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The impeachment fight is forcing the White House into damage-control mode

Image: President Trump Congratulates Astronauts For First All-Women's Space
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Oct. 18, 2019. Copyright Win McNamee Getty Images
Copyright Win McNamee Getty Images
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 — The politics of impeachment — and everything associated with it — has forced the Trump White House to retreat on multiple fronts.

On Saturday night, President Trump announced he would no longer hold next year's G-7 summit at his golf resort in Florida. The reason behind the reversal: Republicans couldn't defend it.

"With many members already unhappy with the consequences of the president's move to withdraw troops from Syria, and Democrats pressing their impeachment inquiry, Republicans on Capitol Hill were not eager to have to defend the appropriateness of the president's decision to host the Group of 7 meeting at one of his own properties," the New York Times writes.

On Sunday, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney continued to insist he never said politics were part of the administration's decision to hold up aid to Ukraine — even though he did (regarding an investigation in the 2016 election).

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney said that the president "had mentioned the DNC server to other people publicly. He even mentioned it to President Zelenskiy in the phone call, but it wasn't connected to the aid. And that's where I think people got sidetracked this weekend at that press conference."

FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace pressed: "But let me pursue that, though, because I believe that anyone listening to what you said in that briefing could come to only one conclusion. Let's play what you said."

Wallace then played the clip of Mulvaney from Thursday's press conference where he said: "Did he also mention to me in past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money."

In a follow up to that comment, it was pointed out by a reporter to Mulvaney that "what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well."

"We do that all the time with foreign policy," Mulvaney responded.

And now the Trump administration is considering leaving some U.S. troops in Syria — after saying an end must come to "endless wars" in the Middle East.

"Should Trump decide to keep some forces within Syria, it would be the second time he has reversed course on pulling all U.S. troops out of the region in less than a year," per NBC News.

They all add up to a White House mired in weakness, as the Washington Post noted over the weekend.

"Foreign leaders feel emboldened to reject his pleas or to contradict him. Officials inside his administration are openly defying his wishes by participating in the impeachment probe. Federal courts have ruled against him. Republican lawmakers are criticizing him."

The latest in the impeachment inquiry

House Republicans are expected to push a vote today on a resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Republicans are taking issue with how Schiff is conducting the impeachment investigation. The House votes at 6:30 pm ET, NBC's Geoff Bennett reports.

Bennett adds that Ambassador Bill Taylor - the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine whose text message called the apparent quid pro quo over military assistance "crazy" - is set to be deposed Tuesday. NBC News reports that Taylor left Ukraine last week for Washington, D.C., after House Democrats requested he appear.

Among others invited for closed-door testimony this week are Trump administration officials in the State Department, White House budget office, National Security Council and Defense Department. It's not clear if all will appear as scheduled.

2020 Vision: She's got a plan to pay for that

Elizabeth Warren says she has a plan … to pay for her health-care plan.

Warren said at several events on Sunday that she'll be announcing a plan that lays out how Medicare for All would be paid for in a Warren administration. NBC's Benjamin Pu reports her remarks in Des Moines, Iowa: "Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be putting out a plan that talks specifically about the cost of Medicare for All, and how we can pay for it," Warren said, per NBC's Benjamin Pu.


"This much I promise to you, I will not sign a bill into law that does not reduce the cost of health care for middle class families."

On the campaign trail today

Elizabeth Warren stumps in Iowa, where she holds a town hall in Ames… Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer and Marianne Williamson are also in the Hawkeye State… Cory Booker is in New Hampshire, where he campaigns in Concord, Peterborough and Keene… And Andrew Yang is in DC.

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Tulsi Gabbard continued to respond to Hillary Clinton's suggestion that Gabbard is a "favorite" of Russia. "She would not run as a third party candidate but declined to answer NBC's shouted question on what evidence she has to support her claim that people have been trying to destroy her reputation from Day 1" of the campaign, NBC's Priscilla Thompson reports on Gabbard after the Linn County Democratic dinner in Iowa.

Talking policy with Benjy

Why is it so hard to come up with a planto finance Medicare for All? One issue, which Warren raised on Sunday, is that the estimates of what Medicare For All costs are very different depending on who you ask.

A new study by the Urban Institute of a Medicare For All-like plan estimates all federal health care spending would be about $4.1 trillion per year, versus $1.3 trillion under current law. Robert Pollin, a professor at the University of Massachusetts who has consulted with Warren's campaign, estimates all federal health care spending would be about $2.9 trillion. To put that trillion-dollar-plus gap in perspective, the Pentagon's entire budget this year is$738 billion.


The source of these disagreements are twofold. One, experts disagree on how much Medicare For All would be able to save by cutting overhead and reducing payments to doctors and hospitals. Two, they disagree on how much additional care patients would seek once everyone had more generous coverage with no premiums or deductibles.

Meanwhile the most important player hasn't weighed in: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whose estimates would guide lawmakers if they were in a position to pass Medicare for All.

Data Download: The number of the day is … three


That's the number of candidates fighting for the top slot in Iowa, according to a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll showing Pete Buttigieg surging to striking distance behind Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

The poll finds Biden and Warren essentially tied at 18 percent and 17 percent support among likely caucus-goers, respectively. Buttigieg stands in third place, at 13 percent support.


Where is Bernie Sanders in Iowa (as he turned out 20,000-plus in Queens, N.Y.)? Try 9 percent.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Losing my religion

Don't miss the pod from Friday, when we looked at new data showing how fewer and fewer Americans identify as Christian.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The Pentagon is considering leaving some U.S. forces in northeast Syria, says Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Meanwhile, the U.S. is quietly reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan.)

There's yet more Brexit drama coming this week.

Canadians head to the polls today to decide whether to give Justin Trudeau a second mandate.


And Mitt Romney confirms he's behind the anonymous "Pierre Delecto" Twitter account.

Trump Agenda: Where's Rudy?

House Intelligence memberssay they hope to hear from Rudy Giuliani.

The Washington Post walks through how Trump abandoned his Doral G-7 plan.

The Trump administration is planning to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers.

2020: Stay on target, stay on target

Amy Klobuchar says she's right on track.


Democrats are worried about how much cash Trump has in the bank — and how much he's already spending.

Energy investors are spooked by Elizabeth Warren's rise.

The AP looks at how Donald Trump Jr. is campaigning for his dad.

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