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GOP cries boredom in attack on impeachment case

Republicans are bored — and they hope the American public shares their tedium.

The first week of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE’s impeachment trial has been met with regular assertions from GOP senators — as well as outside allies — that there is nothing to see here.

Whether their personal lack of excitement is real or confected, it seems to clearly have a tactical purpose: to encourage voters to pay little heed to what is going on. 

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Democrats have pushed back hard, emphasizing that the Senate is conducting one of its gravest duties — deciding whether a president has committed such egregious deeds to warrant his removal from office. The question, they say, is one of substance, not of entertainment.

“This is not a television show, and it shouldn’t be thought of, or judged, based on the standard of what is entertaining television,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSix notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Harris lists out 'racist' actions by Trump in '60 minutes' interview: 'It all speaks for itself' Pence travel questioned after aides test positive MORE (D-Calif.) told CNN on Thursday. “This is a trial on the impeachment of the president of the United States.”

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from pushing forward the idea that the Senate trial is a snoozefest, short of a fistfight breaking out between the House impeachment managers and the White House legal team.

“I think the troubling thing for many of us is actually staying alert enough to be able to follow it,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsPence's 'body man' among aides who tested positive for coronavirus: report Murphy says US would be 'better off' if Trump admin 'did nothing' on coronavirus Biden: Meadows coronavirus remark a 'candid acknowledgement' of Trump strategy 'to wave the white flag' MORE (R-N.C.), a close ally of the president, said Wednesday. “I would suggest that the American people, if they could turn their channel and watch something else, that is what they are doing.”

Republicans have signaled their boredom in other ways, too.

Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse MORE (R-Tenn.) tweeted Thursday that she was reading a couple of books during the trial, sharing the titles with her followers.

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Other senators appear to have fallen asleep or skipped out on parts of the hearing.

For most in the GOP, an impeachment process that does not shift Trump’s approval numbers or the public appetite for the president’s removal would be a perfectly acceptable outcome.

Current polling shows the nation evenly divided over Trump’s fate.

The RealClearPolitics (RCP) polling average on Thursday afternoon showed less than 1 percentage point separating those who want Trump removed from office (47 percent) from those who do not (47.9 percent).

The president’s overall job approval numbers remain in the same general range as they were a year ago — tepid but not catastrophic. The RCP average indicates that his performance in office gets 44.3 percent approval and 52.4 percent disapproval.

Republicans can live with that — so long as it gets no worse. For the moment, therefore, they are playing down the significance of the action on the Senate floor.

“Just a few hours into their opening arguments, they’re already repeating the same points they made for 13 hours yesterday,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Texas and North Carolina: Democrats on the verge? Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (R-Texas) complained on Wednesday, as Democratic impeachment managers, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (D-Calif.), pressed the case against Trump. 

“A rehashing of yesterday’s charade,” echoed Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottFrom HBCUs to Capitol Hill: How Congress can play an important role Democrats unveil bill to reduce police violence against people with mental illness Liberals should embrace Trump's Supreme Court nominee MORE (R-S.C.) to a group of reporters at the Capitol, also on Wednesday.

“You’re not going to win the game by time of possession,” Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Trump is out of touch with Republican voters on climate change GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (R-Ind.) told Slate on Tuesday, referring to the 24 hours allowed, over three days, for the Democrats to lay out their arguments.

Even some Republicans who are not part of the praetorian guard around Trump have expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm about proceedings. “Yesterday was a long day,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP clears key hurdle on Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, setting up Monday confirmation Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Murkowski says she will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court on Monday MORE (R-Alaska) told reporters on Thursday, echoing that the arguments became repetitive.

But the cries of tedium have come loudest and most insistently from Trump-friendly media figures. 

Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name Trafalgar chief pollster predicts Trump victory: Polls 'predominantly missing the hidden vote' MORE told his Fox News viewers that he was “not going to torture you” by broadcasting large swathes of the trial. On the same network, “Fox & Friends” anchor Steve Doocy complained that the proceedings were “unbelievably boring.”

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On Thursday, Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamTrump's test sparks fears of spread: Here's who he met in last week Fox News tops broadcast networks for first time in 3rd quarter Will Chis Wallace's debate topics favor Biden over Trump? MORE retweeted a post showing strong ratings for Fox News shows the previous evening and added, “I thought impeachment was supposed to be the left’s big ratings breakthrough?”

Democrats, however, say there is a strategy behind their long, and at times repetitive, arguments.

Throughout the day, viewers are likely to tune in and out of the hours-long Senate trial coverage coverage, so hammering key points again and again gives Democrats the opportunity to deliver their message to different audiences.

“We are trying this case before two juries: the Senate and the American people,” Schiff said Wednesday afternoon. 

“I have to hope that some if not all of the senators will abide by that oath and will hear us with an open mind. But even if they don’t, I do suspect the American people are watching and the American people are listening and they do have an open mind. And it is those Americans we are talking to also,” the lead impeachment manager added.

The boredom talk has further inflamed the partisan debate over whether the Senate should hear testimony from new witnesses and receive documents that the White House withheld from the House during its impeachment inquiry.

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Whenever Republicans insist that they have heard nothing new in the impeachment managers’ arguments, Democrats have shot back that testimony from key witnesses like former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonObama highlights Biden's tweet from a year ago warning Trump wasn't ready for pandemic Trump's former Homeland Security adviser on COVID-19: 'We could have saved more lives with a different, faster approach' John Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE would resolve their complaints.

Democrats argue that these witnesses, who refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry, are central players with firsthand accounts of Trump’s pressure campaign toward Ukraine. And their push was aided earlier this month when Bolton in a statement said he would be willing to testify if the GOP-controlled Senate subpoenaed him for testimony.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Trump looms over Ernst's tough reelection fight in Iowa Democratic senator votes against advancing Amy Coney Barrett nomination while wearing RBG mask MORE (R-Ky.), however, has been cold to the idea, casting uncertainty about whether the Trump officials will be ordered to appear before the upper chamber.  

Even though the debate around impeachment had fallen primarily along very partisan lines, there have been some exceptions.

One Republican senator who bucked the Republican “boring” talking point Wednesday was Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.). who suggested that he has, in fact, learned new things from the trial.

“I've learned a lot. Everybody has. Senators didn't know the case. They really didn't. We didn't stay glued to the television. We haven't read the transcripts,” Kennedy told reporters.

“If you poll the United States Senate, 9 out of 10 senators will tell you they have not read a transcript of the proceedings in the House. And the 10th senator who says he has is lying,” the senator added.