WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On a day when the U.S. House of Representatives debated whether President Donald Trump should be removed from office, members of his administration fanned out across the country to make the case that the president is steadily getting the job done.
Even as Trump continued to rage on Twitter over the impeachment vote, Vice President Mike Pence was in Michigan, a key 2020 battleground state, talking up the administration’s economic record.
Attorney General William Barr also was in Michigan, announcing a crackdown on violent crime.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar proposed a plan to allow states to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada in an effort to lower drug costs - a top concern for many voters.
And Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and other officials championed the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade accord on conservative radio and television outlets.
Trump himself flew to a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he was expected both to tout his accomplishments and blast Democrats for their impeachment push.
As Trump faces re-election next year, all of the activity amounted to an attempt to convince voters that his administration is capable of governing through the storms that seem to constantly whirl about the president.
“Americans know that this president is working for them,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News. “We’ve got the results to prove it.”
The Democratic-led House was expected to vote on Wednesday to impeach Trump over his dealings with Ukraine, sending the matter to the U.S. Senate. Republicans who control that chamber have suggested they will ultimately clear him of the charges.
But Trump threatened to step on his own administration’s can-do story with heated comments on the impeachment debate playing out in the House.
“SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” he wrote on Twitter.
The tweet echoed the scorched-earth letter Trump sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, in which accused her of staging an “illegal, partisan coup.”
Even that letter contained Trump’s basic re-election argument, detailing an extensive list of what he considers to be the biggest successes of his time in office, starting with the country’s low unemployment rate.
“They’re trying to run down this president because they know they can’t run against our record,” Pence told a crowd in Freeland, Michigan on Wednesday.
Beyond the drama of impeachment, Trump has been enjoying a productive stretch.
Last week, he announced that the United States and China had reached agreement on Phase 1 of a trade deal. He plans to sign a $1.4 trillion spending bill that will avert a government shutdown. And the House is expected to approve his long-sought USMCA trade accord on Thursday, handing him a significant policy victory.
Congress even passed a bill this week that will create one of Trump’s pet projects: A “Space Force” branch of the U.S. military.
All of it will be fodder for Trump’s 2020 re-election message.
That Trump, Pence and Barr were all to converge on Michigan underscored the importance of the state to the general election.
In 2016, Trump surprisingly won the state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by little more than 10,000 votes.
The Justice Department initiative announced by Barr in Detroit also will pour law enforcement resources into cities in other election battleground states such as New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Recent opinion polls have shown Trump trailing a general election matchup against either former Vice President Joe Biden or U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical general-election matchup, but leading other contenders such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Reporting by James Oliphant; editing by Andy Sullivan and Bill Berkrot