President Donald Trump on Tuesday used the annual pre-Thanksgiving presidential turkey pardoning to mock the House Democrat who oversaw the first step in his party’s impeachment proceedings.
Before giving a white bird named “Butter” a full pardon, Trump warned he is slated to appear “in Adam Schiff’s basement on Thursday.” That was a continuation of the president’s criticism of the Intelligence Committee chairman for holding closed-door depositions with current and former Trump administration officials in a secure room on the bottom floor of the Capitol Visitor Center.
“Butter” intends to appear at the fictional deposition after being served an equally fictional subpoena by Schiff’s committee, Trump teased, adding: “Hundreds of people have.”
“It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey,” he said, making a joke about his recent hosting of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House even after Erdogan ordered a military invasion of northern Syria that left many Kurds dead. Lawmakers from both parties panned Trump for removing U.S. troops who had been in between America’s longtime Kurdish allies and Erdogan’s larger, more sophisticated — and lethal — forces.
But the jokester in chief was not finished, turning his attention back to “Butter” and his feathered friend “Bread,” who also is headed to a foul farm at Virginia Tech University.
“Bread and Butter,” Trump said. “I should note that, unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met.”
In yet another attempt to distance himself from several impeachment witnesses with whom he previously bragged about having a personal rapport, Trump called that “very unusual.”
There was one more notable presidential quip.
“I expect this pardon will be a very popular one with the media,” he said. “After all, turkeys are closely related to vultures.”
In a rare moment of sympathy for journalists, though, the president, as he does, threw his own staff under the bus. “I don’t know if I like that line,” he said with a grimace.
The act of pretending to grant a federal pardon to a bird is likely the most far-fetched thing any sitting president does each year. Trump found ways to inject politics.
He noted the birds were born and raised in North Carolina, which he called “a great state.” Political experts say he will need to again win the Tar Heel State and its 15 Electoral College votes to secure a second term.
Trump also opened by noting the stock market just achieved “another record.” His aides acknowledge he intends to make the state of the economy, if it remains solid, a big selling point on the 2020 campaign trail.
When Trump pardons Bread and Butter, they will go to Blacksburg, Virginia, to join last year’s commutes, Peas and Carrots, at Virginia Tech’s “Gobblers Rest.”
Wishbone, Drumstick, Tater, Tot, Abe, Honest, Cheese, Mac, Popcorn, Caramel and many others have already gone to that big coop in the sky.
At the university, the turkeys are “routinely visited by students and professors in our department of Animal and Poultry Sciences,” said Zeke Barlow, a spokesman for the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “They also receive visits from doctors at the Virginia-Maryland Veterinary College.”
Unlike wild turkeys’ life expectancy of nearly a decade, domesticated turkeys are bred to be born in spring and on a table by Thanksgiving and have a life expectancy of between one and two years, the National Turkey Federation’s Shelby Shaw said in an email.
Sending turkeys and other poultry to the White House happened sporadically, dating back as early as 1873, when Ulysses S. Grant received a turkey from Rhode Island “Poultry King” Horace Vose. Presidents received winged gifts from chambers of commerce, fan clubs and turkey farmers from across the country.
Birds — and once a raccoon, which Grace Coolidge adopted, named Rebecca and did not eat — arrived at the White House occasionally throughout the 1920s in crates lavishly decorated and modeled like the White House and a battleship. Once, in 1921, a turkey arrived “wearing an aviation helmet and goggles and clad in a black and gold sweater held on by a pink bow,” according to the White House Historical Association.
Turkeys sent to Woodrow Wilson in 1920 — one from Cuero, Texas, and the other hailing from Kentucky — were unleashed on the White House lawn for a “spirited battle.” The Kentucky turkey prevailed, although neither died … until, presumably, dinnertime. Those birds, like many throughout the early part of the 20th century, met similar dinnertime-related fates.
The first poultry industry presentation of a turkey took place in 1947, and according to the White House, Harry Truman accepted two turkeys in December 1948, saying they would “come in handy” for Christmas dinner.
There is evidence of a 1963 John F. Kennedy turkey pardon, and several instances of turkey pardons in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1981 presidency of Ronald Reagan that the practice became an annual tradition.