Donald Trump thinks you're dumb

The oft-cited “Donald Trump tells it like it is” defense of the president is coming back to bite him and his ardent supporters. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE is now regularly saying the quiet part out loud. He has tried to use the office of the presidency to pressure foreign governments to investigate a political opponent, a clear abuse of power. 

On Thursday, a reporter asked the president, “What exactly did you hope the Ukrainian president would do about the Bidens?” Trump’s answer was stunning — and obvious at the same time. He replied, “I think if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation. … They should investigate the Bidens. … China likewise should start an investigation.”

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For those who have been paying close attention, this is, indeed, the exact thing Republicans have spent days denying that Trump asked in his July phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, though the president has upped the ante by adding a request to China to investigate the former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE and his son.

A Monmouth University poll released this week found that only 40 percent of Republicans believe Trump mentioned Biden on the call with the Ukrainian president. What will they say now?

The president is his own worst enemy — and I, for one, am thankful for it. He strikes a hole in the heart of any decent defense of his behavior on a regular basis. There have been no breaches in whistleblower protocol, no matter what accusations the president hurls at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or the whistleblower himself.

According to guidance on “protected disclosures” from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), communication of urgent concern can go to congressional intelligence committees. There is bipartisan consensus on this, with spokespeople for Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Biden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Exclusive investigation on the coronavirus pandemic: Where was Congress? MORE (R-N.C.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (D-Va.) saying that it would be standard practice for the “intelligence committee to tell a potential whistleblower to hire counsel and file a complaint with an agency IG or the IC IG.”

There goes that argument. And with news trickling out about congressional testimony by Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, the former special envoy to Ukraine — which included a text message from Bill Taylor, the former top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, that read, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance to help with a political campaign” — the president’s story will continue to look more and more ridiculous. (The text message exchange reveals pushback on that assertion and then a suggestion to take the conversation offline.) 

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Americans are taking note. 

For those following public opinion on the impeachment issue, a new poll from USA Today and Ipsos finds that 45 percent of Americans support impeaching Trump, compared to 38 percent who oppose it. Critically, 44 percent support the Senate removing Trump from office, and 35 percent oppose it. The rise in support for removing Trump from office represents a shift in attitude toward impeachment from independent voters. Nearly a third feel there is reliable evidence to impeach, compared to 34 percent who say no, but those independents support impeaching Trump by a 37-33 percent margin. Overall support for removing Trump is now up to 37 percent in favor and 31 percent opposed.

This is before any formal inquiry has even begun. 

In the same poll, 52 percent say they believe Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden is an abuse of power, compared to just 21 percent who don’t. The gap among independents is noteworthy: 45 percent see it as an abuse of power, versus 16 percent who don’t. It’s even close among Republicans, with 30 percent reporting that it’s an abuse of power and 40 percent saying that it isn’t. And 44 percent believe the whistleblower is a patriot, versus 21 percent who think he’s a traitor.

There’s an obvious opening for the Biden campaign to make the president’s attacks a central component of his campaign, especially with his emphasis on his own electability. There’s a strong argument to be made that Trump is going after Biden because he sees him as his principal challenger, which time will bear out. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE’s (D-Mass.) surge is very real

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In the meantime, we need to see more statements from Biden like this one: “With his administration in free fall, Donald Trump is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations.”

We must all be on the offensive to combat Trump’s smears and his Republican defenders and to hold them to account. The impeachable offenses are all around us, and they’re banking on the fact that we aren’t paying attention or are consuming news from sources that do their dirty work. 

Don’t let Trump’s gamble that we’re too dumb to see what he’s doing pay off. We’re better than that. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.