Raging Trump rants and raves in besieged White House
On visit to US, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto witnesses bizarre impromptu press conference
WASHINGTON: Wednesday was a weird day to be a visiting president at the White House: the ceremonial greeting, the Oval Office chat and US President Donald Trump fulminating about enemies and jockstraps.
In front of the Oval Office fireplace, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Mr Trump outwardly resembled any two leaders starting what diplomats call a "bilat".
But in impeachment-crazy Washington - and especially in the besieged White House - normal is over.
Mr Niinisto sat immobile during 17 minutes of monologues by Mr Trump to reporters about the "disgraceful" attack on his presidency.
The European visitor, however, could not control his eyes.
They flickered and rolled, seemingly expressing every emotion from bewilderment to pain as Mr Trump turned what was meant to be a photo op into an impromptu press conference - or cry of rage.
Mr Trump's main venom was for the Democrat leading the impeachment probe in Congress, Mr Adam Schiff.
"A shifty dishonest guy," Mr Trump said. Comparing "lowlife" Mr Schiff with his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mr Trump said the Congressman would not be fit to "carry his blank strap".
"You understand that?"
Many of the Finnish journalists did not. By way of explanation, Mr Trump hinted he was looking for a more delicate way of saying that Mr Schiff was not fit to carry Mr Pompeo's jockstrap, the underwear worn by male athletes.
Otherwise, he complained, the "corrupt", "fake" and "phoney" media would attack him for using vulgarity.
Mr Trump is accused of having pushed Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in a phone call to probe what he claims to be corruption by one of his main 2020 presidential election rivals, Democrat Joe Biden.
To say he thinks he did nothing wrong is an understatement.
"It was a very nice conversation," he said. "Perfect."
Mr Schiff's depiction of the conversation is "fabricated".
"It should be criminal, it should be treasonous," Mr Trump said. "They should look at him for treason."
Over and over, Mr Trump vented at Mr Schiff and the senior Democrat in the Lower House, Mrs Nancy Pelosi, while Mr Niinisto and the knot of journalists cramming into the Oval Office listened in silence.
Sometimes his mind wandered to sunnier ideas. Twice, he referred wistfully to images he had seen of China's military parades to celebrate the 70th anniversary of communist rule. He has often expressed admiration for military displays.
"When I look at that parade with military and millions of people and everything else, we better get smart," Mr Trump said.
But tiny Finland finally got his attention. When a Finnish reporter asked what could be learnt from Finland, the happiest country according to a UN study, Mr Trump responded: "Well, you got rid of Pelosi and you got rid of shifty Schiff."
It was not clear what he meant by this, as often is the case with Mr Trump, but it clearly represented something like his ultimate fantasy.
"Finland is a happy country," he said. Turning to the by now nearly forgotten Mr Niinisto at his side, Mr Trump added: "He is a happy leader too." - AFP