October 15, 2019, 9:32

The Note: GOP loyalty to Trump set for new tests

The Note: GOP loyalty to Trump set for new tests

The TAKE with Rick Klein

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President Donald Trump says he isn’t worried about impeachment. The movement on the House side is real, though there’s nothing in the initial response to the latest conflagration that suggests he should sweat the Senate math.

But don’t mistake a lack of public GOP panic for anything approaching comfort. Democrats are starting to pick up on the Republican consternation over Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine, in ways that could push the impeachment conversation forward, even amid its uncertain politics.

House Democrats will hold a members-only meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss next steps. Those steps appear closer than ever to including impeachment, with a deluge of newly elected members joining the ranks of those saying that looks like the right path.

joewalsh.org via Reuters

Joe Walsh, a conservative former congressman announces his intention to challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican party’s 2020 White House nomination in a still image taken from his campaign video obtained by Reuters on Aug. 25, 2019.

Republican critics of Trump will get a new kind of visibility on Tuesday night. Two challengers for the GOP presidential nomination — former Rep. Joe Walsh, and former Gov. Bill Weld — will debate each other in a forum hosted by Business Insider that comes even as more states cancel primaries and caucuses to demonstrate loyalty to the president.

Jose Luis Magana/AP, FILE

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld speaks during the Climate Forum at Georgetown University, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington.

Weld is already calling the president’s actions “treason.” Sen. Mitt Romney labeled his behavior potentially “troubling in the extreme,” while former Gov. John Kasich is asking, regarding the push for necessary answers about his conduct, “Where are the Republicans?”

Predictable responses from the expected voices? Perhaps. But the Republicans Kasich is asking about may yet be found.

With deadlines set on Capitol Hill, the questions about transparency and accountability being posed to the White House this week could force Republicans to confront differences between what they might condone and what they’re prepared to defend.

For now, there’s something approaching bipartisan agreement that more must be learned about what the president actually said and did.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

On Capitol Hill, the Democratic chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees sent another letter Monday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, doubling-down on their request for documents, specifically regarding any efforts from the president or his associates seeking the help in the 2020 presidential election from foreign governments.

“Seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election undermines our sovereignty, Democracy, and the Constitution, which the President is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend,” the chairmen wrote, while suggesting subpoenas would be necessary should Pompeo not “fully comply” with requests.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives to speak to reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 17, 2019.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell pointed fingers back at Democrats and accused them of politicizing ongoing work from the intelligence committees.

McConnell said he was “very glad” to see the White House release congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine, because Russia poses a significant threat to U.S. interests, which — he argued — can best be countered by the U.S. working closely with “allies and partners.”

The Senate leader left out of his remarks any mention of the fact that the Trump administration slow-walked that $250 million in security assistance funding to Ukraine for months.

The TIP with Kendall Karson

The Democratic National Committee raised the stakes for the presidential contenders to qualify for the first winter debate in November: upping the grassroots donor mark to 165,000 and the polling requirement to either 3% support in four national or early-state polls or 5% support in two early state polls.

Between the second debate in July and the third in September, hosted by ABC News and Univision, a 1% increase in the polling threshold cut the qualifying field in half. This time around, another modest 1% bump could cripple those who are only just clearing the bar.

Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete Buttigieg look on as Sen. Cory Booker speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate on Sept. 12, 2019, in Houston.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who consistently lands at 2% in polling, but peaked at 4% in one ABC News/Washington Post poll from early July, could potentially miss the cut. Or billionaire activist Tom Steyer, who qualified for October after the third debate has only received 3% in one Iowa poll.

Some of the candidates are showing progress. Castro, Steyer and at least nine others have crossed the grassroots threshold for November, according to an ABC News analysis. Benefiting the most from the more rigorous rules are the front runners in the horse race — who are finding themselves in more stable territory as the debate criteria will likely winnow the field.

ONE MORE THING

Confused about the genesis of this latest controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian leader? We have two timelines that can help. One takes you from Ukraine’s 2014 revolution to Trump’s push for a Ukrainian probe of former Vice President Joe Biden and the other takes you from the president’s controversial phone call to the calls for his impeachment.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on the White House considering whether to release the transcript from President Donald Trump’s Ukraine phone call. Then, ABC “Nightline” co-anchor Juju Chang talks about the U.N. climate summit and the president’s surprise appearance. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight’s “Politics Podcast.” Democrats are once again talking about whether to impeach President Donald Trump after news broke that Trump may have asked the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses whether the Ukraine story changes Democrats’ calculus on whether to vote to impeach Trump. The team also discusses whether Elizabeth Warren is now the front-runner in Iowa. https://53eig.ht/2kHci4T

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Donald Trump addresses the U.N. at 10:15 a.m. followed by a senators lunch at 1:20 p.m. Later, there is a diplomatic reception at 7 p.m.
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues his swing through Iowa with campaign events in Clinton and Davenport, starting at 10 a.m. (CDT).
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, attends a United Automobile Workers strike in West Chester, Ohio, before joining a community meeting in Dayton. He then heads to a town hall meeting in Columbus at 4 p.m.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds a rally with the Chicago Teachers Union in Chicago starting at 7 p.m. (CDT).
  • Business Insider hosts the first 2020 Republican presidential debate with GOP primary challengers former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld in New York City starting at 7 p.m.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a fundraiser in Baltimore.
  • Sourse: abcnews.go.com

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