Impeachment proceedings against Trump seem more likely than ever

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Image: President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 16, 2019.
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 16, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP file

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — After the news over the last 24 hours, it sure seems that impeachment proceedings against President Trump are more likely than ever before.

  • At 9:00 p.m. ET last night, seven freshmen House Democrats — all representing districts the party flipped last year — wrote in the Washington Post that if the allegations that Trump withheld Ukraine’s aid to help him in the 2020 election are true, “we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”
  • An hour and a half later, the Post — later followed by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times — reported that Trump instructed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold back almost $400 million in aid from Ukraine at least one week before his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s new president.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been resistant to impeachment against Trump, has been asking colleagues if the Ukraine story is a tipping point, per NBC’s Kristen Welker, Geoff Bennett and Alex Moe. House Democrats have a members-only meeting set for 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • Politico reports that House Democratic leaders are considering creating a special committee to investigate this Ukraine story — to consolidate all the potential competing committees that might have jurisdiction over the matter.
  • And last night and this morning, more House Democrats — Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Haley Stevens, D-Mich. — came out for impeachment proceedings against Trump, bringing NBC’s count to 149 House Dems who have expressed support for some type of action on impeachment.

It’s time break out that old Ron Paul GIF, because it’s all happening. Or it at least looks that way this morning.

By the way, of those seven freshmen Democrats who wrote that WaPo op-ed, all flipped seats previously held by Republicans. Four won by less than 4 percentage points, and four also currently hold seats won by Trump in the 2016 election.

  • Gil Cisneros (CA-39): Won in 2018 by 3.2 percent. Clinton won district by 8.5 percent.
  • Jason Crow (CO-6): Won in 2018 by 11.2 percent. Clinton won district by 8.9 percent.
  • Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6, redistricted): Won in 2018 by 17.8 percent. Clinton won district by 9.3 percent.
  • Elaine Luria (VA-2): Won in 2018 by 2.2 percent. Trump won district by 3.4 percent.
  • Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11): Won in 2018 by 14.7 percent. Trump won district by 0.9 percent.
  • Elissa Slotkin (MI-8): Won in 2018 by 3.8 percent. Trump won district by 6.7 percent.
  • Abigail Spanberger (VA-7): Won in 2018 by 2.0 percent. Trump won district by 6.5 percent.

But the GOP side hasn’t budged — at least for now

Notably, however, all of that recent impeachment action is on the Democratic side.

For Republicans — outside of the concerns by Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey and maybe Lindsey Graham — it’s been a much different story.

Vice News’ Elizabeth Landers asked Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., if he had concerns about the Trump-Ukraine-whistleblower story: “You’re welcome to talk to James in my office.” (Replying to an earlier question by Landers, Sasse said he’s not doing interviews on the topic right now, since he sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.)

Another reporter yesterday asked Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., if a U.S. president should be talking to foreign leaders about domestic political opponents. The senator’s response: Probably not.

HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney asked Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., if it was OK for a president to ask a foreign government to help him win an election. “Is that what he did?” Hawley responded. “He asked them for help with an election? Can you send me that?”

And Marco Rubio said that Trump shouldn’t have raised Biden with Ukraine’s president. He added, however: “But that in and of itself is not an impeachable offense, as some people claim. Now, the second thing you raise, [a quid pro quo], he denies, and so do the Ukrainians. If alternative information emerges, we have a different set of circumstances, but that’s not before us right now.”

2020 Vision: A race that’s about to get frozen in place

Several months ago – during the Russia investigation – we told you that if impeachment did happen, it would freeze the Democratic race in place.

Well, guess what’s going to happen if House Democrats go down Impeachment Road?

Answer: It’s going to remove the contest from the main stage — at least for a while.

Outside of that, we only have questions to pose:

  • Is a frozen race a good thing for the party (because it minimizes the internal fights and policy debates)?
  • Or is it a bad thing (because the Dem campaign seems so small by comparison)?
  • Does the story help Biden (because he gets his one-on-one contest with Trump)?
  • Or does it hurt him (because Dem voters think the story damages him)?
  • Can anyone who’s name isn’t Biden or Elizabeth Warren break through?

On the campaign trail today

Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg continue their tours through Iowa… Mark Sanford also is in the Hawkeye State… Beto O’Rourke is in Ohio… And Bill Weld and Joe Walsh participate in a GOP primary debate sponsored by Business Insider.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Pete Buttigieg yesterday campaigned in Iowa, where he endorsed the DNC’s new debate requirements. NBC’s Priscilla Thompson reports Buttigieg’s remarks: “There's been a fair amount of time now for candidates to make our case and to demonstrate the kind of strength that is required. We can quibble over where we're going to draw the line, we know they've got to draw a line somewhere so there's a manageable number.”

Bernie Sanders spent the day on his “Bernie beats Trump” tour, where hit President Trump for manufacturing goods in other countries, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach. “Donald Trump who is telling corporations to hire American workers does his clothing line in Mexico. Donald Trump who loves American workers makes his furniture line in Turkey,” Sanders said. “So, I say to Trump before you tell corporations all over the world to come back to America, why don't you lead by example.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 21 percent

21 percent.

That’s the share of all voters other than Democratic primary voters who say they want the eventual Democratic nominee for president to propose larger scale policies that bring major change on issues like health care, climate change and college affordability, even if they may cost more and be harder to pass.

A larger share of all voters, 34 percent, say they prefer proposals on those issues that would create less change but be easier to pass. And 41 percent say they prefer neither small nor large scale policies on those issues to bring about change at all.

That’s according to our recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which also found that a majority of Democratic primary voters — 56 percent — said they prefer large scale change, compared to 40 percent who prefer policies on a smaller scale.

The Lid: Bad Blood

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we reported on Trump’s historically low personal likeability ratings — and why they matter.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The newest calls for impeachment could give Nancy Pelosi “cover” to take the next step, per NBC’s Heidi Pryzbyla, Geoff Bennett and Alex Moe.

And the New York Times, on Trump: “Instead of ‘No Collusion!’ Trump Now Seems to Be Saying, So What if I Did?”

A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration violated the law by failing to resolve visa applications for Afghans and Iraqis who worked with American troops and diplomats.

Meanwhile, across the pond: Britain’s highest court has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was illegal.

Here are the new DNC qualification rules for the November debate.

Trump Agenda: Is the dam breaking?

Jonathan Allen writes that the impeachment dam could break this week.

A U.S. soldier has been arrested after allegedly passing on bomb-making instructions and seeking to attack cell towers and news stations.

Trump mocked 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter.

The president has been talking an awful lot about the Nobel Prize.

2020: Hop on the bus, Gus

POLITICO looks at what Pete Buttigieg is up to with his all-access bus tour.

Could House Democrats fine or even jail Trump officials who refuse to cooperate?

Cory Booker’s campaign says it’s raised more than $500,000 since Saturday.

Joe Biden headed back to the fundraising well in Philly on Monday.