The TAKE with Rick Klein
For all the inconsistencies in President Donald Trump’s responses to the scandal that threatens to consume his presidency, one piece hasn’t moved: the effort to attack Joe Biden.
The damage Trump has done to himself could be incalculable. But so too could the damage he’s doing to the former vice president, with attacks that have arrived at an inconvenient time – and that could outlive even the impeachment inquiry and subsequent potential votes.
Trump’s attacks have been scurrilous and misleading. They have also highlighted a front-running campaign that is less than nimble, with a candidate who seems annoyed having to answer for Trump’s charges.
It all comes at a vulnerable moment for Biden’s candidacy. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been emerging as a strong potential primary opponent. Biden was outraised last quarter not just by Warren but also Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, fueling concerns about Biden’s grassroots appeal.
Biden’s fellow Democrats aren’t inclined to follow Trump’s lead in attacking Biden. But several are already on record saying they wouldn’t allow the children of their own vice president to take a job like Hunter Biden did.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son,” Trump told the Ukrainian president, according to the now-infamous White House call readout.
He may not have been right at the time. But if he’s right going forward, that’s an awkward place for the former vice president and his family.
The RUNDOWN with Mary Alice Parks
According to FiveThirtyEight’s impeachment tracker, which averages polls that gauge Americans’ views on impeachment, in the last week alone Americans’ support for impeachment has been on a steady rise.
As they point out, one week ago, more people -- 51.1% -- were against impeachment, but fast forward to this week, and more people now support it than oppose it -- 46.7% to 45.1%. To underscore that, according to FiveThirtyEight’s calculations, the number of Americans opposing impeachment has fallen approximately 6 percentage points in one week.
On ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, Nate Silver zeroed in on another, more specific and -- likely -- more telling change too: The number of independents who now support impeachment has climbed to 41.9%.
Remember, the number of voters who self-identify as independents has been very high the last few years, by some estimates as high as 40% of all voters.
We know those independent voters are crucial for either party as candidates fight for the White House in 2020. So, regardless of what materializes from the impeachment inquiry in Congress, the president’s reelection team cannot like those numbers.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
For lawmakers on both sides of the aisle -- and in both chambers of Congress -- a second week of recess means another week of explaining their stances on impeachment to constituents at home while inquiry proceedings snowball back in Washington. Those explanations are particularly weighty for Democrats representing conservative-leaning districts.
Among them is Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who defended her support of an impeachment inquiry at a packed town hall last week where she was booed and jeered, but then also received a standing ovation for her stance. The scene served as an example of the deepening political divide among parts of the electorate as the nation barrels toward 2020.
One of the nation's top Republican leaders is already seizing the moment in hopes of bolstering GOP support. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who is also up for reelection next year -- is now signaling a direct endgame to the unfolding impeachment proceedings.
“All of you know your Constitution,” McConnell says in the new ad, looking straight into the camera. “The way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader."
ONE MORE THING
Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower who sounded the alarm on President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine and triggered an impeachment inquiry, told ABC News that he is now representing a second whistleblower who has spoken with the inspector general. Zaid told ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the second person -- also described as an intelligence official -- has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of the intelligence community's internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. Read the story.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News’ David Wright, who explains the significance of a second whistleblower coming forward with concerns about President Donald Trump’s conduct. Then, ABC News Political Director Rick Klein tells us how most of the Republican party is falling in line behind the president. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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CORRECTION: Under "What You Need To Know Today," it mistakenly listed a closed meeting by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The listing was incorrect and has since been removed.