Trump faces dueling crises upon return to DC

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE returned to Washington on Sunday facing dueling crises that could define his presidency and shape the course of his reelection bid.

The president spent more than two weeks at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, where he visited his nearby golf club on a near daily basis, met with top advisers and allies, and on Thursday night — in one of the most consequential decisions of his time in office — approved a military operation that resulted in the death of a top Iranian official.

But impeachment was never far from Trump's mind.


The overlapping quagmires were on full display Saturday evening when Trump complained about Democrats focusing on "this ridiculous Impeachment Lite Hoax" only to threaten 36 minutes later that the U.S. would hit prominent Iranian targets "very fast and very hard" if Tehran retaliated over the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The president's fixation on impeachment even amid the potential for widening fallout with Iran reflects the challenge Trump will face in the weeks to come.

He will be forced to grapple with any ramifications that come from the death of Soleimani, which experts believe will include a counterpunch from Iran.

At the same time, the Senate is set to begin Trump's trial soon, a political event likely to dominate the capital and hold the president's attention as he seeks vindication.

Adding to the potential for a chaotic few weeks, former administration officials expressed doubt that Trump will be able to compartmentalize impeachment from the rest of his duties.

"It’s clear that impeachment is something that’s on his mind constantly, and it will be very difficult to separate the two," said Dave Lapan, who served as press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security earlier in the Trump administration.


One former administration official remarked that Trump lacks former President Clinton’s “remarkable ability” to keep impeachment separate from the work of the president.

The president tweeted roughly 300 times while away from Washington.

The word "impeachment" appeared two dozen times on Trump's Twitter feed from the time Trump landed until he departed Sunday.

Trump also repeatedly targeted House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Why Senate Republicans should eagerly call witnesses to testify Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now MORE (D-Calif.), appearing particularly enraged by her decision to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate before Congress went on its holiday recess, creating uncertainty about when the president might get a trial. Trump tweeted about Pelosi personally roughly two dozen times while in Florida, calling her "overrated" and frequently blaming her for homelessness issues in California and her San Francisco district.

During one late-night Twitter spree, Trump retweeted a message that included the name of the individual alleged to be the whistleblower whose complaint helped trigger the impeachment inquiry. The tweet marked an escalation for Trump's attacks on the individual and raised questions about whether the president had violated laws protecting whistleblowers.

"If you look at the president’s tweets over the last couple weeks, he has not shied away from engaging on very lengthy messaging against members of Congress on impeachment," Lapan said.

Lapan noted that the same members Trump has excoriated on impeachment are the ones who will be pressuring Trump to keep Congress apprised of his next steps in Iran after he acted unilaterally last week.

The fractious politics of impeachment mixed with the tensions surrounding a potential foreign conflict could make for a volatile few weeks and more fireworks between Trump and Democratic leaders.

Pelosi issued a statement Friday indicating the White House's notification to Congress about the strike was insufficient and raised "more questions than it answers."

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (D-Mass.) on Sunday linked the timing of the military strike to the looming impeachment trial, questioning whether the aggression toward Iran served a political purpose.

As Democrats wring their hands over whether Trump may plunge the U.S. into a protracted conflict with Iran, some White House allies have seized on the events of the last 72 hours to flip the narrative on impeachment.

Lou DobbsLouis (Lou) Carl DobbsGOP group launches ad campaign urging senators to call witnesses at impeachment trial Pelosi accepts Collins's apology for saying Democrats are 'in love with terrorists' Trump signs first phase of US-China trade deal MORE, a Fox Business Network host who was seen chatting with Trump during a New Year's Eve gala at Mar-a-Lago, defended the president's decision to keep congressional leaders in the dark prior to the strike against Soleimani, saying it would be "utterly irrational” for the president to brief the people trying to “overthrow his presidency.”


White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamTrump's split-screen presidency takes stark form in impeachment Trump boasts of US economic gains in Davos as impeachment trial gets underway Parnas attorney asks William Barr to recuse himself from investigation MORE, appearing on Dobbs's show on Friday night, painted Democrats as petty for complaining about the lack of notification for the Soleimani operation and suggested their focus on impeachment might backfire.

"After the events of the last 24 hours, I think this impeachment stuff just seems all the more silly and pathetic," she said.

"I continue to be so disappointed by these Democrats," she added. "No matter what this president does, it’s not good enough."