What to Know in Washington: Trump Gears Up for Impeachment Fight

President Donald Trump’s counter-attack against House Democrats is taking shape as the White House moved to consolidate Republican support on Capitol Hill and vowed to block any cooperation with the spreading impeachment inquiry.

The White House delivered its most forceful response yet late yesterday in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declaring the inquiry unconstitutional and invalid, and saying neither the president nor his administration would participate in it.

The letter capped a tumultuous day for Trump, who earlier had to smooth things over with some of his staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill after surprising them by canceling the scheduled testimony of a key U.S. diplomat at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Separately, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, invited one of the president’s most fiery defenders — his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — to testify in public.

Trump had spent the past several days largely directing his own response to Democratic moves, mostly through his Twitter feed. But his efforts to build a more formal impeachment response team came after outside polling showed he was losing ground, with a growing number of Americans supporting the Democrats’ inquiry and impeachment itself.

Trump yesterday enlisted former House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) in his impeachment fight. Gowdy, a former prosecutor who left Congress after the last session, will help lead Trump’s legal strategy and coordination with Republican lawmakers. Read the latest from Jordan Fabian and Billy House.

Trump at White House
Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP/Bloomberg
Trump at White House on Monday.

Most Favor Trump Inquiry But Wary of Removal: A majority of Americans support the House Democratic impeachment inquiry into Trump, a sharp pivot in opinion from the first two and a half years of his presidency, but are also wary about removing him from office, according to three recent polls. The surveys were published yesterday by the Washington Post-Schar, Quinnipiac and NBC/Wall Street Journal. Over Trump’s time in office, survey after survey had showed the American public opposed to impeachment proceedings, even as he remained deeply unpopular.

The Washington Post-Schar poll found that 58% of Americans approve of an impeachment inquiry, while 38% disapprove. The approval includes 28% of Republicans. In a July survey, just 37% backed an inquiry. A Quinnipiac poll found that 53% approve, while 43% disapprove — but just 9% of Republicans said they approve. In July, just 32% overall supported proceedings. And an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 55% of Americans either support an inquiry or believe there’s already enough evidence to impeach and remove the president, while 39% say there’s insufficient evidence for Congress to hold an inquiry. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

On Lawmakers’ Radars

USMCA Said Hinges on Mexico Labor Law: A group of House Democrats who visited Mexico City yesterday said U.S. approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement hinges on Mexico’s full implementation of a new labor law. The five Democratic lawmakers met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador amid intensifying talks with Trump’s administration on getting congressional approval in the coming weeks for the trade accord known as USMCA. “Our meeting with President López Obrador shed further light on the Mexican government’s desire and intentions to carry out its labor justice reform, but the United States needs to see those assurances put into action,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who’s leading USMCA talks. Read more from Erik Wasson and Nacha Cattan.

FISA Court Opinion Revealed ‘Abuses’: A declassified opinion by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reveals “serious abuses in the FBI’s backdoor searches, underscoring the need for the government to seek a warrant before searching through mountains of private data on Americans,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a statement yesterday. The FISA court’s ruling shows that the FBI is able to count the number times it searches for Americans within its Section 702 foreign surveillance database, even though it told lawmakers it couldn’t, said Wyden, a Senate Intelligence Committee member. Read more from Kim Chipman.

Senators Urge Caution on Libra Membership: Two Senate Democrats are urging three payment processing companies to reconsider their involvement with the Libra cryptocurrency project envisioned by Facebook and a coalition of other groups. Libra poses risks not only to global financial systems, but also to the companies’ broader payments business, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a letter yesterday to Visa, Mastercard and Stripe. In the letter, the lawmakers cited news reports on the difficulty some of Libra Association members have faced in obtaining details on the organization’s management and risks. Read more from Lydia Beyoud and Joe Light.

Giant Joint Deployed in Cannabis Campaign: Cannabis advocacy groups targeted the Senate yesterday to get the Republican leadership to take up marijuana legislation they describe as a first step toward full legalization. A rally on Capitol Hill featured a 51-foot inflated marijuana cigarette with the label “Congress, Pass the Joint.” The gathering marked a colorful call to action from District of Columbia Marijuana Justice and affiliates from Maryland, Virginia and Colorado to push the Senate to pass the Secure and Fair Banking Act, or SAFE. Read more from Evan Sully.

Elections & Politics

Sanders Says He’ll Scale Back After Heart Attack: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said yesterday he plans to “change the nature” of his campaign after he had a heart attack last week, scaling back his vigorous schedule to ensure he has the stamina to continue his candidacy. “We were doing, in some cases, five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings, and meeting with groups of people. I don’t think I’m going to do that,” he told reporters outside of his Burlington, Vermont, home after visiting his cardiologist. “But I certainly intend to be acti vely campaigning.” He said he’ll “probably not do three or four rallies a day — do two, or do other things.” Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Democrats’ November Debate Will Be in Georgia: The fifth Democratic presidential debate will be held in Georgia on Nov. 20, the Democratic National Committee said yesterday. The forum co-hosted by the Washington Post and MSNBC will have a higher bar to qualify than previous debates. Candidates must have contributions from 165,000 donors, up from the 135,000 threshold for the Oct. 15 debates in Ohio. And the donors must be geographically dispersed, with a minimum of 600 per state in at least 20 states. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Around the Administration

Trump to Sign Order on ‘Rogue Agencies’ Rules: Trump is expected to sign a pair of executive orders today that would limit the use of memos, letters, and other guidance that federal agencies use to help individuals and companies comply with regulations, a person briefed on the plans said. Conservatives and business groups have long complained that the agencies use the process to establish “stealth regulation” that circumvents Congress and avoids public scrutiny. Unlike formal government rules the interpretations are issued without the typic al notice and comment period required by law.

“Americans deserve to have their side of the story properly considered by the government and not punished by rogue agencies who use fear and costly court cases to force Americans into following their directives,” the White House said in talking points on the executive orders distributed to supporters yesterday. Read more from Ari Natter.

Volcker Rule Overhaul Gets Final Approval: The Federal Reserve signed off on an overhauled Volcker Rule, making it the last of five agencies to approve changes that will dial back the regulation’s restrictions on Wall Street banks’ speculative investments. The rewrite, which takes full effect at the start of 2021, is meant to provide lenders a clearer picture of which trades are prohibited by Volcker. Four other financial agencies had already signed off on the effort and had waited weeks for the Fed to add its approval. Read more from Jesse Hamilton.

Foreign Affairs

Turkish Troops Begin Crossing Into Syria: Turkish troops have begun crossing into northeastern Syria to force back Kurdish militants controlling the border area, a Turkish official said, days after Trump said the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way. A small forward group of Turkish forces entered Syria early today at two points along the frontier, close to the Syrian towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, in preparation for the broader offensive, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kurdish-led forces said they were on high alert and called on fighters to head for the frontier to defend the region against a Turkish offensive that is expected to involve tens of thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers from NATO’s second-largest army. Read more from Selcan Hacaoglu and Onur Ant.

Europeans Call on North Korea to Re-engage: European ambassadors at the United Nations called on North Korea to re-engage in talks with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program and vowed that international sanctions will remain in place until Pyongyang complies. North Korea needs to “take concrete steps with a view to abandoning all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” according to a statement issued yesterday by six European envoys following a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting. Read more from David Wainer.

U.S.-China Relationship Is Worsening: This was supposed to be the week U.S.-China trade talks got back on track and the two sides found a way to avoid sending more unsettling signals to financial markets and a global economy that looks increasingly fragile. But that didn’t take long to change. If the state of relations between the world’s two largest economies was a tangled mess before the latest round of Chinese negotiations get underway tomorrow and Friday, the tangle has only gotten worse. Shawn Donnan has a reality check.

Meanwhile, China is still open to agreeing a partial trade deal with the U.S., an official with direct knowledge of the talks said, signaling that Beijing is focused on limiting the damage to the world’s second-largest economy. Negotiators aren’t optimistic about securing a broad agreement that would end the trade war between the two nations for good, said the official, who asked not to be named as the discussions are private. But China would accept a limited deal as long as no more tariffs are imposed. Read more.

NBA on the Ropes in China: The National Basketball Association lost almost all of its major Chinese sponsors in the country, the league’s biggest market outside the U.S., as the government flexes its economic muscle after a tweet backing Hong Kong’s protesters triggered a backlash. A local joint venture of Nissan was the latest to distance itself from the U.S. league, joining China’s largest sportswear maker, the second-biggest dairy firm and a smartphone brand who all said they were pulling out. State television CCTV and tech giant Tencent Holdings said yesterday they won’t show NBA’s pre-season games. Read more from Jinshan Hong and Iain Marlow.

What Else to Know Today

Trump’s Appeal of N.Y. Tax Case Set: A federal court on Oct. 23 will hear the president’s appeal of this week’s verdict that threw out his challenge against a subpoena that ordered his accountants turn over tax filings and other financial documents to New York state prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero on Monday dismissed the case, ruling it should be heard in New York state court. He added he will deny Trump’s request for an order blocking the accountants, Mazars USA, from complying with the subpoena, Bob Van Voris reports.

Meanwhile, a team of investigators from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office visited former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in prison about a month ago and asked a broad set of questions about the president’s business that went beyond the payments made to silence Stormy Daniels, according to two people familiar with the matter. Vance’s team is planning to follow up with another interview of Cohen this month, the people said. CNN reported that Cohen would be brought from his upstate Ne w York prison to New York City for that meeting. Read more from Greg Farrell and Caleb Melby.

Judge Balks at Avenatti’s Complaint: The federal judge overseeing celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti’s prosecution for allegedly stealing a book advance from the porn star Stormy Daniels, his most famous client, balked at his claim that he was charged simply to please Trump. Avenatti’s lawyer, Dean Steward, said at a hearing in Manhattan he may seek to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it was brought to settle a personal score by the president, just as he has in a related case in which Avenatti is accused of trying to ex tort millions of dollars from Nike. Avenatti “made some very powerful enemies,” Steward said, including Attorney General William Barr, whom the lawyer described as “Trump’s lap dog.” Read more from Erik Larson.

U.S. Loses Top Spot in Competitiveness Rankings: The U.S. dropped from the top spot in the World Economic Forum’s annual competitiveness report, losing out to Singapore. Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Switzerland made up the rest of the top five, according to the WEF survey published on Wednesday. On the U.S., it noted growing uncertainty among business leaders and said trade openness has declined. Read more from Fergal O’Brien.

U.S. Whites Lacking a College Degree Population Drops: Being white without a college degree is an increasing rarity in America. That’s according to a blog post released yesterday by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, which says whites without a four-year college degree now make up only 40% of the overall population compared with 71% in 1975. While more whites are graduating from college, demographic shifts — including rising nonwhite birthrates and immigration of minorities — also impact the percentages. The “white working class” peaked in 1995 at 95. 6 million people, according to the report, which identifies whites without a four-year college degree as working class. Read more from Alex Tanzi.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

Coming up at BGOV

Live Events
Army Market Budgets and Opportunities Briefing
October 15, 2019
Register Now
2019 Fall Hill Watch Breakfast: Policy & Politics
October 17, 2019
Reigster Now