, and they are simply afraid of this president, and that is the simple and sad reality of the Republican Party right now.”

11:30 p.m.
Link copied

Justice Department memo requires high-level signoff on any FBI probes of 2020 candidate

Attorney General William P. Barr issued an internal memorandum Wednesday instructing Justice Department and FBI employees that they must get approval from the top of the department before opening an investigation of a presidential candidate, campaign, staffer, or adviser during the 2020 election year.

The three-page memo also tells senior law enforcement officials they must consult with a senior Justice Department official or U.S. attorney before opening an investigation of a congressional candidate or their campaign.

Similarly, Barr’s instruction requires federal investigators to provide written notification to a senior Justice Department official and U.S. attorney before opening an investigation “relating to illegal contributions, donations, or expenditures by foreign nationals to a presidential or congressional campaign.”

Inside the Justice Department, that last category — the broadest of the three — could have the most widespread impact for the FBI.

The attorney general indicated at a press conference last month that he was going to adopt the rules, in the wake of an inspector general report that sharply criticized how the FBI investigated a Trump campaign adviser in 2016.

The memo underscores the degree to which the FBI and Justice Department are wary of going down the same road they did in 2016, when they had open investigations into both the Democratic and Republican campaigns during the election season. This year, Democrats have urged the department to investigate the president, while President Trump and his supporters have called for Ukraine and China to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son.

11:00 p.m.
Link copied

Jim Jordan to be top Republican on Judiciary panel

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will replace Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) as the ranking Republican on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, two GOP aides familiar with the decision confirmed.

Collins has to step down from the top spot because he is running for the Senate against appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and can’t do both simultaneously.

Jordan, once an outlier in the GOP caucus as a founding member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, has become increasingly influential because of his close relationship with Trump.

Jordan is the top Republican on the House Oversight panel. His spot is expected to be filled by his close friend, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)

Jordan, a top surrogate for Trump, vigorously defended the president during the House impeachment inquiry and Senate trial. Though Jordan does not sit on the House Intelligence Committee, GOP leadership subbed him in during the impeachment hearings to allow him an active and high-profile role in Trump’s defense.

Trump thanked Jordan for his support at his White House celebration, going on an extended riff about Jordan’s wrestling career and fitness and calling him “some warrior.”

10:30 p.m.
Link copied

OMB acting director to testify next week about the budget

Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, refused to comply with House Democrats’ request that he testify in the impeachment inquiry, calling it a “sham process.”

But House Democrats on the Budget Committee will have their chance next week to grill him on the president’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine when he testifies Wednesday on Trump’s 2021 budget request.

The chance that Vought readily answers their questions is slim. He’s likely to defer by saying he’s there to talk about next year’s budget.

9:45 p.m.
Link copied

South Florida Democrats file bar complaint against Rep. Gaetz

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has filed an official complaint with the Florida bar association against Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s staunchest allies.

The complaint hinges on Gaetz’s leading role in storming the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) where closed-door depositions were held in October at the beginning of the House impeachment inquiry.

The Democrats argue that Gaetz’s conduct is in violation of the bar’s rules and does not “reflect favorably” on him as a lawyer.

The bar association previously investigated Gaetz’s conduct after he tweeted at former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in a way some interpreted as a threat. The bar did not take any disciplinary action but told him not to do it again.

The SCIF intrusions, the Miami-Dade Democrats wrote in the complaint sent Thursday, “are improper, unprofessional and unethical and were meant only to feed Gaetz’s unjustifiably large ego and penchant for grandstanding.”

During Trump’s speech Thursday, he called out Gaetz by name, introducing him as “sometimes controversial, but actually, he’s not controversial — he’s solid as a rock, and he’s a friend of mine.”

9:30 p.m.
Link copied

White House sends anti-Romney talking points to surrogates

If there was any doubt that Trump would go after Romney for voting to remove him from office, a White House memo to surrogates removed it.

Trump’s team provided the people who speak on the president’s behalf to the media and to voters a list of talking points to attack Romney.

“Yesterday, Mitt Romney threw aside principles to seek adulation and validation from the far-left and liberal echelons of the establishment media,” the White House wrote.

The memo pointed to Romney’s acceptance of Trump’s endorsement in 2012 and his supposed desire to be Trump’s secretary of state.

The White House also included press articles from the 2012 presidential campaign critical of Romney and encouraged its surrogates to say that the media has now “anointed Romney a resistance darling” because it hates Trump.

But Democrats from red states are spinning Romney’s vote another way. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) noted that Romney’s vote may have provided him some cover for Jones’s tough reelection campaign this year.

“There are people that are not happy with that vote, but at the same time, Alabama is a state that believes in right and wrong,” Jones said, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Alabama voted pretty heavily for Mitt Romney, too.”

8:10 p.m.
Link copied

Moderate Democrats confront Pelosi over speech-tearing

As House members voted Thursday on whether to reprimand Pelosi, two freshman Democrats confronted her on the floor over her decision Tuesday to tear a copy of Trump’s State of the Union address in front of cameras on the House rostrum.

Reps. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) and Ben McAdams (Utah) together spoke to Pelosi for several minutes on the House floor before they cast votes to block the attempted reprimand.

McAdams said he told Pelosi that he thought the gesture “was inappropriate and that we deserve better than that.”

“I thought it was disrespectful,” he said. “I found things that I agreed with and things that I didn’t agree with in the president’s speech, but I thought that that was beneath us.”

Cunningham said he found “some blame on both sides” for the displays of partisanship at Tuesday’s address.

“Look, I disapprove of the president snubbing her handshake. I disapprove of her tearing up the speech,” he said. “I didn’t come up here to amplify it or fan those flames. I came here to extinguish them.”

McAdams said he voted along with every other House Democrat to table the reprimand because he didn’t “want this back-and-forth to continue.”

“We’ve got important work to do, it’s got to be done in a bipartisan way, and I wanted the ping-pong match to end,” he said.

7:50 p.m.
Link copied

For Bill Clinton, reaction to acquittal was very different from Trump’s

No one shouted “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States!”

“Hail to the Chief” did not play.

There was no applause.

It was, essentially, a good news day for President Bill Clinton on Feb. 12, 1999; he had been acquitted in his impeachment trial. Still, when he took to the podium in the Rose Garden, he was solemn.

Read more here.

7:10 p.m.
Link copied

House swiftly kills GOP resolution of disapproval against Pelosi

The Democratic-led House immediately rejected a Republican resolution disapproving of Pelosi’s tearing up a copy of the State of the Union speech.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), charged that the “conduct of Speaker Pelosi was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House.”

The House tabled it on a 224-to-193 vote.

Granger had called for Trump to remove himself from the election in 2016 after news broke of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, but like most Republicans, she quickly fell in line.

Granger is now facing a primary challenge from the right. She needs Trump’s support in her campaign; he endorsed her on Twitter in December.

6:25 p.m.
Link copied

Trump thanks family, departs East Room with first lady

Trump wrapped up remarks that extended more than an hour by thanking his family for sticking by him.

“I want to apologize to my family for having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people,” he said. “This was not part of the deal. … But they stuck with me. And I’m so glad I did it because we are making progress and doing things for our great people that everybody said couldn’t be done. Our country is thriving. Our country is just respected again. And it’s an honor to be with the people in this room.’

Trump and the first lady left to the sounds of “God Bless America.”

6:20 p.m.
Link copied

Trump says he might not be ‘standing here right now’ had he not fired Comey

Trump mentioned former FBI director James B. Comey at both the beginning and end of his speech, arguing that “it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now” had he not fired him.

Trump fired Comey in May 2017, citing concerns about the way he handled the investigation in Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server while secretary of state. Trump later suggested that the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was a factor, although he has also backtracked on that claim.

In his remarks Thursday, Trump took aim at Comey and others within the federal law enforcement community as “dirty cops” and “bad people.”

“If I didn’t fire James Comey, we would’ve never found this stuff, because when I fired that sleazebag, all hell broke out,” Trump said. “They were ratting on each other. They were running for the hills.”

6:15 p.m.
Link copied

‘I’ll always be your friend,’ Trump tells Stefanik

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a onetime moderate who emerged as one of Trump’s fiercest defenders during the House impeachment trial, received a special mention from the president during his remarks Thursday.

Upon initially hearing of Stefanik, Trump said his first thought was, “She looks like good talent.”

“But did I not realize that when she opens that mouth, you were killing them, Elise!” Trump added, drawing some laughs from the crowd. “You were killing them.”

He added that “people from all over the country are contributing to her campaign.”

“I’ll always be your friend,” Trump told Stefanik. “I think it’s really an amazing story. What a great future you have; what a great future. Thank you. The first lady agrees.”

6:05 p.m.
Link copied

Trump recounts shooting of Rep. Scalise, says ‘he got whacked’

As he continued to praise allies in the crowd, Trump spoke at length about the shootings at a congressional baseball practice in 2017 that nearly took the life of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“He got whacked. He got whacked. My Steve, right?” Trump said. “I think you set a record for blood loss.”

Trump recalled going with first lady Melania Trump to see Scalise in the hospital and encountering Scalise’s wife.

“I went to the hospital with our great first lady that night. Right, honey?” Trump said. “And we saw a man that was not going to make it. He was not going to make it.”

Scalise’s wife was “devastated, Trump said, adding: “A lot of wives wouldn’t give a damn.”

Trump said that at least in one respect Scalise was better off now.

“You’re more handsome now,” Trump said. “You weren’t that good looking. You look good now. He looks better now. Can you believe it?”

5:55 p.m.
Link copied

Trump raises possibility he will be impeached again

As his remarks continued, Trump raised the possibility that he could be impeached again by Democrats and equated his conduct toward Ukraine with jaywalking.

“Because if they find that I happen to walk across the street and maybe go against the light or something, let’s impeach him,” Trump said. “So we’ll probably have to do it again, because these people have gone stone cold crazy. But I’ve beaten them all my life, and I’ll beat them again if I have to. But what they’re doing is very unfair, very unfair.”

Moments before, Trump predicted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would become speaker of the House as a result of his impeachment — a scenario that would diminish Trump’s prospects of getting impeached a second time.

“I will say that you’re going to be speaker of the House because of this impeachment,” Trump said to McCarthy, one of the many congressional Republicans at the event. “And I’m going to work hard on it.”