President Donald Trump opened Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast with harsh words about his political opponents a day after his acquittal at his Senate impeachment trial.
A triumphant Trump entered brandishing newspaper headlines announcing his acquittal before beginning remarks at the bipartisan event also attended by his nemesis Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
“As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people,” Trump said. “They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation.”
Trump credited “courageous Republican politicians and leaders” for having “the wisdom, the fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right.”
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” he said. “Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that’s not so.”
Mitt Romney, the only Republican to break ranks and vote to remove Trump from office, said from the Senate floor that he made the decision in keeping with his Mormon faith.
“My faith is at the heart of who I am,” said Romney, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints. “I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
Trump’s comments about unnamed people who falsely claim they pray for the president appeared to be directed to Pelosi, who sat at the head table and had delivered a prayer earlier in the program.
In December Pelosi tussled with a reporter who asked if she hates the president.
“I don’t hate anybody,” she said tersely. “And as a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me.”
“I pray for the president all the time,” she said. “So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
Trump in his remarks at the prayer breakfast used the word “hate” describing some people in the room before backing away.
“I’m sorry. I apologize. I’m trying to learn. It’s not easy,” the president smiled. “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy folks. I do my best.”
Trump took the podium after a keynote speech by Harvard University professor and author Arthur Brooks who closed his remarks with the hope that the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast might be remembered “as the point at which our national healing begins.”
“Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you, but I don’t know if Arthur is going to like what I’m going to say,” the president said before getting to his prepared remarks. “But I loved listening to you. It was really great. Thank you very much.”
Trump also issued a veiled threat to those seeking to remove him from office. “So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on,” he said. “I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House.”