China deal and impeachment: Witnessing a surreal 30 minutes in Washington

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It was perhaps the most awaited economic moment of his presidency: the signing of a partial trade deal with China.

So why, 30 minutes into his speech, was President Donald Trump expounding upon sneakers he found on eBay and questioning environmental concerns that prevent fireworks at Mount Rushmore?

The answer might be found across town, where on Capitol Hill lawmakers were at that very moment preparing to vote on sending articles of impeachment to the Senate, triggering the start of a high-profile trial.

Trump was eager to dismiss the impeachment saga as a “hoax” during his signing. As he vamped at length about the various players in the China deal’s completion — some more tangential than others — the President seemed intent on seizing whatever spotlight was his before attention inevitably turned to the proceedings on the Hill.

If the China deal represented a high point for Trump’s tenure, the “stigma of impeachment” — as he phrased it in a weekend tweet — represents a low. In true Trump fashion, the two converged at practically the same moment, each vying for oxygen at the same hour of the same day in a clash that only seems to foreshadow the coming election year dynamic.

Even as Trump touted what is undeniably a strong economy and a trade deal that eases for now the trade war he ignited, Democrats were insisting the President is unfit for office and must be removed. It’s the contrast all but certain to underpin this year’s presidential campaign, distilled into a 90-minute midday slice of Washington.

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