The impeachment probe “has been very hard on my family”, Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Louisiana, while also claiming it has boosted him in the polls and in the eyes of his evangelical Christian supporters.
The US president repeatedly complained about the Democrat-led investigation at the event, where he was speaking in support of Republican candidate Eddie Rispone’s campaign for state governor.
“These are very dishonest people,” Mr Trump said of his opponents. “Democrats are trying to overthrow the last election, because they know they’re not going to win the next election, that’s all it is.”
He turned to the impeachment issue just five minutes into his address in Bossier City, claiming that his opponents were “trying to overthrow American democracy” by probing his administration’s dealings with Ukraine. “We did nothing wrong and they’re doing nothing,” he added.
The US Congress is examining an alleged quid pro quo deal in which Mr Trump is said to have threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine, while pressuring the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden - a front-runner in the Democratic field of 2020 presidential candidates - and his son Hunter.
Mr Trump used his address to Louisianans to read from a news report that quoted Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko as saying a US official at the heart of the investigation had not made this arrangement explicit to him.
“Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations,” Mr Prystaiko said, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency. The comments apparently contradicted evidence already heard by Congress.
Later in his address, Mr Trump said: “It’s been very hard on my family, whoever heard – ‘impeachment’ to me is a dirty word – it’s been very unfair, very hard on my family”.
He added: “Me? My whole life is crazy. What a life I lead. You think this is fun, don’t you? But it’s been very hard on my family, very very hard.
“But I’ll tell you what I’ve found. The Republicans, they stick together, they have really stuck. But you know what they’re doing now? The Republicans are coming, ‘Sir, our poll numbers are going through the roof. Do you think we could keep this going?’ I said, ‘Do me a favour, let’s get it ended.’
“They said, ‘But let’s keep it going, president, it’s so great, because we’ve never had a time like this.’”
Mr Trump went on to claim that evangelical church leaders had told him their flock “has never been so energised as it is right now because of what they’re trying to do to our president”.
Conservative Christian voters are a key element of the president’s support base, and he maintains a cadre of evangelical advisers.
Vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo are committed believers, while Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, has boasted of the administration’s anti-abortion stance.