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Truth and consequences: How Trump's honesty problem has caught up to him

Image: President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 7, 2018. Copyright Jabin Botsford The Washington Post via Getty Images file
Copyright Jabin Botsford The Washington Post via Getty Images file
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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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.


WASHINGTON — You have a problem on your hands when a man who's pleaded guilty for lying to Congress is perceived as being more honest than you are.

That's precisely the situation President Trump is facing when a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found voters saying — by a 50 percent-to-35 percent margin — that they believe Michael Cohen more than his former boss.

The only groups who believe Trump more than Cohen are Republicans (79 percent to 11 percent), whites without college degrees (50 percent to 37 percent) and white men (51 percent to 37 percent).

And it's not just the Quinnipiac poll. Our own recent NBC/WSJ survey found that only 37 percent of Americans think that Trump has been honest and truthful about the Russia probe, versus 58 percent who disagree.

Trump still might be able to survive impeachment with those numbers; remember, it takes two-thirds of the Senate to convict and oust a president — so it would have to include a sizable number of Republicans.

But will swing voters believe him on the campaign trail?

"His re-election depends on tearing down the Democratic nominee, but if voters have tuned out everything he says that makes it harder to stick," NBC's Benjy Sarlin tweets.

If a majority of voters think Michael Cohen is more honest than you are, how will they compare you with the eventual Dem nominee?

All of this is a reminder that the last two years HAVE taken a toll on the president.

There's a difference between surviving and thriving, and the president isn't thriving.

Distracted Democrats

If Trump has an honesty problem, House Democrats have a productivity problem on their hands.

Politico writes that Democrats this week will finally move to pass H.R. 1 — their bill to strengthen ethics rules and reduce the influence of money in politics.

"But instead of a laser focus on that, Democrats are enmeshed in a messy, divisive internecine food fight over support for Israel, which has pitted old-school Democrats like Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey of New York against Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota."

How distracted are Democrats? "This Congress is only 62 days old and, presumably by the end of the week, it will have taken two votes aimed at condemning the words of a member of the majority."

Democrats have spent the past month criticizing their own — whether it's Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax in Virginia, or Ilhan Omar on Capitol Hill.


And much of their outrage is Trump-driven. The logic: If they're going to call out the president for past and current behavior, they also have to call out their own.

But it's been a big distraction for them. And Republicans are enjoying every second of it.

Rocket Man returns?

Despite talk of reduced tensions with North Korea, it sure looks like they are being more aggressive after the failed summit in Vietnam.

NBC's Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Andrea Mitchell report that North Korea appears to be rebuilding a long-range rocket site at Sohae Launch Facility, according to a new analysis and imagery.


"'The activity they are undertaking now is consistent with preparations for a [missile] test, though the imagery thus far does not show a missile being moved to the launch pad,' Victor Cha, one of the authors of the report, said."

Kube, Lee and Mitchell add that North Korea began to dismantle some facilities at Sohae after the first summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

"'The facility has been dormant since August 2018, indicating the current activity is deliberate and purposeful,' the analysts said."

How will Trump react to this news?


At last week's news conference in Vietnam, Trump was asked if he was concerned North Korea would start testing again.

His answer: "[Kim] said the testing will not start. He said that he's not going to do testing of rockets or missiles or anything having to do with nuclear. And all I can tell you is that's what he said. And we'll see."

2020 Vision: Another one bites the dust

Tuesday not only brought usSen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., declining a White House bid; it also gave us former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg bowing out of the 2020 race.

"I know we can do better as a country. And I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election. But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field," Bloomberg wrote.


Our takeaway: If you wanted another sign that Joe Biden is most likely running, Bloomberg's announcement is that.

It's very unlikely Bloomberg would bow out if he thought Biden was a no-go.

On the trail today

Howard Schultz, in Houston, delivers keynote remarks at the Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 54 percent

Fifty-four percent.


That's the share of Republicans who say that, yes, Donald Trump is a good role model for children, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. (Almost four in 10 Republicans disagreed.)

That is… a lot higher than pretty much any other major group in the poll.

Just 17 percent of independents and 3 percent (not a typo) of Democrats say that the president is someone whom children should emulate.

Another thing we noticed? The gender gap. While 27 percent of men point to Trump as a role model, just 18 percent of women agree.


The Lid: Single-Issue Man

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, in which we look a look at Jay Inslee's single-issue presidential bid and how he hopes his record on climate will catapult him into a top contender.

ICYMI: School's out - forever

The Washington Post talks to former officials at Trump's high school about how his allies pressured the school to conceal his transcript.

New York regulators are subpoenaing Trump's insurance broker.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff helped establish two PACs that paid more than $1 million to a corporation he ran.


And John Hickenlooper says he's raised more than $1 million in 48 hours.

Other news clips you shouldn't miss…

Trump agenda: Silence on India-Pakistan

Ex-diplomats are criticizing Trump for failing to weigh in on the India-Pakistan crisis.

Forty-five percent of voters think that Trump has broken the law as president.


FDA chief Scott Gottlieb is out.

Trump will name federal prosecutor Jessie Liu as the Justice Department's No. 3 official.

We'll know soon how long Paul Manafort will serve in prison.

The New York Times has more checks written by Trump for cover-up payments.


Melania Trump is bashing the media on her "Be Best" tour.

Michael Cohen is on the Hill for his fourth day of testimony.

The White House says it won't hand over Kushner security clearance documents.

2020: Making the pledge

Sanders has officially signed the paperwork pledging to run as a Dem.


Trump says Hillary Clinton will be "sorely missed" in 2020.

Jay Inslee has no problem with getting super PAC help, he said.

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