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Trump finds himself fighting political wars on two fronts

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during an executive order signing regarding federal regulations in the Roosevelt Room of the White House Oct. 9, 2019.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It’s one thing for a president to be fighting against his impeachment and removal from office.

And it’s entirely another when the same president decides to alienate his party — plus the opposition and much of the world — by allowing Turkey to invade Northern Syria against Kurdish fighters.

“Instead of enjoying uncontested GOP support as he plunges into a constitutional showdown with House Democrats and prepares for a bruising reelection campaign, Trump is now fighting on two fronts within his party,” the Washington Post writes.

And as Republicans defend him on one front, but criticize him on the other, the danger for Trump is that the American public might not separate the two different political wars.

You’ve heard of wagging the dog — diverting attention from one serious matter to another.

Well, this is Trump biting the dog that’s defending him.

And it’s Biden vs. Trump on the 2020 front

And when it comes to the 2020 race, Trump is fighting on a third different front — against Joe Biden.

"Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts," Biden said yesterday in New Hampshire, per NBC News. "He should be impeached."

"I'm not going to let him get away with it," Biden added. "He's picked a fight with the wrong guy."

Trump fired back at Biden.

“Well, he's falling like a rock,” the president said at a White House event yesterday. “We have him on tape with corruption. He's getting the prosecutor for — I guess, John, it was $2 billion – said, ‘We're not going to give you the $2 billion or whatever the amount was unless you get rid of this prosecutor,’ and there was, lo and behold, the prosecutor was gone.”

(In fact, Biden calling for ousting Ukraine’s prosecutor was supported by the United States, the Western countries and the International Monetary Fund.)

Is this where Biden hopes the campaign is the rest of the fall – in a one-on-one fight against Trump?

It might be his best strategy.

Slight majority favor impeaching and removing Trump, per Fox poll

Our latest NBC/WSJ poll found a plurality of Americans — 49 percent — opposing President Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, while 43 percent said they support it.

But a Fox News poll from yesterday showed a slight majority – 51 percent – favoring impeachment and removal.

Also in the poll, 66 percent said it was inappropriate for Trump to ask foreign countries to investigate political rivals.

And it asked what is more important to Trump: 55 percent answered doing what’s best for himself, while 39 percent said it’s doing what’s best for the country.

2020 Vision: Sanders says he “misspoke” about curtailing activity after heart attack

"I misspoke the other day. I said a word I should not have said and media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it," Bernie Sanders said in a sit-down interview with NBC News on Wednesday. "We're going to get back into the groove of a very vigorous campaign, I love doing rallies and I love doing town meetings.”

NBC’s Gary Grumbach reminds us what Sanders said the day before the interview:

Sanders: Look, we were doing, you know, 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. But I certainly intend to be actively campaigning. I think we are going to change the nature of the campaign a bit. Make sure I have the strength to do what I have to do.

Grumbach: What do you mean by change the nature?

Sanders: Well, probably not doing four rallies a day. I'm not quite sure, I could be wrong on this, I don't know if there is anybody who did more rallies than we have done all over the states and I, you know, probably not do three or four rallies a day, do two or do other things as well.

Also in the interview with NBC, Sanders dismissed concerns that he and his campaign weren’t transparent since it took three days to admit he had a heart attack.

“No, I don't accept that. I think that's a media thing. You know I think that to try to understand what in fact is going on, it's uh, I think we did it appropriately and as quickly as we could. So no apologies.”

On the campaign trail today

President Trump holds a rally in Minneapolis at 8:00 pm ET… Nine Democratic candidates – Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro and Tom Steyer – participate in an LGBTQ forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and CNN… And Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and Steve Bullock are in New Hampshire.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

While campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday, Joe Biden (not so subtly) jabbed Elizabeth Warren. “Without mentioning her name, Biden repeatedly referenced one thing that Warren is known for: her plans,” per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor and Amanda Golden. “‘We are not electing a planner. There's no one in this race who has a stronger record passing important and consequential election law or legislation than I have,’ he said. Later when discussing gun reform, Biden said ‘But more important than my plan is my promise: I promise you I will get this reform done.’”

The Elizabeth Warren-Jim Clyburn’s joint event in South Carolina on Wednesday was a split crowd when considering 2020 candidates, NBC’s Benjamin Pu reports. “When I asked voters where they stood with current 2020 candidates, several said they were split between Biden and Warren. When I pointed out that they were very different ideologically, voters were quick to note the goodwill the black community felt with Biden but said that they were also considering Warren now as they were learning more about her.”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 26 percent

26 percent.

That's the share of Americans who have a positive view of Rudy Giuliani, per our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Forty-two percent have a negative view, giving the former New York City mayor a net negative rating of -16 percent.

In December 2001, after Giuliani's response to the 9/11 attacks, just 2 percent of Americans had a negative view of him, with 84 percent viewing him positively.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Indie Nation

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at where independents are on impeachment in our latest poll.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The death toll has climbed in northern Syria.

Trump wants to race against the clock on impeachment. Nancy Pelosi has a different view.

Joe Biden turned up the volume on his rhetoric about Trump and impeachment.

The Ukrainian president says there was "no blackmail" in his phone conversation with Trump.

Trey Gowdy is in for Trump's legal fight.

Trump Agenda: I’m rubber, you’re glue

The president is "turning to schoolyard taunts" in the impeachment battle, writes the Washington Post.

Trump is downplaying America's alliance with the Kurds.

The New York Times' Peter Baker looks at how Trump is testing the constitutional order.

Here's David Ignatius in a Washington Post op-ed on Syria.

POLITICO looks at how the manufacturing downturn is turning into a political problem for Trump.

2020: Jane Says

The New York Times delves into Bernie Sanders' relationship with his closest adviser — his wife.

Elizabeth Warren clarified that she WOULD raise big-dollar cash for the party if she's the Democratic nominee — just not for her campaign.

Trump's planned Minneapolis rally is ruffling feathers.