President Donald Trump floated an unsubstantiated claim Thursday that pharmaceutical companies could be pushing for his impeachment because he has tried to reduce drug prices.
During an event in Florida where he signed an executive order related to Medicare, the president highlighted his goal of cutting pharmaceutical costs. He then suggested with no evidence that drug companies could be helping to drive the "the hoax" — the name Trump has given the House Democratic impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his power by trying to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his chief political rivals.
We're lowering the cost of prescription drugs, taking on the pharmaceutical companies. You think that's easy? It's not easy. They come at you from all different sides. I wouldn't be surprised if the hoax didn't come a little bit from some of the people that we're taking on. They're very powerful. They spend a lot of money. Spend, I think, more money than any other group in the world, actually, in terms of lobbying and lobbying abilities. And I wouldn't be surprised if some of the nonsense that we all have to go through — but that I go through — wouldn't be surprised if it was from some of these industries like pharmaceuticals that we take on.
When asked about Trump's suggestion, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, a trade group for biopharmaceutical research companies, said it "is ridiculous you are asking me about it. Of course we are not" pushing for impeachment.
Trump has tossed out numerous unfounded theories during his time in office. An unsubstantiated claim that Biden, during his time as vice president, tried to fire Ukraine's chief prosecutor to stop him from investigating his son Hunter prompted Trump's push to get the nation to investigate his potential 2020 opponent.
Pharmaceutical companies have drawn bipartisan ire in recent years as politicians look to rein in runaway costs for consumers. They have become a punching bag both for Trump and several of the leading Democratic candidates for president in 2020.
When Democrats took control of the House in 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi identified drug costs as one of the areas in which she could cooperate with Trump. Pelosi released a plan to cut drug costs earlier this month, though the Republican-held Senate and White House are unlikely to support it.
Trump has lamented that the impeachment inquiry may make it harder for him to work with Democrats on efforts such as slashing drug costs. Some Wall Street analysts have also written that the inquiry could make it tougher for Congress and the White House to strike an agreement on a pharmaceutical pricing plan.
"We anticipate that this announcement will likely lead to a significant amount of energy in Washington that could have been used to target drug pricing being diverted to the impending proceedings in the short term," Baird analysts wrote in a note last week.
Many of the Democrats looking to face Trump in the 2020 election — led by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — have repeatedly said they want to cut drug costs and hold pharmaceutical companies more accountable.
— CNBC's Meg Tirrell contributed to this report.