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Facing weaker GOP support, Trump urges allies to rally against impeachment

President Trump on Monday again denied any improper conduct with Ukraine, and lashed out at Democrats over the impeachment inquiry. Last week, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged the president withheld military aid to Ukraine in part to force a probe into the 2016 election. Now growing cracks have appeared in Trump's GOP support. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump is facing new weak spots in his wall of support, and he's urging his allies to get tough and fight.

    He spoke for more than an hour at a Cabinet meeting today, and condemned the drive to impeach him.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So, he made up a lie.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At a White House Cabinet meeting, President Trump again lashed out at Democrats.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They want to impeach, and they want to do it as quick as possible. And that's pretty much the story.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who has fueled the impeachment fire, sat beside him.

    Last week, Mulvaney acknowledged the president did withhold military aid to Ukraine. He said the move was aimed at forcing an investigation involving U.S. Democrats and the 2016 election. Later that day, Mulvaney insisted there was no quid pro quo.

    And, on Sunday, he walked it back again.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    It's legitimate to tie the aid to foreign aid to other countries. Can I see how people took that the wrong way? Absolutely. But I never said there was a quid pro quo, because there isn't.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In his own Sunday interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wouldn't defend Mulvaney's original comments. But he said he knew of no wrongdoing.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    I never saw that in the decision-making process that I was a part of. The conversation was always around, what were the strategic implications? Would that money get to the right place, or would there be corruption in Ukraine?

    I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what he intended.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today, President Trump repeated his own denials of anything improper in his dealings with Ukraine.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I haven't heard one Ukrainian — not one — say that there was pressure of any kind. There haven't even been reports of it to our people. Nobody's even said it. And the reason you haven't heard it because there is no pressure.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, growing cracks have appeared in the president's Republican support.

    In an interview with Axios on Sunday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah issued a broad indictment of President Trump. Romney, a longtime Trump critic, also refused to take impeachment off the table.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah:

    I just want to get as much information as we can, make an assessment consistent with the law and the Constitution.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Republican criticism of the president is building behind closed doors, too. A number of reports say he faced intense private criticism from Republican lawmakers over hosting the G7 summit at his Doral resort in Florida.

    Late Saturday, he gave in and reversed his decision. But, today, he was still defending the idea.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I was willing to do this for free, and it would've been the greatest G7 ever. I don't think you people with this phony Emoluments Clause — and, by the way, I would say that it's cost me anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The Emoluments Clause is a provision in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is also unclear how much money President Trump has lost or gained since taking office, because he has not released his tax returns.

    Meanwhile, the backlash from his own party comes as Democrats are still methodically working through their impeachment inquiry. Tomorrow, acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor will testify in a closed-door session as part of the investigation.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins us now to help make sense of so much of what is happening.

    Yamiche, hello.

    So, we just heard the president refer to this clause in the Constitution having to do with emoluments. He called it phony. Tell us a little bit more about what the clause actually does refer to and how it fits into the pressure right now on the president.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president at the White House is really lashing out at all his critics who said that it was wrong for him to host the G7 at Trump Doral, his property in Florida.

    And he, as you said, called this clause phony. In fact, it is actually in Article One, Section 9, paragraph eight of the Constitution. And what it says in part is that no person holding any office should accept any sort of present or gift from any kind from a king, prince or foreign state.

    And what the founders were thinking were that they did not want American ambassadors and American lawmakers to have any sort of influence that would come from European powers. That's important to President Trump because there are several lawsuits that say that President Trump is violating that clause by having the Trump Hotel and other properties and that foreign governments are staying there and essentially giving him gifts.

    The president's lawyers have pushed back and say that really the hotels are providing a service and that they're not — he's not getting gifts in return, that he's actually giving them something.

    But this is all really a big part of the Trump presidency. There are lawsuits still working their way through the courts. But it's very clear that the Emoluments Clause is very much real and not phony.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And his offering to use the Doral hotel to host this next meeting, which was then pulled back, has raised this issue all over again.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So we know, Yamiche, today, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of the Democrats, put out a fact sheet on impeachment.

    What are we seeing right now in terms of how the Democrats and the White House are navigating this impeachment process?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Both Democrats and Republicans really understand that messaging is going to be very important when it comes to this impeachment inquiry.

    So, today this morning, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, they debuted this fact sheet. It's up on the screen. It's called "Truth Exposed." And what it really is trying to do is make the case to the American people that the president is involved in a — quote — "shakedown," a pressure campaign and a cover-up.

    They're using those words to really message to the American people what this whole impeachment inquiry is about. The president today at the White House, he also was doing his own messaging. He said Republicans need to be tougher. He said Democrats are really being vicious and that they're sticking together.

    He also said that they don't have a Mitt Romney in their midst, basically saying that my party needs to stick with me, and, Mitt Romney, he should be really an anomaly, and not — and all the other Republicans should not be doing what Mitt Romney is doing, which is publicly criticizing him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Yamiche, I mean, you put it all together, this has been a rough few days for the president, and not only what you have been talking about.

    You had the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, having to walk back what he said at that briefing last week. You have had the change of position on whether to use the president's own hotel for this meeting with world leaders.

    You have also got Republicans, as you report on, breaking with the president on Syria. How is this adding up in terms of its effect on the president?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president is really looking at a season of weakness.

    That's what — The Washington Post is using that phrase, and it's a perfect way to describe what President Trump is going through right now. His own party is criticizing him about the G7, about Syria. And he's also having to reverse himself.

    We haven't seen this president really reverse himself on anything. Mainly, he's stuck to his guns, except for maybe on family separation and on the government shutdown. But the president's really — really seeing, in some ways, denting what has been a Teflon presidency.

    And that's concerning to a lot of people in the White House, even though Republicans still overwhelmingly support the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the president is saying, we're going to get through this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes. He's saying, I will still be reelected, and Democrats are really just angry about the 2016 election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, following it all, thank you very much.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

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