President Donald Trump offered outward optimism Wednesday at his party’s electoral successes, a cheeriness that was later belied by surly, combative exchanges with reporters over the dark tone he adopted in the midterms’ closing days.
In a post-election news conference, a weary-seeming President ticked through his party’s wins, characterizing an expanded majority in the Senate as a history-defying feat of political prowess. He shrugged off new threats from Democrats, who will assume control of the House with new investigative power.
But when the questions started coming, the President’s sunny outlook melted away. He lashed out at questions about his fear-mongering and race-baiting rhetoric against immigrants, and demanded a reporter inquiring about voter suppression take her seat.
He went back and forth on his opinion of the newly powerful Democrats, alternately vowing to find areas of cooperation and threatening them with investigations of his own. He vowed a “warlike posture” should he find himself barraged with subpoenas.
“Almost from the time I announced I was going to run, they’ve been giving us this investigation fatigue,” Trump said. “They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate, and a lot of very questionable things were done.”
Republicans, Trump said, “dramatically outperformed historical precedents,” despite what he called a “very dramatic fundraising disadvantage” and “very hostile media coverage, to put it mildly.”
Republicans held onto seats in the Senate but saw their House majority slip away, setting up the likelihood the White House will be dogged by investigations as Trump prepares to fight for his own re-election.
Trump was not effusive about all Republicans; he specifically named members of his party that did not “embrace” him in their races and fared poorly.
“Mia Love gave me no love,” he said, referring to the Utah congresswoman. “And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.”
Even as he warned against the incoming Democratic House leadership from being too aggressive in their investigations of his administration, Trump said he was optimistic about the opportunity for bipartisanship
“I’d like to see bipartisanship, I’d like to see unity,” Trump said, repeatedly praising House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who he effectively endorsed as the next House speaker.
“I gave her a lot of credit, she works very hard and she’s worked long and hard. I give her a great deal of credit for how she’s worked and what she’s accomplished,” he said.
Trump had already cast the results as a victory, tweeting earlier Wednesday that candidates who followed his lead during a dark and divisive campaign “did very well.”
But Trump’s verbal assaults on reporters Wednesday revealed a stormier mood. He lambasted CNN’s Jim Acosta as “a rude, terrible person,” told American Urban Radio Network correspondent April Ryan repeatedly to “sit down,” and deemed a query about white nationalism, posed by PBS Newshour reporter Yamiche Alcindor, a “such a racist question.”
Trump’s three most recent predecessors all lost House majorities in the course of their tenures. In post-election news conferences, all three took some form of responsibility.
President George W. Bush called a 2006 rout a “thumping.” President Barack Obama deemed 2010 losses a “shellacking.”
Trump and his aides have projected a different attitude, shrugging off the possibility the next two years could be pocked by subpoenas or oversight hearings.
“I thought it was very close to complete victory,” Trump said during his news conference.
Trump refused to speculate on an upcoming cabinet shuffle, declaring himself very happy with the majority of his advisers. But he did claim he had the power to short-circuit Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling, which is expected to ramp up now that the midterms have concluded.
“I could fire everybody right now,” Trump said. “It’s a disgrace, it should have never been started because there was no crime.”