The Memo: Trump troubles deepen amid Ukraine storm

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE’s troubles deepened on Wednesday, just one day after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Trump signs largely symbolic pre-existing conditions order amid lawsuit MORE (D-Calif.) announced her support for an impeachment effort.

The pressure appeared to show on Trump, who delivered a downbeat 40-minute performance at a news conference in New York late Wednesday afternoon. 

The president sought, without success, to shift the focus to his economic record, even as the storm clouds over his dealings with Ukraine — “a big hoax,” according to him — grew darker.

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The day was bookended by two developments that were bad news for the president: the release of a White House memo on a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the delivery of a whistleblower's complaint to committees in the House and Senate.

A related Washington Post story asserted the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, had threatened to resign amid fears that the White House would block him from testifying candidly before Congress on Thursday. Maguire denied having considered resignation, and the White House also pushed back vigorously against the story.

Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president was far more problematic. Far from being exculpatory, as Trump had previously suggested, it gave new fuel to the impeachment effort. 

It showed Trump pressing the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio MORE, currently the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. It suggested Trump had explicitly pressed the foreign government for a “favor.” And it showed Trump suggesting Zelensky should work with his personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE and Attorney General William BarrBill BarrHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs YouTube to battle mail-in voting misinformation with info panel on videos MORE in the efforts to excavate dirt on Biden and his son.

The final allegation was a new one and prompted a quick statement from the Department of Justice. Spokeswoman Kerri Kupec asserted that Barr was not informed of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky until “several weeks after the call took place.” 

Kupac added, “The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject.”

The emphatic nature of that statement clarified Barr’s role, but it also contributed to the sense of chaos within an administration afflicted by a rising tide of crisis. 

Much less is known about the whistleblower’s account, given that it was delivered behind closed doors. The complaint, reportedly from an intelligence official, lit the fuse on the current controversy, but little is known for sure about its substance, and the identity of the whistleblower has yet to be revealed. 

The president has disparaged the person as “partisan” but has also said he does not know his or her identity.

Details were sparse in the immediate aftermath of the delivery of the complaint, though Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors Tucker Carlson sparks condemnation with comments about deadly Kenosha shooting Hillicon Valley: Three arrested in Twitter hack | Trump pushes to break up TikTok | House approves 0M for election security MORE (D-Ill.), who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters afterward that it “reinforces our concerns.”

On the Republican side, Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseMcEnany says Trump will accept result of 'free and fair election' McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' Trump says he'll sign order aimed at protecting premature babies in appeal to religious voters MORE (Neb.) stopped well short of a defense of the president, saying that his party colleagues should not “be rushing to circle the wagons” given that “there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there,” according to one CBS News reporter.

Some Republicans and conservatives expressed unease with the earlier release of details of the phone call. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' MORE (R-Utah) called the memo “deeply troubling.” Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashInternal Democratic poll shows tight race in contest to replace Amash Centrist Democrats 'strongly considering' discharge petition on GOP PPP bill On The Trail: How Nancy Pelosi could improbably become president MORE (I-Mich.), who left the GOP this summer in protest of Trump’s behavior, called it a “devastating indictment.”

But the president can take heart that most Republicans are standing by him, as they have done throughout the various other controversies that have dotted his presidency. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection Poll: Trump opens up 6-point lead over Biden in Iowa MORE (R-Iowa), said, having viewed the account of the call, “I don’t see anything there.” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Key Democrat opposes GOP Section 230 subpoena for Facebook, Twitter, Google MORE (R-S.C.) accused Democrats of having “lost their minds” in the impeachment effort. He said there was “not a scintilla of evidence” that Trump had engaged in a quid pro quo with Zelensky.

The president’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart came at a time when the administration was withholding almost $400 million in military aid that Congress had voted to give the Eastern European nation. But there is no reference on the call to that aid package.

Trump’s allies are making a vigorous defense, with a spokesman for the Republican National Committee emailing reporters to insist that the president had been “totally cleared” by the memo on the phone call.

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, who had earlier Wednesday predicted the president’s “landslide reelection,” tweeted that the Trump campaign had raised $5 million in the 24 hours since Pelosi announced the push for impeachment.

But it is clearly Democrats and Trump critics who have been buoyed by the newest revelations. Pelosi herself issued a statement about the phone call in which she blasted the president and said it was “not his job … to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign.” 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE (D-N.Y.) said, having been apprised of the whistleblower’s complaint, “I’m even more worried about what happened than I was when I read the memorandum of the conversation."

On the first full day of the attempted impeachment of Trump, the hunters are clearly happier than the hunted.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primary focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.