WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail Thursday to stump in Louisiana for the second time in as many weeks, using a raucous rally to mock two U.S. diplomats who raised questions about his dealings with Ukraine at the center of an impeachment inquiry.
A day after a U.S. diplomat told lawmakers his staff overheard the president pressing for a Ukrainian investigation into his rivals – a bombshell revelation the president has denied – Trump was hoping to turn the tide in Louisiana's razor-thin race for governor. Trump has not scheduled any additional rallies through the remainder of the year.
Speaking in Bossier City, Louisiana, at his first campaign rally since public hearings began Wednesday in the Democratic-led inquiry, Trump claimed that the impeachment hearings were helping his reelection effort. Trump's campaign said Thursday it had raised more than $3 million in the 24 hours after the hearing.
"The people of this country aren't buying it – you see it because we're going up and they're going down," Trump said. "Let's keep it going for a while."
Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the loyalty of Republican lawmakers in recent weeks, said the GOP is now sticking together, and "it's a beautiful thing."
Trump also mocked State Department official George Kent and Ambassador Bill Taylor, the first witnesses to testify in the public hearings, suggesting they didn't have an answer for why what they were describing is an impeachable offense.
"And they stood there and went like, 'what?'"
In fact, Kent and Taylor, who have served presidents of both parties, repeatedly said that they would not make a determination about whether Trump's actions were impeachable because that was a job for members of the House.
Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will testify Friday. Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine in May amid criticism in conservative media that she was an Obama holdover. Yovanovitch has, in fact, served presidents of both parties.
Stung by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's loss last week to Democrat Andy Beshear, Trump is putting considerable emphasis on Louisiana. Republican businessman Eddie Rispone is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards in a Nov. 16 runoff election.
Trump touched on the Kentucky race briefly, pointing to other GOP wins in that state and in Mississippi. He told the crowd that Bevin, who conceded the race Thursday, would have performed worse without his involvement.
"You gotta give me a big win please," Trump told the crowd. "Please."
Trump's Louisiana rally could be his last of 2019; his long-range schedule, including holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, does not currently include additional political rallies, though he could always add them later.
Trump did not mention Thursday’s deadly school shooting in California during his remarks, though he did tweet his condolences to the victims en route to the event.
Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told lawmakers Wednesday was that one of his aides overheard a July 26 phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in which the president inquired about "the investigations" he had been pressing Zelensky to open.
Trump had requested Zelensky investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that had been under investigation, as well as alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The president told reporters Wednesday that he did not recall that conversation.
"First time I've heard it," Trump said. "I don’t recall. Not at all. Not even a little bit."
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump holds rally in Louisiana for Rispone amid impeachment hearings