What impeachment? All calm as Melania Trump visits Capitol

Politics

First lady Melania Trump participates in a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The first lady marked the first anniversary of the President’s signing of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and it’s impact on the country. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Melania Trump was an island of calm in a sea of impeachment chaos Wednesday, choosing to make her first solo trip to Capitol Hill as her husband’s party reckoned with his conduct and rumbled with House Democrats.

As President Donald Trump faced the most peril of his presidency, Mrs. Trump took her seat in a paneled Senate parlor under George Washington’s portrait to discuss opioid policy with members of the House and Senate. The lawmakers, almost all Republicans, stretched out around her at a table shaped like a “U” for the rare chance to speak on-camera about something other than impeachment.

Mrs. Trump, wearing a camel-colored pant suit, exchanged thanks with members of the administration and lawmakers on the first anniversary of a law that helps fight opioid addiction.

“We’re celebrating,” said Alex Azar, Trump’s secretary of health and human services.

In that, the Mansfield Room was like a bubble. All around it, tension crackled through the small city of Capitol Hill, one day after diplomat William Taylor described the president’s effort to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless its president publicly agreed to investigate Democrats. The account undermined Trump’s insistence that there was no quid pro quo, a stance that many Republicans had repeated in their defense of the president.

Mrs. Trump’s event got underway as a different scene unfolded across the Capitol complex and deep in its bowels. About two dozen House Republicans tried to barge into the secure briefing room where three committees were hearing testimony from witnesses on Trump’s pressure on Ukraine. The legislators, not members of those committees, loudly complained that too many Republicans were kept out and brought the day’s proceedings to a halt, at least temporarily.

Back in the Senate, reporters chased Republicans to gauge whether Taylor’s testimony had changed their view of Trump’s conduct.

Mrs. Trump could have canceled her event just off the Senate floor. Instead, she arrived with a retinue of administration officials, including Azar and White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.

In brief remarks, Mrs. Trump said the law enacted a year ago, called the SUPPORT Act, is compatible with her childhood initiative, Be Best. Both, she said, focus on children affected by the opioid crisis.

“Because of the SUPPORT Act, we are able to look at ways to reduce opioid use during pregnancy and recognize early childhood issues related to substance abuse,” she said.

On the way out, Mrs. Trump ignored questions about how the impeachment inquiry was affecting her family.

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Associated Press Writer Mike Balsamo contributed to this report.

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