Trump impeachment trial: Three takeaways as president jets back to Washington
President focuses on the economy but finds time to repeat falsehoods designed to try to undermine the impeachment case against him
Donald Trump wrapped a two-day global economic conference with a barrage of insults for the House Democrats trying to convince the Senate to remove him as he set the tone for the second day of the chamber's historic trial.
The president uttered more false statements and tried to discredit the House's Democratic impeachment managers and their case during an impromptu press conference as he departed Davos, Switzerland, after two days of meetings with other world leaders. As Democrats signalled they will try again to bring additional evidence – including the testimony of current and former aides to Mr Trump – he continued his legal team's combative approach during a 13-hour first day on the Senate floor.
Mr Trump signalled he is willing to risk one of his top sales pitches for a second term, a healthy economy, by taking his tough trade practices to a conflict with Europe that could hurt the US economy. Here are three takeaways from his Davos press conference.
Senate Democrats tried into on Wednesday morning to require the chamber to hear from White House and other Trump administration witnesses. Each time, Republicans remained aligned in their 53-vote bloc and blocked them.
Unless four GOP senators change their minds after senators spend three days hearing more from House Democrats and Mr Trump's legal team, including answers to their questions, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton won't be walking onto the Senate floor anytime soon.
When pressed by reporters in Davos, the president said he has the right to use executive privilege to block current and former aides from appearing at the trial.
"John would certainly fit into that," he said of Bolton. "When he knows my thoughts on certain people and other governments, war and peace and different things, that's a national security problem." The same kind of "national security problem" would lead to him preventing Mulvaney or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from appearing.
Mr Trump, who has uttered thousands of false and misleading statements since taking office, was at it again on Wednesday. He again tried to twist the timeline of a White House-produced summary of his 25 July call with Ukraine's president that became the basis of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
The president contends House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff presented a hyperbolic and satirical version of that phone call before the White House released the call summary. "Schiff made up the phoney story," Mr Trump said, "then I released the transcript."
Only that Schiff's parody of Trump's comments on the call were based on the White House-released summary. That did not stop the president from again asserting the opposite as he tries to discredit the House investigation that led to his impeachment.
"They never thought I was going to release the conversation," he said. "When I released that conversation, all hell broke loose with the Democrats."
Eye on Election Day
Even with the Senate about to decide on his possible – if unlikely – removal, Trump and his team in Davos made sure to focus on the economy as they gear up for his reelection campaign.
The president began his opening statement at the press conference by talking up the health of the economy, including its low unemployment figures. He later turned the lectern over to Larry Kudlow, his chief economic adviser, to make the pitch for him – even though there are signs the economy is not quite as strong as team Trump makes out.
"I think we're coming into the new year with a lot of positive momentum in economy," Kudlow said, touting the administration's tax and trade policies, as well as high "business confidence" and stock market levels. The former CNBC host also pointed to "tremendous numbers" in housing construction and sales.
As the leading Democratic presidential candidates push policy ideas they say would improve economic inequality, Kuldow disputed the notion the Trump economy has benefited "a few rich people".
"That is just not true," he said before saying increases in retirement accounts, home prices and investment portfolios collectively are a "booster rocket" for the economy.
But some data suggests the economy has weak spots. Gross domestic product growth has slowed to a pace that tracks with the Obama economy that candidate Trump said grew too slowly.
The number of US adults aged 25 to 54 who have a job has fallen to a level less than those of the late 1990s under then-President Bill Clinton. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has concluded wage growth now stands at 3.7 percent now, the same level it was two years ago.