WASHINGTON (AFP) — Donald Trump, a man used to getting his own way, raged with frustration Wednesday in a White House haunted by the ghosts of impeachments past.
Officially, this was just another day.
“The President will be working,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
She even suggested that the famously television-obsessed Republican would skip live coverage of the House of Representatives, where by evening he was likely to become only the third US president ever impeached.
He “could catch some of the proceedings” and otherwise “will be briefed by staff,” Grisham said.
Many will doubt the message of coolness.
As the handful of other White House occupants facing impeachment discovered, the crisis turns a president’s world upside down.
Andrew Johnson was beside himself with anger in 1868. Richard Nixon reportedly wept and drank in front of his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, before resigning to avoid impeachment.
He was “curled on the carpet like a child” and “striking his fist on the carpet, crying,” wrote legendary Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their book “The Final Days.”
As for Bill Clinton, he pretended to stay above the fray in 1988 but in reality “was obsessed,” veteran New York Times reporter Peter Baker, who wrote the book “Impeachment: An American History,” told PBS television.
“He was consumed by it. He was filled with rage and grievance and anger and unhappiness and resentment.”
Trump appears to be little different.
Even before legislators opened their historic session at 9:00 am, he’d fired out more than two dozen tweets.
“I DID NOTHING WRONG!” he pronounced.
“ATROCIOUS LIES,” he charged a few hours later.
That was just the warm-up.
Later afternoon, a huge pack of journalists was due to see Trump off onto his Marine One helicopter, which will fly him to the airport for an evening rally with supporters in Michigan.
One of Trump’s epic, chaotic impromptu press conferences, dubbed “chopper talk,” appeared likely to ensue.
And then comes the rally in the appropriately named town of Battle Creek.
The event was planned well before scheduling of the impeachment vote but by a twist of fate fell not only on the same day but could practically coincide with the moment of legislators’ final decision.
If there’s ever been a time when Trump will want to let loose — and he usually needs no encouragement — this will be it.
Losing the golden touch
Trump’s entire life has been based on having things his way.
As a real estate magnate, he cultivated a reputation as the ultimate high roller, a cliche of 1980s glamor with private jets, fancy apartments and strings of girlfriends. Anything he wanted to buy, he did, and as ostentatiously as possible.
As a reality TV performer, his brand was Trump the decider — the boss who with a mere point of his finger could change a person’s life. Anyone he wanted to fire, he did, as dramatically as possible.
Even if much of that persona was fiction, Trump seemed to prove his own legend in 2016 by triumphing in his first ever attempt at electoral politics — as president.
But now he finds himself thwarted by opponents he cannot fire.
He still has the amazing power of the White House. He’ll still fly on Marine One and Air Force One. Thousands will cheer him in Michigan.
And he knows that the Republicans will acquit him when the Democrats’ impeachment vote is sent to the Senate in January.
But none of that can remove the asterisk of impeachment that will feature for all history by Trump’s name.
“A terrible Thing,” he tweeted. “Say a PRAYER!”