Donald Trump has lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying he’s an “extremely stable genius” and questioning her mental stability.
It was in response to questions by Pelosi about the President’s fitness for office. She suggested his family or staff should hold an “intervention” after a dramatic blow-up at a White House meeting the previous day.
Hours later, Mr Trump defended himself as “extremely calm”, suggesting Ms Pelosi was mentally unwell and didn’t understand the policies being discussed.
Speaking at a White House event in front of American farmers, agriculture industry leaders and reporters, the President said Ms Pelosi “doesn’t understand” the proposed trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“I’ve been watching her. I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it. Let’s face it, she doesn’t understand it,” he said.
The President then called on his senior staff members to confirm that he was of sound mind.
“Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?” he asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
“Very calm. No temper tantrum,” she responded.
He called on four other members of his staff to confirm he was “very calm”, as American farmers and journalists watched on.
Mr Trump continued: “The whole Democrat Party is very messed up. They have never recovered from the great election of 2016 — an election that I think you folks liked very much, right? Well, Nancy Pelosi was not happy about it, and she is a mess.
“The narrative was I was screaming and ranting and raving and it was terrible. And I watched Nancy and she was all crazy yesterday — she was with the hands — she reminded me of Beto. She actually reminded me of Beto, maybe a little bit worse.” Mr Trump has repeatedly accused Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of excessive gesticulation.
Mr Trump concluded with a verdict on his own mental state, declaring: “I’m an extremely stable genius.”
Just minutes after the exchange, Ms Pelosi fired back on Twitter, calling on Mr Trump to act more presidential:
When the “extremely stable genius” starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues. https://t.co/tfWVkj9CLT
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 23, 2019
Both the Republican president and Democratic leaders dug in on Thursday, a day after Mr Trump stalked out of the Cabinet Room demanding an end to congressional investigations before he would work with Congress on crumbling US infrastructure and other matters.
While Mr Trump insisted on Twitter that he was calm when he left the White House meeting that was to focus on infrastructure spending, Ms Pelosi said Mr Trump had established a pattern of unpredictability.
“I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country,” Ms Pelosi said at her weekly news conference, adding again that she prays for him and the nation.
“Maybe he wants to take a leave of absence,” she said.
Asked whether she’s concerned about Mr Trump’s wellbeing, she replied, “I am. And the wellbeing about the United States of America.”
Ms Pelosi also called the Wednesday meeting walkout a deliberate “stunt” and a “distraction.”
“He is the master of distraction. We will all agree on that. That’s something he does well, to distract from problems that he has,” she said.
“Sometimes when we’re talking to him he agrees,” she said, only to change his mind.
“He says he’s in charge and he may be.
“For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part … he took a pass, and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” she told reporters back on Capitol Hill.
“In any event I pray for the President of the United States.”
Responding on Twitter, Mr Trump said “Nancy, thank you so much for your prayers, I know you truly mean it!”
In a case of unfortunate timing for Mr Trump, he made an embarrassing spelling error at a press conference moments after the disastrous meeting with the Democrats.
The Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured a photo of Mr Trump’s handwritten notes, in which he spelled the word accomplishments as “achomlishments.”
TRUMP ‘WANTS TO BE IMPEACHED’
Ms Pelosi also said on Thursday she believes Mr Trump “wants to be impeached,” because it would be a divisive move that would make him the victim and solidify his base.
“I think what really got to him was that … the House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment. That’s where he wants us to be,” she said.
Hanging over the increasingly personal exchanges is a drumbeat among about two dozen Democrats and one Republican to launch impeachment hearings against Mr Trump based on details in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that he repeatedly tried to block the investigation.
Ms Pelosi has resisted, preferring a methodical process by which Congress investigates and lays out the facts on the question of obstruction of justice. But she’s been clear this week that any such finding could be worthy of a formal indictment by the House — that is, impeachment.
It also comes as Ms Pelosi is balancing the calls for impeachment with the restraint of members from divided districts who helped flip the House to Democratic control and now face tough re-elections in 2020.
WHITE HOUSE HITS BACK
Repeatedly pressed on why the President seemed unwilling to multitask and work on legislation as other presidents under investigation have done, Ms Sanders maintained, “I think the Democrats have shown that they’re not capable of doing anything else.”
In fact, the Democratic-controlled House has passed several bills on issues including firearms background checks, prescription drugs and campaign finance reforms — though they were dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Ms Sanders also insisted that Mr Trump’s walkout on Wednesday wasn’t planned before Ms Pelosi’s comments and that the White House placard that appeared on Mr Trump’s lectern as he denounced the Democrats moments later had been printed “weeks ago”.
Asked why Mr Trump couldn’t work with the Democrats after Ms Pelosi’s comments because he felt insulted, Ms Sanders said, “The President’s feelings weren’t hurt. She accused him of a crime. Let that sink in.”
Despite Mr Trump’s comments on Wednesday about ceasing work with the Democrats until investigations end, Ms Sanders said “staff-level conversations continue” on raising the US debt limit, a critical piece of legislation that will need to be taken up in the coming months.