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The Investigations

🚨 🚨 🚨: Public opinion has shifted quickly on impeachment over the past few weeks — and not in President Trump's favor, according to a fresh Washington Post-Schar School poll out this morning. The findings

  • Majority rules: A majority of Americans [58 percent] say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of President Trump,” per our colleagues Dan Balz and Scott Clement.
  • More: 49 percent of Americans support removing Trump from office. 
  • Half measure: A further 6 percent endorse the decision to open an impeachment inquiry, but don't favor removing Trump from office.
  • Flashback: Previous Post-Schar or Post-ABC News polls taken in 2019 showed that only 37 to 41 percent of Americans favored such a step, Dan and Scott write.
  • Yikes: Asked about Trump's overall conduct, 60 percent of. Americans responded that the president “does not uphold adequate standards for ethics in government,” versus 35 percent who said he does. 

The swing comes in the aftermath of the revelations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. 

But the gaping partisan divide still exists: 

  • “More than 8 in 10 Democrats endorse the inquiry and nearly 8 in 10 favor a vote to recommend that Trump be removed from office. Among Republicans, roughly 7 in 10 do not support the inquiry but almost 3 in 10 do, and almost one-fifth of Republicans say they favor a vote recommending his removal,” per Dan and Scott.
  • However, among independents, support for the impeachment investigation is at 57 percent. Forty-nine percent of independents believe the House should vote to impeach Trump and remove him from office. 

The poll identified the catalyst sparking the biggest shifts in public concern: the release of the rough transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump has repeatedly called the phone call "perfect" and questioned the whistleblower's knowledge of it, although the transcript confirms many of the details in the whistleblower's complaint.

  • Asked about the call between the two world leaders, 62 percent of American compared to 32 percent felt that Trump's request to investigate the Bidens was inappropriate. “Over 8 in 10 Democrats call the request inappropriate, as do 63 percent of independents,” Dan and Scott write.
  • Only one third of Republicans said the contents of the call were inappropriate. 

On Biden: Despite the onslaught of unsubstantiated attacks from Trump and his allies, out poll found that a majority of voters believe Biden would “uphold adequate standards for ethics in government were he to become president.” 

  • “Those results also split along partisan lines, with 72 percent of Democrats saying Biden would uphold ethical standards, while 63 percent of Republicans say he would not.”

Also: The findings highlight Trump's problems with younger voters and women. 

  • Women: " … 65 percent of women favoring the impeachment inquiry, compared with 51 percent of men.”
  • Millennials: “Broken down by age groups, 40 percent of Republican-leaning adults ages 18-39 endorse the start of the impeachment inquiry, compared with 23 percent of those ages 40-64 and 13 percent of those age 65 and older.”
  • College degrees: “A majority (61 percent) of white college graduates favor the inquiry, while whites without college degrees, a mainstay of Trump’s support, are split: 47 percent in favor and 48 percent in opposition.”

Bottom line: The public, for now at least, is siding with congressional Democrats and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on an impeachment probe. 

A majority of Americans approve of the way Democrats are handling the inquiry (49 percent) compared to 56 percent of Americans who say they disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are responding to the inquiry.

  • Watch your back: “However, in a potential warning sign to Democrats, 50 percent of Americans say that the impeachment proceeding is distracting Congress from more important issues, slightly higher than the percent who disagree (46 percent).”

The latest on impeachment: “Call me.” Lawmakers will today hear from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who sent those fateful two words when asked by a career diplomat just over a month ago whether “security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations” regarding the Trump administration’s delay in sending aid to Ukraine. An owner of boutique motels, entities connected to Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration before he was appointed to his position in Brussels. Now almost a dozen House Democrats want him to resign.

What else is happening:

  • Dems are nervous their GOP colleagues will leak the whistleblower’s identity: So concerned they are considering extraordinary measures to protect him by "having the whistleblower testify from a remote location and obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice, these officials said,” our colleagues Rachael Bade, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian report.
  • OMB and Pentagon get subpoenaed: The two agencies now have until Oct. 15 to turn over any potential notes, transcripts, and recordings related to Trump’s call with  Zelensky and the broader issue of withholding aid, according to the House Intelligence Committee’s subpoena.
  • One no-show: State official George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the European and Eurasian Bureau did not appear yesterday for a deposition on the Hill. A Democratic aide told our colleague John Hudson conversations are ongoing on whether he and other department officials will testify.
  • And two potential more: A lawyer for two associates of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani accused Democrats of harassing his clients in a reply to their request for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to testify. You may remember their lawyer, John Dowd, from his time representing the president during the Mueller probe and for one lunch where he talked just a little too loudly.
  • The response was comic(al): Dowd sent his official reply to lawmakers in a note with the often-mocked comic sans font. Many on Twitter mocked that choice.
The Policies

CONFUSION REIGNS IN SYRIA AND WASHINGTON: Trump's unexpected announcement to draw down the U.S. military presence in northern Syria to make way for Turkish troops was received with confusion and criticism -- at home and abroad.

In a rare public split with the president, Republicans railed against the decision, all but making certain that a veto-proof action to oppose the decision.

Bad timing: “The mounting opposition means that Trump is facing some of the sharpest criticism he has received from his party at the same time that his political survival could be in the hands of Republican senators forming a bulwark against a growing impeachment threat,” our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim report. 

  • “A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement urging Trump to reconsider his position. “And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”
  • Republicans also argued that abandoning the allied Kurdish fighters would hurt tU.S. credibility: “This betrayal of the Kurds will also severely harm our credibility as an ally the world over,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said in a statement. “President Trump should rethink this decision immediately.”
  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) released a joint statement demanding congressional hearings on the action as soon as possible: “Barring a reversal of this decision, the Administration must come before Congress and explain how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests,” the two senators said.
  • Sanctions on the way?: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said “he plans to introduce bipartisan legislation with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) to impose sanctions against Turkey if its forces invade Syria, and could call for Turkey’s suspension from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said he expected sanctions against Turkey would get 'veto-proof' support in Congress,” per the Wall Street Journal's Lindsay Wise. 

Trump, however, defended his decision and proceeded to issue a warning to the Turkish government in a widely mocked tweet: 

  • Shot: “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” he tweeted. “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”
  • Chase: “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey,” he tweeted.

From the Kurdish perspective, Trump's decision was viewed by our allies who stood alongside the U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State “as a betrayal of the trust established during the fight, which has cost the lives of more than 12,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the joint Kurdish-Arab militia formed to battle the militants,” our colleagues Liz Sly, Sarah Dadouch annd Asser Khattab report.

  • “Our brave men and women with the Syrian Democratic ­Forces have just won a historic victory over the ISIS ‘caliphate,’ a victory announced by President Trump and celebrated across the world. To abandon us now would be tragic,” the Syrian Democratic Coalition, the political wing of the SDF, said in a statement.”

The scene on the ground in northeastern Syria as word of the announcement rippled across the world was chaotic, according to NBC News's Carol Lee and Courtney Kube.

  • “At 3 a.m. local time, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces, Gen. Mazloum Kobane, also received a phone call from a senior U.S. official telling him to get on a video teleconference with an American military commander who informed him President Donald Trump had ordered U.S. troops to withdraw,” they report. 
  • “This decision, this is something we don't expect at all," Kobane told Lee and Kube in an interview. 

But it wasn't just the Kurds who were blindsided: "According to multiple current and former U.S. officials, the White House's announcement of the decision late Sunday night blindsided not just America's Kurdish partners in the fight against the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, in Syria, but almost everyone — senior officials at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East."

In an effort to quiet some of the backlash, the State Department told reporters on background that Trump did not endorse a Turkish invasion of Syria, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening for months. 

  • “We do not support [the Turkish] operation in any way, shape or form, everybody from the president on down, was working on the safe zone implementation,” a senior State Department official told reporters, according to our colleagues Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan, Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch. “The president made it very clear that we would not support this operation in any way, shape, or form.”
On The Hill

MORE LAWMAKERS BASH NBA OVER HONG KONG: More presidential candidates and both the House and Senate minority leaders harangued the NBA over its decision to distance itself from a Houston Rockets executive's tweet in favor of the pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong as the episode continued to spark a bipartisan brouhaha, our colleague Ben Golliver reports.

  • Two senators took their response an extra step: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) requested a meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (it was denied). While Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called on the league to cancel its exhibition games in China this week, which are part of a decade-long tradition to gain a foothold in the lucrative country known for its love of basketball.
  • The number of NBA coaches and players who have spoken out on a number of political issues has made the league an easy target: “I thought the @NBA was proud to be the 'wokest professional sports league'?" Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sniped on Twitter with a link to a past column praising the league for letting players speak out. “I guess that only applies to speaking out on American politics & social issues." ​​​​​
  • The amount of GOP lawmakers speaking out has struck some as odd: Some Republicans, including Rubio, dismissed concerns over Trump publicly asking for China to intervene in the election yet have been outspoken on this. “The idea of China interfering in the sanctity of the NBA is somehow incredibly offensive to them,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper told Politico's Michael Calderone, “whereas the same standard for American elections results in the sound of crickets.”

This all comes at a big moment for U.S.-China relations: Trade talks between the world's two largest economies are scheduled to resume this week in Washington. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that China jhas been a “little more cooperative recently” after it resumed purchasing U.S. agricultural goods like soybeans. Trump was far from optimistic, “Can something happen? I guess, maybe. Who knows. But I think it’s probably unlikely.”

  • Chinese companies added to blacklist for 'Uighur abuse​​': ​​​​​The Trump administration added 28 new Chinese organizations to the so-called trade blacklist, which the Commerce Department said was due to their role in “human rights violations and abuses … against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.” The new additions include two of the world's largest manufactures of video surveillance products, the Times's Ana Swanson and Paul Mozur report.
In the Agencies

MORALE AT STATE NEARS A FOGGY (ROCK) BOTTOM: Secretary Mike Pompeo returned "from a European trip to a State Department workforce that is increasingly demoralized and resentful under his leadership, amid a growing belief that he has subordinated its mission and abandoned colleagues in the service of [Trump’s] political aims," our colleagues Karen DeYoung, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima report.

  • Why things are so bad: "Most worrisome to the department is concern that Pompeo did not intervene to protect U.S. diplomats either enlisted by Giuliani to assist his efforts or punished for being insufficiently committed to the cause, according to more than a dozen current and former officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter," our colleagues write of the secretary's response to efforts to cajole Ukraine over investigations into Biden.
  • Key quote: "The prevailing mood is low and getting lower, if it can,” Thomas R. Pickering, a diplomatic dean who served in high-ranking department positions and held seven ambassadorships, including to Russia and the United Nations, under six presidents of both parties told our colleagues.
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