Heard on the Hill

Trump brings up impeachment during Nationals White House celebration

President praises players' hair and teases Nats pitcher Sanchez

Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle was among the players on the World Series championship squad who skipped Monday's visit to the White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump almost stuck to the script Monday as the Washington Nationals brought their gleaming World Series championship trophy to the White House. Almost.

House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was clearly as on his mind after a morning of firing off tweets slamming Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff and the whistleblower who formally raised concerns about Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s new president.

Trump otherwise appeared to be in high spirits on a crisp, sunny autumn day. He praised, and at times, lightly needled Nationals players, coaches and front office brass.

There were two references to players’ hair from a president who has admitted something of an obsession with his own mane, including his declaration that infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera’s golden locks amounted to some “beautiful hair.”

[Three things to watch when World Series champions Nationals visit White House]

The president couldn’t help but poke at starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Washington’s Game 1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

“Within four outs of a no-hitter. That would have been nice,” Trump said with a chuckle. And after Sanchez addressed the crowd, Trump looked in his direction and quipped, “Four outs…”

Washington Nationals fans on the White House's South Lawn Monday afternoon. (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)
Washington Nationals fans on the White House's South Lawn Monday afternoon. (John T. Bennett/CQ Roll Call)

Perhaps the event’s loudest chant — “Howie! Howie!...” — came for journeyman infielder and World Series designated hitter Howie Kendrick.

Kendrick fired up the crowd with remarks about his teammates’ fighting spirit and appeared to be riding high after clutch postseason hits, including a grand slam in a decisive Game 5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division series and the go-ahead home run in Game 7 over the Houston Astros.

But because it’s Trump, there were some political moments.

Trump appeared to have noticed a late-season 11-10 win over his hometown New York Mets that saw Washington score seven ninth-inning runs to rally for a walk-off win off the bat of catcher Kurt Suzuki.

When Trump called the hero of that game to the mic on the White House’s Truman Balcony overlooking a South Lawn filled with thousands of red-clad Nats fans, Suzuki did not disappoint.

The veteran backstop produced a red “Make America Great Again” cap as the crowd roared and Trump gave Suzuki a reverse hug — just picture a home plate umpire placing his hands on a catchers chest after a strikeout.

Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman,  known colloquially as “the face of the franchise,” presented Trump with a No. 45 white jersey. He thanked Trump for keeping Americans safe and for continuing to keep the United States the “greatest” country in the world.

His comments weren't far from the president’s 2020 reelection theme: “Keep America Great.”

[Trump has no China trade pact, but he does have a signing location in mind]

And, of course, the president was thinking about the impeachment inquiry.

“The people fell in love with Nats baseball. It’s all they wanted to talk about,” he said with another chuckle. “That and impeachment. I prefer Nats baseball. Very much.”

Trump, who routinely criticizes the news media, got nods from Nationals Manager Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo, the general manager, when he noted they had received more than a little negative press with their lackluster 19-31 start.

Rizzo seems to have been reading more than just the sports page lately. He made his own impeachment-themed comment when he spoke at Trump’s blue lectern.

He said the Nationals managed to “unify the [Washington] region when the region needed unifying the most.” It was not clear which side, if any, Rizzo was taking, however.

Near the event’s end, the “American carnage” president flashed his sometimes-dark view of this thing called life.

“As soon as they lose the first two or three games, they won’t be heroes anymore,” he said as the crowd groaned. “That’s just how life works.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.