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Trump on defense as impeachment gains support, Syria decision gets friendly fire

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- With more and more Americans supporting his impeachment and Republican lawmakers slamming his decision to remove U.S. protection of Kurds in Syria, President Donald Trump is in a defensive crouch.

A Washington Post-Schar School poll released Tuesday shows that a clear majority -- 58% -- of those surveyed support House Democrats' decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. That is up from 39% in a Post-ABC News poll conducted in May. And that figure is larger than the 47% of those who responded to a late-September CNN-SSRS poll who say they favor the inquiry.

Among independents, who could help decide whether Trump can hold on to key swing states next November, 57% support the impeachment investigation, according to the Post-Schar poll. The same survey showed that the pro-impeachment bloc has grown among all three political affiliations, when compared with the Post-ABC survey from May: 25% more of Democrats are now in favor, 21% more Republicans and 20% more independents. (The poll surveyed 1,007 adults by telephone Oct. 1-6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.)

Those figures appear to show that the White House, Trump campaign and the president's surrogates are losing the messaging battle around Democrats' inquiry, which is focused on his and his team's pressing Ukraine's new president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden.

The president's strategy has been to withhold information from House Democrats while rhetorically attacking them, the intelligence community whistleblower who prompted the inquiry and even Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, who has criticized Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Rarely one to divert from the brash tactics he employed as a New York real estate developer, Trump on Tuesday stuck to his plan.

 

During his usual morning "executive time" in the White House residence, Trump defended his administration's decision to block Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before a House panel by claiming in a series of tweets that he would have been "testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's (sic) rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see."

The president also wrote that a text message Sondland sent to a colleague last month about Trump's desires for U.S.-Ukrainian relations to include Kyiv investigating the Bidens pointed out that Trump did not want any quid pro quo discussed by American officials. "That says it ALL!" Trump tweeted.

But the president's Tuesday tweet omits key facts, which are reflected in text messages turned over to House Democrats by Kurt Volker, Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine. Volker resigned after details of the call with the Ukrainian leader were made public.

Those messages show U.S. diplomats discussing the president's unwillingness to grant Zelenskiy an Oval Office visit he greatly desired unless Zelenskiy looked into the Bidens. In one, Bill Taylor, a senior U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, drew a direct line between Zelenskiy's White House meeting request and a nearly $400 million military aide package that Trump himself froze.

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