Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.
Smart Brevity count: 2,272 words (~8 minutes).
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels restock on ammunition as they gather near the border town of Ras al-Ain, Syria, Oct. 12. Photo: Nazeer al-Khatib/AFP via Getty Images
President Trump had been calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's bluff for more than 2 years, and some senior administration officials thought Erdoğan would never actually go through with his long-threatened Syria invasion, according to 6 sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
The big picture: Trump would tell Erdoğan that if he wanted to invade Syria he would have to own whatever mess ensued, according to these sources. Erdoğan would have to take care of ISIS and manage international condemnation, trouble from Capitol Hill, and the quagmire with the Kurds. And when Trump put it in such stark terms to Erdoğan, the Turkish leader would demur. Until last Sunday, that is, when he told Trump he was moving ahead with the invasion of northern Syria.
Sources in Turkey have indicated that while Erdoğan was talking big, he thought Trump would restrain him, a U.S. official familiar with the details told Axios' Margaret Talev.
Behind the scenes: In phone calls and in-person meetings dating back to 2017, Trump has been effectively calling Erdoğan's bluff, according to sources who have been in the room with the two leaders and had access to their phone calls.
Another former senior administration official, who was with Erdoğan and Trump when Erdoğan visited the White House in 2017, said Trump called the Turkish leader's bluff then, too.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The White House is trying to dig itself out of a self-inflicted crisis on Capitol Hill after a hellish week. President Trump has signaled 3 moves that, while modest in substance, throw scraps of reassurance to anxious Republicans:
Behind the scenes: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and senior diplomat Jim Jeffrey have been working behind the scenes with Trump to encourage him to put pressure on Erdoğan, per sources with direct knowledge.
The big picture: Republican senators are increasingly spooked after being blindsided by weighty presidential decisions, a shift in public opinion toward impeachment, the absence of direction from the White House on impeachment, the fear of what other unknown scandals are still out there, and the daily controversies that all seem to involve the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
McMaster at a meeting at the White House in 2018. Photo: Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images
Three former administration officials tell Margaret Talev that former national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not authorize and was not aware of the "locking down" of transcripts of conversations between President Trump and foreign leaders that were politically damaging but didn't pose national security risks.
Why it matters: Congressional investigators want to learn how, when and at whose direction transcripts were moved out of the typical computer system and into a classified system meant for highly sensitive security matters.
Details: Early reports suggested the practice might date to McMaster's tenure (February 2017–April 2018).
The bottom line: If McMaster was not involved in the practice, it raises questions about whether it began under his successor John Bolton or was happening for a longer duration at the direction of officials working around the national security adviser.
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photo: Bauzen/GC Images
President Trump's allies still fear a general election matchup against a banged-up Joe Biden more than a run against an invigorated Elizabeth Warren, people close to the president tell Axios' Alayna Treene and Alexi McCammond.
Driving the news: Warren has surpassed Biden in some primary polls, seemingly helped by the early coverage of Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate conspiracy theories involving Biden and his son Hunter. And a Fox News poll now shows Biden and Warren each would lead Trump, 50% to 40%.
Why it matters: Several advisers in Trumpworld told Alayna that Warren is arguably a better candidate in terms of being quick on her feet and prepared on a debate stage. But those advisers say her liberal stances on some issues and her "likeability" problem with segments of general election voters make her weaker against Trump than even a Biden hindered by gaffes, generational dissonances and a son with personal drama and a lobbying record.
Meanwhile, Trump campaign adviser Brad Parscale has long thought Warren may be the eventual nominee — and privately relishes the notion of running against her.
But, but, but: Analysts and some Democratic strategists say Trump's team may be underestimating Warren's potency.
An excerpt from House Democrats' document request for Fiona Hill.
Ahead of this week's subpoenas and depositions, new documents obtained by Alayna show how Democrats are taking the impeachment inquiry in two tightly focused directions: Ukraine and obstruction of justice.
Why it matters: There are new temptations for Democrats to broaden the scope of their inquiry after developments last week including President Trump's gift to Turkey, new questions about coordination with the Chinese over Hunter Biden, and the dramatic airport arrests of two of Rudy Giuliani's associates with Eastern European backgrounds and their indictments on campaign finance violations.
Driving the news: If the document request for Trump's former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, reviewed by Axios, is a road map for what Dems plan to ask Trump administration officials this week — and committee sources tell Alayna that it is — then the inquiry remains focused on Ukraine and has not yet branched out into other countries.
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
The fourth Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN and the New York Times, will take place on Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio. Twelve candidates will debate each other on one stage.
The House may consider a resolution opposing Trump's actions in Syria this week, a Dem leadership aide tells Alayna.
The following Trump administration officials are scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees as part of their impeachment inquiry:
The Senate will confirm the following nominees, per a Republican leadership aide:
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official: