Donald Trump flew back to Washington on Thursday and into the biggest crisis of his tempestuous presidency, raging at enemies and talking darkly of a conspiracy.
Trump’s three day trip to New York was meant to showcase his achievements in a speech to the United Nations and multiple meetings with other world leaders.
But everything vanished into the vortex of the Democrats’ decision to open an impeachment investigation over allegations that he shook down Ukraine’s president for dirt on Joe Biden, the current frontrunner to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential elections.
The former real estate tycoon and reality TV performer returned to Washington on Air Force One as only the fourth president to face an impeachment inquiry.
Trump goes further than merely insisting he did nothing wrong when talking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Instead, he is painting the allegations as part of a plot, setting the stage for a political and legal struggle sure to stress an already divided country to its limits.
Talking to reporters on the way back to the White House, Trump branded the Democrats a “disgrace”.
The impeachment procedures “shouldn’t be allowed”, he said.
“There should be a way of stopping it. Maybe legally, through the courts.”
Those comments were likely to spook opponents already claiming that Trump has repeatedly behaved – the Ukraine affair being only the latest example – as if he were above the law.
About an hour earlier, The Los Angeles Times reported, Trump delivered even more unusual comments, telling US diplomats that the source of the whistleblower who first raised the alarm over the alleged Ukraine contacts should be treated as a traitor.
“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now,” he said according to the Times, which obtained a recording of the private event.