Trump jokes about impeachment probe at annual turkey pardon

WASHINGTON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday used the high power of his office to pardon "Butter," a 47 pound (21 kg) turkey, during a U.S. tradition at the White House where he also cracked jokes about Democrats' investigation into whether he should be impeached.

Both Butter and his alternate "Bread" escaped the fate of becoming the main course of a Thanksgiving feast and were sent to a special reserve in Virginia.

Standing at a podium in the Rose Garden, Trump said the birds had been raised to remain calm under "any condition."

"Which will be very important because they've already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff's basement on Thursday," he joked, referring to the House of Representatives intelligence committee chairman who has led the inquiry into whether Trump should be impeached for pressing Ukraine to investigate a political rival of his.

"It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey. But Bread and Butter, I should note, that, unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met."

A history of presidential turkey pardons
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A history of presidential turkey pardons
President Nixon Giving Annual Pardon to Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Pres. Ronald Reagan and the annual Pardong of the Thanksgiving Turkey. (Photo By: /NY Daily News via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President Bill Clinton stands with the annual Thanksgiving turkey as his handler Walter Gislason (L) looks on during presentation ceremonies 24 November at the White House in Washington, DC. The bird, presented to the President by the National Turkey Federation was given an official pardon from becoming dinner and sent to a local petting zoo. AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, : US President George W. Bush, with Chairman of the National Turkey Federation Ron Prestige (L) and President of the National Turkey Federation Dr. Alice Johnson (C), looks at Katie the turkey 26 November 2002 after he granted the turkey a presidential pardon in a Rose Garden Ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Shawn THEW (Photo credit should read SHAWN THEW/AFP/Getty Images)
ST/PARDON 11/17/2004 Robert A. Reeder TWP Annual event at the White House where the President pardons a turkey, this one named Biscuits, a West Virginia bird. Ceremony took place in the Rose Garden. Here, Bush holds Biscuit by the neck. Behind the turkey is Daniel Karunakaren.
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama pats a turkey named 'Courage' as daughter Sasha (2nd R) looks on during an event to pardon the 20-week-old and 45-pound turkey at the North Portico of the White House November 25, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Presidential pardon of a turkey has been a long time Thanksgiving tradition that dates back to the Harry Truman administration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (2nd L) gestures with his daughters Sasha (2nd R) and Malia (R) in the Rose Garden of the White House during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon November 21, 2012 in Washington, DC, as National Turkey Federation Chairman Steve Willardsen holds Cobbler. Obama pardoned turkeys Cobbler and Gobbler, both raised in Rockingham County, Virginia. The turkeys will then spend the rest of the holiday season on display at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The turkeys were raised by Craig and Nancy Miller in Rockingham County, Virginia. AFP Photo/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: At two feet tall and about 38 pounds, two full-grown Broad Breasted White domesticated turkeys are paraded before members of the news media in the Crystal Ballroom of the Willard InterContinental November 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The birds were raised by the National Turkey Federation Chairman John Burkel of Badger, Minnesota, and one of the turkeys will be pardoned Wednesday by U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 27: President Barack Obama with his daughters by his side, Sasha and malia, ceremoniously pardon Popcorn the turkey during the annual 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony on the north portico of the White House on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. The turkey, and turkey alternate, will be driven to George Washingtons Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. And will be on display for visitors during Christmas at Mount Vernon, through January 6. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 06: A Nicholas White turkey, one of two presidential turkey candidates, sits in an enclosure during a press conference at the InterContinental Hotel on November 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Two presidential turkey candidates, known as Tom 1 and Tom 2, are contending for the honor of being named the 2015 National Thanksgiving turkey and being pardoned by U.S. president Barack Obama during a pardoning ceremony at the White House before Thanksgiving. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) 'pardons' Abe, a 42-pound male turkey during a ceremony with National Turkey Federation Chairman Jihad Douglas (R) and turkey farmer Joe Hedden in the Rose Garden at the White House November 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. In a tradition dating back to 1947, the president pardons a turkey, sparing the tom -- and his alternate -- from becoming a Thanksgiving Day feast. This year, Americans were asked to choose which of two turkeys would be pardoned and to cast their votes on Twitter. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While other presidents occasionally gave turkeys commutations starting with Abraham Lincoln, another Republican president, George H. W. Bush, was the first to make sparing one an official act, according to the non-profit Constitution Center. Trump's predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, is credited with starting the tradition of cracking "dad jokes" at the pardon.

The threat of impeachment may be looming larger each day, with Democrats expected to release a crucial report after Thanksgiving, but it did not stop the White House from reveling this week in the somewhat goofy pardoning tradition.

It posted videos of the turkeys checking into a special suite at the Willard Hotel, where political leaders have stayed in the past, and baseball card-like statistics on both Bread and Butter.

The National Turkey Federation introduced the birds in a press conference on Tuesday. In true Washington fashion, polling decided which turkey would receive the official pardon, with Americans sharing their preference for Butter on Twitter.

According to the White House, Butter enjoys listening to bagpipes and has a gobble style that is "rowdy." Bread prefers Bluegrass music and wants to master aerial yoga. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert Editing by Alistair Bell)

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