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Republican jitters grow over Trump in ‘turning point’ week

Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters have on their radar, in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.

1. Trump outsources his diplomatic mission to Pence

President Donald Trump has been vocal this week about his communications with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including releasing a letter he sent to the Turkish leader in which Trump warned him not to be a “fool” over fighting in northern Syria.

But it was Vice President Mike Pence, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who went to Ankara to negotiate a ceasefire.

“The President didn’t go. He sent Pence in his place,” says CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who traveled with the vice president on Thursday. “It was just interesting watching Pence be in that room for so many hours negotiating.”

Collins had previously reported that multiple administration officials privately set the expectations low for the meeting. But after just nine hours on the ground in Turkey, a five-day ceasefire was announced.

As Collins flew back to Washington with Pence’s team, they were already getting feedback from the US criticizing the deal, as well as some reports of ceasefire violations.

The whirlwind trip, Collins said, was a close up view “to see how the President sent Pence in his place to go conduct his foreign policy.”

2. Injecting the issue of immigration back into 2020

Washington has been immersed this week in the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill and the fallout from the President’s decision to move troops out of northern Syria.

But New York Times White House Correspondent Michael Shear will be keeping his eye on the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

“The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about President Trump’s decision to end DACA,” Shear says. That case, heard on November 12, will focus on whether the Trump administration will be allowed to phase out a program that provides protections for nearly 700,000 so-called Dreamers.

“That would be injecting the immigration issue back into the country just as the 2020 election is underway,” Shear says.

And the ruling could provide a glimpse on how the Supreme Court may rule on other immigration-related proposals by the Trump administration even closer to the 2020 general election.

3. Canada’s elections are taking urgency out of USMCA

Tomorrow are Canada’s federal elections, featuring Justin Trudeau’s fight to remain the country’s Prime Minister.

Washington Post Congressional Reporter Karoun Demirjian says that election could have an impact on a critical trade deal, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Neither Canada nor the US have ratified the USMCA.

“It’s probably not going to go off the rails depending on who wins the Canadian election,” Demirjian said, “but you’re probably going to have to take until November or December before they can recall the Parliament” to vote.

Demirjian also noted the delays on the American side, particularly Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi so far declining to put the trade deal to a vote on the House floor. That’s something Trump and Republicans have criticized her over for weeks, and more delays could mean potential changes to the deal.

“The more that things potentially change and shift the more you could start to move away from what the original agreement was on the margins,” Demirjian said. “That’s potentially a big deal when you are talking about who stands to benefit from this and where they vote in the country and what that means for 2020.”

4. Democrats are looking for the Latino vote in Iowa

Politico National Political Reporter Laura Barrón-López is traveling to Iowa this coming week for a critical 2020 presidential forum, one hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.

The event is in Des Moines on Thursday, and among the 2020 candidates to attend are Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Barrón-López reports that LULAC is “trying to register tends of thousands of Latinos ahead of the Iowa Democratic caucuses, hoping that the group could have some sway” in who ultimately carries the state in the Democratic presidential contest.

Other Democratic presidential contenders, like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, are expected to make their own Iowa stops this week.

October 26 will mark 100 days until the Iowa caucuses.

5. GOP jitters are growing over Trump

From CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:

Most Republican revolts of the Trump presidency have been limited and short-lived. So it is dangerous to look too far ahead as we try to understand the current GOP anger and frustration. But this past week was different — the term “turning point” was used by several Republicans.

One relayed this: At a dinner Wednesday night, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “shot down” a suggestion that perhaps Republicans at some point might have to consider censuring Trump. “He shot it down hard,” was the exact description relayed.

But McConnell did tell Senate Republicans in their weekly meeting that they needed to prepare for an impeachment trial. The GOP cracks when it comes to impeachment are very limited, but still worth tracking.

Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida this past week told CNN, “I don’t think you can rule anything out until you know all the facts.” Rooney also decided this past week not to seek reelection, which could him more of a wild card in the weeks ahead.

Former GOP Gov. John Kasich of Ohio said he would vote yes on impeachment if he were in the House. Kasich was in the House back when President Bill Clinton was impeached. Kasich, though, is a constant Trump critic, so reading too much into his tough criticism would be unwise. But, again, it is worth tracking any Republican dissent or wavering on the impeachment question.

The President’s abrupt decision Saturday night to cancel plans to hold the next G7 summit at his resort in Florida will quiet some of the new Republican criticism. Hours before that President’s retreat, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, spoke for most of her colleagues in saying “with all of the stuff that’s going on in Washington, DC, right now, why would you just invite more controversy.”

That “stuff” as Murkowski put it, also includes searing Republican criticism of the President’s decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria. “A grave strategic mistake,” in the words of Leader McConnell. “A blood stain in the annals of American history,” to Utah Repubilcan Sen. Mitt Romney. And “the biggest mistake of his presidency,” in the words of South Carolina Republican and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Impeachment, Syria and the Doral G7 dust-up are very different things. But many frustrated Republicans see a connection — and it is this concern at the core of the growing GOP jitters: A President who can’t contain his worst impulses, and a White House staff not up to the challenges.

The Mick Mulvaney briefing was cited by many Republicans in the exchanges of recent days. In that one appearance, he disclosed how the President personally intervened to get Trump Doral on the list of the G7 summit, defended Rudy Giuliani’s role in administration Ukraine policy and admitted a quid pro quo in withholding aid to Ukraine unless it investigated a long debunked conspiracy theory about 2016 presidential campaign interference. Mulvaney later denied saying what he said, and insisted there was no quid pro quo.

But for Republicans worried about Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer, meddling and/or concerned about the White House’s ability to steer through the impeachment storm, the briefing was a disaster and a warning.

CNN