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Trump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong

President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE has had a rough couple of weeks, but his Republican wall of defense is holding in the Senate.

Senate Republicans by and large are standing by Trump despite polls showing growing public support for impeachment, even among GOP voters.

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Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed MORE (R-Utah), Ben SasseBen SasseGOP senators applaud Biden for global vaccine donation plans Pence: Trump and I may never 'see eye to eye' on events of Jan. 6 White House: Biden will not appoint presidential Jan. 6 commission MORE (R-Neb.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP torpedoes election bill; infrastructure talks hit snag White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall MORE (R-Maine) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (R-Ohio) have criticized Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he pressed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE, a leading Democratic candidate for president. But none has endorsed the House impeachment inquiry.

The Ukraine controversy, which has been the impetus of the House’s impeachment inquiry, comes amid other negative headlines for the White House. Members of both parties have ripped Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, and last week two associates of Trump’s attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Newsmax hires Jenna Ellis, Hogan Gidley as contributors MORE were arrested for alleged campaign finance violations in a probe that is not yet complete.

Regardless, Republican aides and strategists say it would be a political mistake for a GOP lawmaker to take on Trump publicly.

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, you just keep your mouth shut and see how the cards fall,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell said there is broad recognition among Republican lawmakers that their political fates are tied to Trump in 2020. Even in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCommunion vote puts spotlight on Hispanic Catholics Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them MORE won in 2016, Trump will be crucial to mobilizing the GOP base, and a public spat with the president over Twitter could prove devastating. Bucking Trump could also trigger primary challengers to Republican senators who are up for reelection next year.

“Their entire political livelihood is dependent on Donald Trump winning in 2020. So unless there’s some enormous smoking gun that no one foresaw — and certainly that’s not the case right now — they’re going to stick with Trump,” O’Connell said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 MORE (R-Ky.) made the argument earlier this year that the path to keeping GOP control of the Senate in 2020 is to portray their majority as a crucial “firewall” against bad ideas from the House. 

McConnell says impeachment, just like other plans favored by the Democrats’ left wing, such as “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal, will be quashed in the Senate. The Kentucky Republican, who is up for reelection next year, slammed House Democrats last week for striking “at the core of our democracy” by trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election without “fairness and due process.”

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Romney, who is Trump’s most outspoken Republican critic in the Senate, declined to comment late last week when asked if the House impeachment inquiry is appropriate or whether he would vote in favor of articles of impeachment should they come to the Senate. He told The Salt Lake Tribune that he hasn’t spoken to any other Republican senator about the impeachment process, making no concerted effort to change the minds of his colleagues.

Articles of impeachment would need a two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, in the Senate to convict the president. At this point it appears unlikely any would even gain a majority, as Republicans control 53 seats to the Democrats’ 47.

Collins, who decried Trump’s call for China to investigate Biden as “completely inappropriate,” last week criticized Senate Democratic colleagues for rushing to embrace impeachment before the House investigation is complete.

She also criticized Republicans for racing to defend Trump before knowing all the facts.

“I am amazed that some of my colleagues have already made up their minds one way or the other before all the evidence is in and before the facts are known,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “I think that’s entirely inappropriate whether they’re for impeachment or against impeachment. Under the Constitution, the role of the senator is to act as a juror and that is what I did in the case of the impeachment trial of Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWhite House pushes back on claims Biden doing too little on voting rights The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them Boeing's top lobbyist leaves company MORE.”

Collins, a top Democratic target, is up for reelection next year in a state carried by Clinton in 2016, but she has been careful in criticizing the president.

Three other Republican senators up for reelection in 2020 — Cory GardnerCory GardnerEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms MORE (Colo.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal McGuire unveils Arizona Senate campaign MORE (Ariz.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (Iowa) — also declined to criticize Trump’s conduct while at home during the October recess.

A senior aide to a Republican senator who has kept a neutral stance on the impeachment question said House Democrats haven’t yet been able to break through to Republican colleagues and voters.

“Most people are going to hold their powder dry until we see what the House actually presents, but it certainly seems from a Republican perspective that every salacious and breathless charge seems to fall apart,” the aide said.

“There so far doesn’t seem to be a criminal malfeasance standard that’s being met. It seems to be more bone-headed stupidity that you shouldn’t do, but it doesn’t mean you should be removed from office,” the staffer added.

Senate Republicans are mindful of the fates of former Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.), two former GOP colleagues who squared up against the president and wound up retiring from public service under the threat of a tough primary challenge. 

“In private moments many of the Republican senators are embarrassed and concerned by the president’s behavior, but they also know what happened to Sen. Flake and Sen. Corker. They took Trump on, and the president pushed their favorability rating down into the teens. He was relentless in attacking both of them for that. That has not been lost on the Republicans in the Senate and so many of them hold their fire, keep their own quiet counsel and say nothing out loud,” said former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

“I served with many of them for a lot of years, and I know them well and I know they’re people who love their country and have a good sense of right and wrong,” he added. “They’re always using language like, ‘I wouldn’t have said that,’ or ‘I wouldn’t have said it that way.’ ”

“They’re just very concerned about a president who has 60 to 70 million people receiving his tweets every day,” Dorgan said.

The House impeachment inquiry has made progress in corroborating an unnamed whistleblower’s complaint that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden, though it hasn’t broken enough new ground to move Senate Republicans.

“Republican senators have not moved very much. A few of them have criticized Trump, but no one has suggested they’re ready to impeach the president,” said Darrell West, the director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

“Republican voters are still not sympathetic to the impeachment effort, so I think Republican senators will not shift unless there’s a major change in public opinion,” he added. “Most of the testimony to date has just confirmed what was in the whistleblower complaint, so it’s hard for that to move things. There’s going to need to be new information that alters people’s views.”

Some polls show the Democratic impeachment effort is gaining ground, but Republican pollsters and Senate GOP aides have disputed the accuracy of these surveys, arguing they undercount Republican base voters.

A Fox News poll last week showed that 51 percent of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, a new high.

An NBC News–Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this month, however, showed that 43 percent of American adults say Trump should be impeached and removed from office while 49 percent opposed the idea. A plurality of voters in that survey rated themselves as “strong Democrat.”

Trump pollster Jim McLaughlin said Republican strategists are generally discounting the polls that show high public support for impeaching Trump.

“Even in places like New Jersey, a majority of people in battleground districts will tell you they don’t want him impeached,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin pointed out his polls show that voters think Congress should be focusing on “the issues that matter, like health care, the economy, national security, immigration.”

“It was like two-thirds saying that’s what they should be focused on, not impeachment,” he said. “The Republicans are staying strong. Like,  over 90 percent of Republicans don’t want impeachment.”

McLaughlin said polls showing growing Republican support for impeachment are poorly conducted.

“A lot of them are doing random-digit dialing,” he said.

--This report was updated at 8:17 a.m.