But in both cases, any relief was short-lived. Mr. Nixon ended up resigning weeks after getting home, and Mr. Clinton was impeached by the House only days after his return. The complaints about impeachment interfering with foreign policy rang loud then as well; Mr. Clinton was in the midst of bombing Iraq for defying international weapons inspectors even as the House took its vote.
There is no escape for Mr. Trump either, not in foreign cities, not in the Oval Office and not on the television he stares at upstairs in the White House for hours each day. His presidency is tethered to impeachment, his legislative agenda mostly on hold, his foreign policy overshadowed, his re-election on the line. He takes refuge in the boisterous and jampacked campaign rallies he holds and in the morning and evening lineups on Fox News.
While in London, Mr. Trump defiantly declared he would not watch the opening of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings because he would be too busy conducting affairs of state, even as he lashed out at Democrats as “deranged,” “sick,” “nuts,” “crazy” and, in one case, a “maniac.” But while his blue-and-white jet headed back to Washington, he (or aides operating his account in his name) nonetheless blitzed out a couple dozen tweets recirculating posts from Republican allies castigating the hearing as it progressed.
At the White House in his absence, the atmosphere was somewhat surreal. The televisions around the building were tuned to the various news networks, especially Fox News, as they broadcast the hearing, but the volume was usually muted and aides sought to go about their business.
The White House refused to participate in the hearing, arguing that the process has been rigged by partisan Democrats, but it did send a couple of aides to sit in the hearing room and monitor the proceedings.
The assumption there, as elsewhere, was that the hearing changed no minds and the course of the next few weeks is already set — the House will probably vote by the end of the year to impeach along party lines, and the Senate will then hold a trial in which the president will not be convicted, setting him up to litigate the case during his re-election campaign.
“While I wouldn’t say impeachment is a good thing for the president, it is a highly divisive and partisan issue breaking down on party lines,” Ms. Ferrier said. “It has not changed people’s minds on the president. His approval ratings are remarkably consistent, in particular with Republican voters, and he clearly relishes a fight.”