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Trump's cries of 'witch hunt' are losing their magic

President Donald Trump on Tuesday at the White

President Donald Trump on Tuesday at the White House. Credit: EPA / Shutterstock / Chris Kleponis

The stonewall gets higher

President Donald Trump hasn't sent out a tweet about "fake polls" lately. Perhaps he realizes he can't kid himself, let alone anyone else, about how deep a hole he is in.

A 58%-38% majority of Americans in a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Tuesday endorsed the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry. By 49%-44%, those surveyed said the House should take the biggest step — removing Trump from office.

The revelation of his call on a foreign government, Ukraine, to find dirt on a political opponent, Joe Biden, has moved public opinion more than the Russia investigation ever could. The Post-Schar and Post-ABC News polls never found more than 41% in favor of impeachment proceedings. Even among Republicans, nearly 3 in 10 think the inquiry is warranted.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll had only slightly better results for Trump. It found 43% supporting his removal given what they know today, versus 49% who oppose it. But 55% of respondents said the allegations are serious and should be fully investigated.

The newest Quinnipiac poll found that a majority of voters — 53% — still approve the impeachment inquiry, while 43% oppose it. A 55%-41% majority agreed that Trump abuses the powers of his office. An even bigger majority — 57% to 34% — disapproved of how Trump has responded to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump's answer Tuesday was to fortify the stonewall and attack. His attorneys sent a letter to House leaders bluntly stating their refusal to participate in the quickly moving impeachment investigation that they called “illegitimate,” arguing it “violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent.” Earlier, Trump blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Weeks before Trump's call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Sondland was texting with the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, who wrote, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” It wasn't until five hours later, after Sondland spoke directly with Trump, that he sent a carefully worded reply: "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions … The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind." For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.

Constitutional clash

While complaining all the way, Trump cooperated to a degree with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation after failing to shut it down, though he wouldn't sit for live questioning.

When Mueller concluded, leaving open questions of whether Trump obstructed justice, the White House and the administration stymied House Democratic committees seeking documents and testimony. Now, with an impeachment inquiry underway, the stakes have gotten higher.

Trump's explicit refusal to cooperate sets the stage for a constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences and risks ensuring an outcome he would rather avoid, The New York Times writes. House Democrats made clear that the president's failure to comply with their demands for information may be deemed obstruction, which could be the basis for its own article of impeachment.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted that Trump’s refusal to cooperate signals an attitude that “the president is above the law," but “the Constitution says otherwise.” For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

As if to help, a loyal Fox News commentator let slip the anti-American notion of Trump as literally a king, calling the impeachment effort "regicide."

Rudy headed for hot seat?

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham invited Rudy Giuliani to testify before his panel and lay out his "disturbing allegations" against the Bidens and that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election against Trump.

But Giuliani couldn't expect the panel to be entirely friendly. While Graham and the majority are Republicans, the Democrats on the panel include three 2020 presidential candidates: Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar. Upon hearing of Graham's move, Harris tweeted: "Good. I have questions."

The panel's top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said she would "welcome the opportunity" to question Trump's personal lawyer "under oath about his role in seeking the Ukrainian government’s assistance to investigate one of the president’s political rivals."

Giuliani has called news media interviewers who challenge him "pathetic" and "corrupt." He frequently becomes agitated on-air. So a hearing, if it comes off, could make for quite the spectacle.

There's also the complication that Giuliani is refusing to cooperate with House impeachment investigators who are demanding documents from him. Before deciding whether to accept Graham's invitation, Giuliani told CNN, "I am still a lawyer and I will have to deal with privilege." For more, see Brune's story for Newsday.

Janison: America's multitasker

Trump reputedly isn't paying legal fees to Giuliani, but his mix of advocacy for the president and his private practice have a remarkable overlap, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Giuliani's representation of clients from the former Soviet Union blends with his recent shadow-diplomat role for Trump in Eastern Europe. It's the best of both worlds for Giuliani and his sycophantic skills. 

Trump wouldn't grant Giuliani's dream to be his secretary of state. But now Giuliani asserts he conducted official business in Ukraine on behalf of the State Department.

Back in May, Giuliani demanded that Ukrainian authorities go after businessman Igor Kolomoisky, a fierce critic of the Kremlin, according to the McClatchy DC Bureau. Kolomoisky happened to be a foe of two Giuliani clients who are the ex-mayor's collaborators for stirring Ukraine conspiracy theories while also seeking business opportunities there.

Warren overtakes Biden

The new Quinnipiac poll puts Elizabeth Warren in first place, supported by 29% of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents to 26% for Biden. Bernie Sanders trails with 16%, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 4%, Harris at 3% and Andrew Yang at 3%.

Yang's showing was good enough to qualify him for the fifth Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Nov. 20, making him the eighth candidate to do so. Booker and Tom Steyer previously clinched their spots on the stage.

Warren's Quinnipiac showing puts her ahead of Biden in the RealClearPolitics average of polls for the first time this cycle.

Trump talks Turkey

Under bipartisan bashing for removing obstacles to a Turkish attack on U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria, Trump insisted his administration “in no way” had abandoned the Kurds.

Early Wednesday, however, Turkey launched a military operation after U.S. forces withdrew from the area. Airstrikes were reported. 

Trump sent a series of tweets on why he wants to be nice to Turkey.

Among them: Turkey "is a big trading partner of the United States" and released "in very good health, at my request, Pastor Brunson, who had many years of a long prison term remaining." He was referring to Andrew Brunson, who the State Department declared innocent of Turkish charges of involvement in a coup attempt. It is true that Brunson, who lost 50 pounds under the stress f imprisonment, came home in better shape than Otto Warmbier, the college student who died shortly after being released from North Korea in a coma.

The president announced plans to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House on Nov. 13. As for Trump's backpedal on Monday — a threat to "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it takes "off limits" actions against the Kurds — Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay was dismissive. "Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said. For more, see Figueroa's story for Newsday.

Wednesday's rants are full of woe

Trump poured his woes into his Twitter account early Wednesday, bewailing "do-nothing Democrats," calling the larger American party "con artists," compared his cut-and-run in Syria favorably to the Iraq War begun under a "false and disproven premise," complaining other UN members don't contribute enough money, demanded "impeachment" of another congressman, played the "whistleblower" as partisan, and retweeted Fox News and CBS segments.

What else is happening:

  • The intelligence officer whistleblower who revealed Trump's call to Ukraine said in his memo that a White House official who listened in called the conversation “crazy” and “frightening” and was "visibly shaken," The New York Times reported. Some who heard the exchange believed "the president had clearly committed a criminal act," the whistleblower wrote.
  • Sanders said Tuesday he had been "dumb" to ignore recent symptoms, including increased fatigue, before his heart attack.
  • Warren stood by her story that she lost her first teaching job in 1971 because she was pregnant, CBS News reported. Several conservative media outlets have questioned the truthfulness of her account.
  • The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin didn't get congratulations from Trump for his birthday on Monday. Trump did send birthday greetings that day to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose birthday was Sept. 21, reported the Japan Times.
  • Trump aimed a taunting tweet at Hillary Clinton Tuesday, sarcastically suggesting she enter the 2020 race. Her reply: "Don't tempt me. Do your job."
  • The Trump Organization’s two Scottish golf courses lost $14.3 million in 2018, extending a multiyear string of losses, The Washington Post reported. Trump's business also has refused to pay legal bills resulting from its losing fight with the Scottish government against offshore windmills.
  • Trump charged on Twitter that the "Radical Left Mayor of Minneapolis," Jacob Frey, is trying to deny him "free speech" by sticking his campaign with a security bill in excess of $500,000 for a rally planned in the city for Thursday.

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