President Donald Trump presented the National Medal of the Arts to country music star Toby Keith on Wednesday, while the U.S. Congress was voting to impeach him at the same time. Keith raised eyebrows when he was spotted at the White House on Wednesday, and later The Hill confirmed that he was there to accept an award. Bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs reportedly got the National Medal of the Arts as well.
Keith is known for his intensely patriotic music like the song "Courtesy of the Red White & Blue, while Skaggs is a multi-instrumentalist honored in the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. The two reportedly accepted their medals in a closed ceremony at the White House, with only Trump administration officials to witness. Both musicians have been known to praise Trump publicly over the last few years, although neither had commented on his presidency publicly since the Capitol riot last week.
Keith was one of the few professional musicians who agreed to perform at Trump's inauguration in 2017. Keith became a famously political singer following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001, and in 2003 he engaged in a public feud with the Dixie Chicks when they criticized then-President George W. Bush.
As for Skaggs, he was quoted in 2016 as saying: "I believe Donald Trump is the right person in the right place, and that it's prophetic." In recent years, Skaggs has limited most of his performances to the historic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
The National Medal of the Arts is reserved for artists in the U.S. who "are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States," according to a government website. Trump has been handing out many honors lately, though they have gotten dwindling press coverage as the coronavirus pandemic and his election conspiracy theories dominate the news cycle.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time — a first among all 45 U.S. presidents. This time, 10 Republicans voted for the impeachment, though many others dissented. While it is unlikely to get Trump removed from office early, the second impeachment is a historic stain that will mar his legacy in the decades to come.
Trump has not commented much on these updates publicly since Twitter and Facebook disabled his social media accounts. The president did issue one public statement to Fox News but has generally ignored his ability to reach the public through the press.