He berated one correspondent as the “enemy of the people,” sending an aide to snatch away the microphone used to ask him a question. He ordered another to sit down. He told a third – an African-American who asked about white supremacy in light of his race-based appeals to white voters – that she had asked “a racist question.”
If that didn’t demonstrate discomfort enough, Trump went on to outline a fantasy alternative to the rebuke voters actually delivered him on Election Day. He said the results indicated that voters like him, even though a solid majority of them told exit pollsters they disapprove of his presidency. He suggested he had bested President Obama, who campaigned for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, because the Republican had won.
Trump ascribed Democratic House gains to extraneous factors – superior fund-raising, retirement decisions by Republican incumbents – rather than the anvil his divisive presidency hung around the necks of GOP members in suburban districts. He openly mocked members who tried to survive by distancing themselves from him, calling them out by name and adding sarcastically, “too bad.”
That offered a bitter refresher course in his self-absorption for Republican members who have shielded his scandal-tarred presidency from oversight while they pursued shared economic goals of tax-cuts.
“It disgusts me that he did that,” retiring GOP Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania texted me during the press conference. “I’m so angry about it i can’t even begin to speak.”
Costello concluded: “Those members that lost deal with hell for two years – because of him.”
As a result, Trump has lost his shield. Among the first actions House Democrats took on election night was to confirm they will exercise their rights to demand the president’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service – a step Republicans refused to take.