And he’s become so outwardly nonchalant about the Democratic impeachment push that he’s taken special joy in giving visitors a look at the private study off the Oval Office — playfully pointing out where one of President Bill Clinton‘s infamous dalliances with Monica Lewinsky occurred and ultimately triggered the 42nd president’s impeachment.
The president has started employing a joking, nonchalant public stance just as impeachment takes a more serious turn.
He’s started calling the case against him “impeachment lite.”
He’s increasingly coming around to arguments that he could swing the impeachment battle to help his party in 2020.
It’s become one of many ways Trump has found his footing during the most serious threat yet to his presidency.
Trump is only the fourth president in history to face such proceedings, which will take a more serious turn Thursday when Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are expected to pass two articles of impeachment including abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Yet even amid such a momentous undertaking, White House officials feel confident in the president’s ability to navigate and emerge from impeachment unscathed, according to interviews with eight current and former senior administration officials, Trump campaign aides and Republicans close to the White House.
Lately, White House and campaign officials have come around to the view that impeachment could become politically advantageous for Republicans in 2020 in swing states and Democratic-led House districts that Trump won in 2016.
“They’re impeaching me and there are no crimes. This has to be a first in history,” Trump said at a rally in Hershey, Pa., on Tuesday night, calling the impeachment inquiry “flimsy.”
White House officials’ confidence comes from two key sources: recent national and battleground state polling that has cast impeachment as unpopular with Republicans and raised questions about its approval among political independents; and ongoing unity among Republican lawmakers, which has given Trump a group of close allies and defenders on the Hill during the House hearings.
Seventy-one percent of Americans believe people are so set in their opinions of Trump that no amount of new information will sway them, according to a new Monmouth University Poll.
“The president has done a good job of keeping the Republican base unified and pushing all of his administration’s economic successes despite the turbulence,” said Jason Miller, senior communications adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign. “Trump world is upbeat and optimistic, and Republicans are bullish.”
The Trump orbit is so confident that is now setting its sights on the Senate trial, which will likely kick off in January. Then, White House officials hope to pick off the support of a few moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona with the hope that they, too, will ultimately vote to acquit Trump following the Senate trial.
“The Republican unity is a real source of pride and strength for the president,” said a senior administration official, who pointed out support in the House is coming from longtime MAGA lawmakers as well as newcomers to the Trump fold such as House Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Mike Turner of Ohio.
The president, however, still faces a serious problem with suburban voters, many of whom gravitated toward Democratic candidates in the 2018 mid-term elections and have shown few signs of swinging back to Republicans next fall.
The president and Senate Republicans also seem on a path to butt heads over the look and feel of the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Trump would prefer it become more of a TV spectacle with high-profile witnesses and smooth-talking attorneys to fully exonerate him, while Senate Republicans would prefer that it end quickly with not much fanfare.
The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment.
Some Trump allies — those who have spent the past few months assuring donors, campaign volunteers and the president himself that impeachment will haunt Democrats at the polls next November — said Tuesday marked the first time they actually believed the narrative they’ve been peddling.
In their eyes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to couple the unveiling of articles of impeachment with the announcement of a deal on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact was a tacit admission of vulnerability within her caucus.
“That told me Pelosi is doing it to leverage votes or give her members coverage when they go back home for the holidays,” said a GOP official.
“Riddle me this,” added a person close to Trump, “If impeaching this president is so popular with the American people — with Democrats’ own constituents — why did they deliberately schedule a trade announcement that diverted attention elsewhere?”
Inside the president’s 2020 headquarters, aides have been buzzing about an eleventh-hour push by moderate Democrats to formally censure Trump instead of voting to impeach him. Some of those lawmakers hail from Republican-heavy districts in Rust Belt states where the president has begun to see a polling revival.
For example, a survey released Monday by Firehouse Strategies showed Trump trouncing five of his potential Democratic presidential opponents in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states Trump narrowly won in 2016 and where match-up polls earlier this year found him on much shakier ground.
“They went out today in Michigan, in Wisconsin, in a place called Pennsylvania … the polls are through the roof,” Trump boasted at the Tuesday night rally in Hershey, referring to the survey by Firehouse Strategies, a Republican firm.
Part of the confidence boost Republicans are experiencing — much of it a result of public polling that has shown little change in Americans’ appetite for impeachment — has prompted renewed chatter about regaining control of the House.
Digital ads have gone up in Trump-won districts condemning the effort to remove him from office. Newspaper ads have accused Democrats of ignoring kitchen table issues. And more campaign events are being scheduled to place the president and his surrogates squarely in front of voters in states that are most likely to determine congressional control next year.
“It’s very plausible that we can take the House back. The pathway is there through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,” said the GOP official.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who commissioned polls in several congressional districts once the public phase of impeachment concluded earlier this month, teased the results in a tweet on Wednesday that targeted two Democratic lawmakers from New Mexico and Pennsylvania. In both districts, opposition to impeachment far outweighed support and more voters indicated they would be less likely to reelect their representative should he or she vote in favor of impeachment.
“Pelosi’s sham, partisan impeachment will cost her caucus members their careers,” Parscale said on Twitter on Wednesday. “Freshman Dem in NM in trouble in state we eye as Trump pickup in 2020. Longtime Dem in PA underwater on impeachment. More to come!”