For Pelosi, starting an impeachment inquiry was the easy part

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Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks from the podium after announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Sept. 24, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walks from the podium after announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Sept. 24, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — At the end of “The Candidate,” Robert Redford’s character asks this important question after winning an election in that 1972 movie.

“What do we do now?”

That’s the same question now facing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she announced a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump over this Ukraine-whistleblower-Biden story.

Who’s in charge of the impeachment inquiry?

Pelosi yesterday said she was formally directing the House's six committees that have jurisdiction over impeachment, oversight and other related matters to "proceed with their investigations under that umbrella," per NBC’s Heidi Przybyla and Adam Edelman.

But what does that mean? Who’s in charge — House Judiciary Chair Nadler? House Intel Chair Adam Schiff? Someone else?

What are the actual potential charges against Trump?

We know this all stems from the allegations against — and admissions from — President Trump that he discussed Joe Biden and his son on a call with Ukraine’s president, and that he had withheld aid from Ukraine.

But what are the potential specific charges — the high crimes and misdemeanors — against Trump?

As NBC’s Pete Williams reminds us, “The term ‘impeachment’ is commonly used to mean removing someone from office, but it actually refers to the filing of formal charges.”

More from Williams: “The House impeaches. The Senate then holds a trial on those charges to decide whether the officer — a president or any other federal official — should be removed and barred from holding federal office in the future.”

What’s the timetable for Democrats?

Remember, the Iowa caucuses take place on Feb. 3 – the day after the Super Bowl (for an NFL season that’s entering Week 4).

When do House Democrats want to wrap this up?

Because the clock is ticking when it comes to the 2020 presidential election.

Why this story is different from the Russia investigation

So we get the similarities between this Ukraine-whistleblower-Biden story and the Russia investigation.

Allegations of election interference. Dirt on the political opposition. Charges and countercharges.

But here’s what’s different:

  • There’s a whistleblower who is a potential witness.
  • There is a transcript/notes of Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s president.
  • You have Trump administration officials who definitely sensed that something was odd on the Ukraine front, per the Washington Post (“Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25”).
  • And this is about this coming election, not the previous presidential contest.

But maybe most importantly, this is – potentially – a much easier story for Democrats to tell, as the New York Times’ Carl Hulse puts it.

“His refusal so far to provide Congress with an intelligence official’s whistle-blower complaint as required by law, coupled with the possibility that Mr. Trump dangled American military aid as a bargaining chip to win investigation of a political rival by a foreign government, strikes them as a stark case of presidential wrongdoing.

Dems are already getting results from Trump

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What’s also different about this Ukraine story is that Democrats appear to be getting immediate results from Trump – after they made it clear they were going to pursue impeachment.

“President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had authorized the release of the ‘complete, fully declassified and unredacted’ transcript of a July phone call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” per NBC News.

Also: “The White House is preparing to turn over the whistleblower complaint by this Thursday, according to a senior administration official.”

It’s worth asking: Had Democrats resisted impeachment again, would they be getting these results?

Data Download: The number of the day is … 13

Thirteen.

That’s at least the number of House Democrats who currently represent districts that Trump won who have now come out for some type of action regarding impeachment, according to an NBC News count.

Of the 13, 11 have formally announced their support for the move just this week.

2020 Vision: Warren leads in another poll

First came Elizabeth Warren’s lead (within the margin of error) in the Des Moines Register/CNN poll. Then came her slight advantage (again within the MOE) in Monmouth’s New Hampshire survey.

And now Quinnipiac’s national poll shows her ahead, albeit within the margin of error.

The results: Warren 27 percent, Joe Biden 25 percent, Bernie Sanders 16 percent, Pete Buttigieg 7 percent and Kamala Harris 3 percent; no one else gets more than 2 percent.

However, Biden was ahead in last week’s national NBC/WSJ and Fox News polls.

On the campaign trail today

Elizabeth Warren holds a town hall in Keene, N.H… Bernie Sanders is in Michigan, attending a United Auto Workers picket line… Beto O’Rourke hits Pittsburgh, Pa., Warren, Ohio and Kent State University… Joe Biden appears on Jimmy Kimmel’s show… And Mark Sanford campaigns in Iowa.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

NBC’s Julia Jester spoke with Ohio voters in Dayton, Ohio and at Ohio State University about the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Some, like one student from Toledo, Ohio attending OSU said, “I'm excited to see the impeachment proceedings begin. Because I think that they're important in protecting our national security,” and continued that impeachment could be “an opportunity to unite people.” Others cautioned that impeachment would be a “back burner” issue. A woman from Texas attending OSU said, “I think that had they wanted to impeach President Trump, they should have done it before the primaries and before the 2020 election, because it'll just you unite a Republican base around a common enemy.”

While at a campaign stop in West Liberty, Iowa, Bernie Sanders didn’t rule out taking on a contested convention. NBC’s Gary Grumbach reports Sanders answered a question on a possible contested convention by saying, he is “in this race to win it” and “we are taking Trump and Republican establishment that goes without saying. We are taking on the Democratic establishment.”

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Impeachy keen

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what impeachment might mean for the 2020 race.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The Trump campaign is launching its rapid response plan to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry rollout.

What might the political fallout look like?

NBC’s Danny Cevallos weighs in about whether Trump’s conduct might be criminal — or impeachable.

Meanwhile.. Trump pushed a strikingly nationalist message at the United Nations yesterday.

Tulsi Gabbard will be in the October debate.

Trump Agenda: Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

Key foreign policy officials were sidelined as Rudy Giuliani pursued his own agenda in Ukraine, the Washington Post reports.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows limited support for impeachment proceedings.

Trump’s legal team is heading into the great unknown.

Do deportations actually reduce crime?

2020: Dueling wealth-tax plans

The AP looks at the dueling wealth-tax plans from Sanders and Warren.

Our team aboard Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s bus looks at how his first big trip went.

Al Franken is making a comeback — on the radio.

Vulnerable Democrats are worried about how to message the impeachment fight.

POLITICO looks at the size of Warren’s crowds.