The flurry of impeachment talk at Davos belied White House efforts to project Trump as detached from the increasingly partisan congressional fight and more focused on delivering results for the country.
During his news conference, which began with long opening remarks about the economy, Trump said that although he was not “enjoying” the impeachment process, he still considered it a “very important” victory that exposed government corruption — against him, not by him.
“When I finish, I think that this is going to go down as one of the greatest things I’ve done for our country,” he said as he ended the conference. “These are bad, corrupt people. These are bad people. And very bad for our country.”
Trump also gave his most extensive remarks yet on what kind of Senate trial he wants to see, even saying at one point that he would like to participate in the proceedings.
“I’d sort of love to sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces,” he said. “I’d love to do it.”
Trump, who has vacillated on whether to support a long Senate trial with witnesses or quick proceedings, said Wednesday that he would like to have witnesses from his administration testify. He then quickly listed reasons witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton should not.
“I would rather go the long way. I would rather interview Bolton,” he said. “The problem with John is that it’s a national security problem.”
He said Bolton’s knowledge of the president’s personal feelings about foreign policy — something Democrats say makes him a critical witness — would make his testimony potentially dangerous to the office of the president.
Trump also gave a much more straightforward explanation.
“He knows other things, and I don’t know if we left on the best terms. I would say probably not,” he said. “So you don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms.”
Democrats spent hours in the Senate on Tuesday trying to obtain testimony from Bolton and other key witnesses, arguing past midnight that those officials have direct knowledge about the central allegation in the impeachment trial: that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter Biden.
Before Trump announced the surprise news conference that ultimately merged the impeachment process in Washington with the president’s trip to the World Economic Forum, the White House had sought to contrast Trump’s actions in Davos with the dramatic partisanship taking place in Congress.
“Americans are sick of the Swamp. They want results, not partisan theater,” read one tweet from the official White House account that Trump retweeted to his 71 million followers. “No matter what manufactured drama is unfolding in Washington, President @realDonaldTrump will never stop fighting for you.”
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Trump said he had spent some of his time watching the impeachment proceedings despite his “busy day” in Davos.
“I did get to see some of it. It’s a hoax. It’s a total hoax,” he said, before praising his defense team. “I think the team was really good. And the facts are all on our side. The Republican Party has never been this unified.”
Trump also criticized the Federal Reserve, threatened steep tariffs on European cars and attacked his Democratic rivals during the interview, his first of two televised sit-downs scheduled for Wednesday.
Without evidence, Trump said former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has spent more than $200 million in his upstart bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, had been tricked into supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016 on the false premise that he would be appointed secretary of state.
Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s senior adviser, replied that “when Mike was mayor, he hired Trump to run a municipal golf course — but that is the only job Mike would hire Trump for.”
Trump also attacked Joe Biden, who has acknowledged that he stuttered as a child.
“I don't know if Joe’s going to limp across the line, but I watch him speaking,” Trump said. “He can’t put together a sentence.”
Before his interviews, Trump’s official schedule gave him an opportunity to pivot away from his domestic political problems and focus on carrying out his presidential duties. But a breakfast scheduled with a group of American executives was abruptly closed to reporterswithout explanation.
Trump also met Wednesday with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Kurdish leader Nechirvan Barzani. The United States has faced increasing tension in the region following the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad’s airport.
Speaking with Salih, Trump acknowledged the tension.
“We have a whole host of difficult things to discuss, and some very positive things also,” he said.
Salih said that meeting Trump was an “important opportunity” and that the goal is a “stable, sovereign Iraq.”
Iraqi leaders, including Salih, condemned the strike on Soleimani as an affront to the country’s sovereignty, and several have called for the 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to leave. The Trump administration has criticized the calls for an immediate withdrawal, and Trump has threatened “very big sanctions” for the U.S. ally if it attempts to force out American troops.
“We will charge [Iraq] sanctions like they’ve never seen before, ever,” he told reporters earlier this month. “It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
Asked about sanctions on Wednesday, Trump said only, “We’ll see what happens.”
The public disagreement between the United States and Iraq, imperiling the U.S.-led mission to fight the Islamic State, reflects strains that have characterized the relationship for years, as well as the deep schisms in Iraqi politics — not to mention Trump’s brash approach to foreign policy.
The Trump administration began drafting possible sanctions against Iraq earlier this month, although Trump later said they would be necessary only “if we’re not treated with respect.”
The president also had tough words for Europe, again adding strain to the transatlantic relationship while visiting the continent.
“Look, if we don’t get something, I’m going to have to take action, and the action will be very high tariffs on their cars and other things that come into our country,” Trump said during the interview with CNBC. “They’re going to make a deal, because they have to. They have to. They have no choice.”
During his news conference, Trump continued to rail against Europe, saying that European leaders would need to strike a deal with him before the November elections or face a harsher alternative.
“They have trade barriers where you can’t trade. They have tariffs all over the place,” he said. “They are, frankly, more difficult to do business with than China.”
Trump did not meet with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó before leaving Davos to return to Washington. Despite verbal support from the United States, Guaidó has recently struggled to strengthen his position in Venezuela, where socialist leader Nicolás Maduro has retained the support of his inner circle and the military.
Using his legal authority as head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Guaidó last January declared Maduro a “usurper” for having allegedly stolen the country’s 2018 elections and pronounced himself Venezuela’s rightful head of state, a claim now recognized by nearly 60 nations, including the United States.
But the opposition he leads has begun to show cracks as it struggles to cope with allegations of corruption within its ranks. Earlier this month, after Maduro’s government allegedly bribed more than a dozen lawmakers, former opposition legislators turned against Guaidó and tried to install a new head of the National Assembly — a body widely viewed as Venezuela’s last democratic institution.
After a bevy of retweets about impeachment Wednesday morning, Trump posted about the economic theme of his trip.
“Making great progress in @Davos,” he wrote before his breakfast meeting with American business leaders. “Tremendous numbers of companies will be coming, or returning, to the USA. Hottest Economy! JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!”
But as Trump left the forum Wednesday, he spent much of the two-hour motorcade ride to the Zurich airport engaged in the same activity that marked his predawn hours: tweeting about impeachment. As his car snaked through the Swiss alps, Trump retweeted dozens of posts about the process that has consumed his presidency.
Anthony Faiola in Miami contributed to this report.