During a campaign rally on last week, President Donald Trump dismissed the impeachment inquiry against him as “flimsy, pathetic, ridiculous,” telling the Pennsylvania crowd it was just a bunch of “impeachment crap.” “This is the lightest, weakest impeachment,” Trump said. “You know our country’s had, actually, many impeachments. You’d call judges and lot of, many impeachments, but it was on today everybody said this is impeachment-lite. This is the lightest impeachment in the history of our country, by far. It’s not even like an impeachment.”

But, while Trump is diminishing the articles of impeachment leveled against him, sources say that he is “devastated” by the prospect in private.

“I think he’s been preparing for this for some time,” a Trump adviser told CNN, adding the president has appeared somewhat taken aback that his actions toward Ukraine are ultimately what led to his likely impeachment. “Frankly, I think he’s a little surprised it’s the Ukraine thing that’s done it,” the adviser said.

Trump sees impeachment through a publicity lens. He dreads joining the infamous club of tainted presidents who have been impeached – President Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. Trump has brought up Clinton’s impeachment critically and frequently in the past. Trump says the 1998 impeachment is synonymous with Clinton’s reign in office.

No president wants to be impeached. Trump is like the rest in this respect, in spite of the political dividend his advisers insist will come when elections take place next year. An onslaught of morning tweets and retweets have reinforced the idea that Trump is agitated as the fateful vote nears.

Clinton is the only living president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, though he was acquitted by the Senate in the trial. He has publicly counseled Trump to continue going about his job without focusing on the proceedings as he did during his own impeachment inquiry. It’s advice that Trump has not heeded so far.

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Trump says there have been some benefits to him. “Without the impeachment, they would have never approved it, in my opinion,” Trump said of the US-Mexico-Canada renegotiated trade agreement. House Democrats announced last week that they were ready to support the renegotiated NAFTA after the completion of successful talks. Passage of the NAFTA replacement would amount to one of Trump’s top legislative achievements.

“The impeachment is the reason they approved it and interestingly one hour after the news conference, they went out and did a news conference on the big trade deal,” he said, shrugging as he departed the White House for his latest campaign rally.

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