Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

More momentum built yesterday among Democrats for impeachment proceedings than on any other single day of the Trump presidency.

Why it matters: One summer phone call by President Trump is proving to be more of an impeachment catalyst for House Democrats than two years of drip-drip revelations from Robert Mueller's investigation. Today, the behind-the-scenes action could burst into view.

  • "The horse is out of the barn," tweeted Geoff Garin, a pollster for House Democrats. "Saddle up."

What's happening: Pelosi meets today with her six committee chairs leading different strands of the Trump investigation.

  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), a 28-year House veteran and Pelosi ally, issued a statement yesterday calling Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president "a new chapter in Trump’s egregious conduct," "a reckless abuse of power" and "a turning point."
  • Last night, seven freshman Democrats — all with military and national security backgrounds — published a Washington Post op-ed saying it will be "an impeachable offense" if, as alleged about the Ukraine phone call, Trump "used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and ... sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage."

Pelosi, who has tried to tamp down impeachment fever, talked privately yesterday with lawmakers and allies about where they are on impeachment in light of the Ukraine revelations, to gauge whether there is a broad shift within the caucus, sources tell Axios.

  • "The Speaker is a numbers girl," a Democratic leadership aide said. "The public sentiment has to be there."

Between the lines: You could see the dam breaking Sunday, when House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff took a newly aggressive stance on impeachment — comments he made, Axios reported, after consulting Pelosi.

  • One of the main drivers of Pelosi’s reluctance to embrace impeachment was to protect moderate freshmen in swing districts who won her the majority in 2018. But some of those vulnerable Dems joined last night's op-ed.

The backdrop: All of this is unfolding while Trump is in New York meeting with foreign leaders at the UN General Assembly.

  • The president has complained in the past when controversies distract from the narrative he wants when he is with other heads of state. 

Why Ukraine is different: The Mueller investigation played out through press reports and occasional indictments across two years — softening the blow from the most damning revelations.

  • The Ukraine story has unfolded in less than a week.

What to watch: House Democrats meet today, and members will be swarmed by reporters. On Thursday, Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, will testify in open session before the House Intelligence Committee.

  • Maguire will be asked about an intel whistleblower's complaint that may have been triggered by the Ukraine conversation. His answers — or even non-answers — could be impeachment bait for Democrats.
  • Later this week, Trump is to meet at the UN with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was on the other end of the phone call.

Go deeper: Trump's defiance on Ukraine

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Early voting eclipses 2016 total with 12 days until election

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Americans have cast more than 47.1 million ballots in the 2020 presidential election, surpassing the total early-vote count for 2016 with 12 days left until Election Day, according to a Washington Post analysis of voting data.

Why it matters: The election is already underway, as many states have expanded early and mail-in voting options because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Trump and Biden at the first debate. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Image

Watch for President Trump to address Joe Biden as “the big guy” or “the chairman” at tonight's debate as a way of dramatizing the Hunter Biden emails. Hunter's former business partner Tony Bobulinski is expected to be a Trump debate guest.

The big picture: Trump's advisers universally view the first debate as a catastrophe — evidenced by a sharp plunge in Trump’s public and (more convincingly for them) private polling immediately following the debate.