The Memo: Polling points to warning signs for GOP on Trump

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE is in new and dangerous territory this week, as some Republicans and administration veterans express unease about his actions, and polls show rising support for impeachment.

Voices that are normally supportive of the president have fallen silent, partly out of fear that new revelations could be around the corner.


A CBS News-YouGov poll released Sunday showed majority support for an impeachment inquiry, with 55 percent of respondents nationwide in favor and 45 percent opposed. 

A CNN-SSRS poll released Monday showed plurality support for the most dramatic move of all — Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. The CNN poll indicated 47 percent support for such a move among all adults surveyed, with 45 percent against.

Peter Wehner, who served in the administrations of the past three Republican presidents before Trump, said that Trump asking Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to help dig for dirt on 2020 Democratic front-runner Joe BidenJoe BidenOn The Money: Economists flabbergasted after Congress leaves with no deal | Markets rise as the economy struggles | Retail sales slow in July Congress exits with no deal, leaving economists flabbergasted Trump touts NYC police union endorsement: 'Pro-cop all the way' MORE was potentially more serious than other controversies.

“What happened has penetrated beyond anything else Trump has done. Republicans are afraid of that,” said Wehner, a persistent critic of the president. 

Referring to GOP support for Trump up to this point, Wehner added, “The only thing that will change that dynamic is if members decide that standing with Trump is a mortal threat to their political lives. But that could happen.”

The GOP is clearly not at the breaking point yet. But figures beyond the ranks of the usual Trump critics have expressed dissent in recent days.

Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security adviser, gave interviews to both ABC News’s “This Week” and The New York Times on Sunday in which he said he was “deeply disturbed” by the president’s behavior with Zelensky. Bossert also said he was “frustrated” with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump touts NYC police union endorsement: 'Pro-cop all the way' Feehery: Weak mayors destroy America's great cities Coronavirus concerns emerge around debates MORE and others for repeating to Trump a “debunked” conspiracy theory involving Ukraine.

On “This Week,” Giuliani shot back, “Tom Bossert doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

But Bossert isn’t the only dissonant voice Team Trump has to worry about.

On Sunday, Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerControversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon QAnon-supporting congressional candidate embraced 9/11 conspiracy theory Win by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP MORE (R-Ill.) called a Trump tweet “beyond repugnant.” Trump had amplified a comment from a conservative pastor who told Fox News that removing the president could lead to “civil war.”

Trump has also received criticism from Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney breaks with Trump's criticism of mail-in voting GOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Why the US should rely more on strategy, not sanctions MORE (R-Utah) and a handful of other more predictable critics.

The president and his allies must also contend with potential discomfort from other figures stepping into the spotlight. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUN Security Council rejects US bid to extend Iran arms embargo Overnight Defense: US seizes Iranian fuel bound for Venezuela | Progressives cool on Biden's foreign policy | Takeaways from Israel, UAE opening diplomatic ties Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire MORE on Tuesday sought to block congressional testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Kurt Volker, who resigned his position as special envoy to Ukraine on Friday.

On Tuesday afternoon, it was confirmed that Volker and Yovanovitch would nevertheless give depositions.

Trump spoke negatively about Yovanovitch in his phone call with the Ukrainian president, while Volker may know more than has yet been revealed about Giuliani’s activities in the country.

Other voices within the national security establishment now estranged from Trump, including former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Ex-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon MORE and former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet America's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE, also have the capacity to make trouble should they wish to do so.

The White House even suffered a jab from the intelligence community inspector general on Monday. The inspector general’s office issued a news release that pushed back on suggestions from Trump and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senator draws fire from all sides on Biden, Obama-era probes Has Congress captured Russia policy? Graham on Harris: 'No issue' as to whether 'she is an American citizen' MORE (R-S.C.) that the rules governing complaints had been changed to facilitate the whistleblower whose concerns sparked the current controversy.

More broadly, Republicans look ahead and fear the unknown.

GOP strategist John Feehery noted that while some elected officials were supporting Trump, others were keeping quiet for now.

“Some people are just kind of waiting to see what the next revelations are,” said Feehery, who is also a columnist for The Hill. “Most Republicans don’t really love this president but they respect his power with the Republican base.”

Feehery, who said that he saw no reason to impeach the president, also warned Democrats that they could engender a backlash if they were seen by voters as colluding with the media to make “lots of mountains out of molehills.”

Trump allies also say the president could have some success in pushing back against the impeachment efforts if the process becomes prolonged. Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE did see some signs of erosions of public confidence during his tenure, after he was attacked for months on end by Trump’s supporters.

Still, the nature of the current controversy makes it especially incendiary. The story is simple, unlike the Russia-related allegations investigated by Mueller. The whistleblower’s account has been borne out by the White House’s own memorandum of the Trump-Zelensky phone call. And the whole matter pertains to national security, where Republicans like to boast of their strength.

“The president must realize that the same partisanship that has kept him unaffected [by previous controversies] could turn against him in a second,” said Princeton history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer. “It’s about party power. For Republicans, if it is no longer in their interest to support the president, they will cut ties with him.” 

Zelizer did not suggest that such a moment was imminent. But he also highlighted the danger for Trump in new facts emerging — and cited an ominous historical parallel.

“The Watergate investigation was discovering facts that continued to shock, and continued to break political support” for former President Nixon, he said. “That is why it is even a question now, as to whether Trump can hold on to Republican voters.”

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