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Schumer aims to drive wedge between Republicans on impeachment

Senate Democrats are waging a pressure campaign to try get their GOP colleagues to break ranks on impeachment witnesses.

Absent a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (R-Ky.), Democrats are expected to force floor votes on their requests for trial documents and witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks On North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration MORE.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.), backed by members of his caucus, is working to put Republicans in a bind and drive a wedge between GOP leaders, who say they don’t want witnesses, and a handful of moderate and retiring senators viewed by Democrats as persuadable on procedure.

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Schumer — who has been hitting the interview circuit to try to gain traction — lashed out at McConnell on Wednesday for saying he won’t be an “impartial juror” and stressed that decisions in the trial rest with individual senators, not the GOP leader.

“Each individual senator will have the power, will have the responsibility to help shape what an impeachment trial will look like. Do my Republican colleagues want a fair, honest trial that examines all the facts, or do they want to participate in the cover-up?” Schumer asked.

Schumer has predicted that GOP senators who reject Democratic impeachment requests will face blowback, but he has been careful not to mention any senators by name as he works to convert the four Republicans he’ll need support from during floor votes.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism McConnell seeks to end feud with Trump MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, said he thought Schumer was miscalculating if he thought GOP senators would face political repercussions from voters if they don’t allow for impeachment trial witnesses.

“I’m sure Schumer’s calculation in the Senate is maybe different than what everybody else’s is because of where the Senate seats [are] he is contesting this year, but I just think that this whole issue politically is moving against the Democrats. If they don’t see that, they should,” Thune said.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMark Zuckerberg, meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Pence sets the stage for 2024 MORE met with Senate Republicans on Wednesday during a closed-door lunch to argue that public opinion was turning against Democrats on impeachment.

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An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday found Americans deadlocked on removing the president with, 48 percent favoring impeachment and 48 percent opposed. A Gallup poll released the same day found that 46 percent support impeachment and removal, while 51 percent oppose impeachment.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2, argued that Americans “overwhelmingly” supported the Senate carefully considering the articles against Trump and that McConnell’s stance “cuts off the evidence.”

“I think it will be difficult for several Republicans who proclaim to be moderate to explain why they stood with Sen. McConnell,” Durbin said, but added that GOP senators haven’t indicated to him they would support an attempt by Democrats to force Mulvaney or Bolton to testify.

Senate Democrats’ campaign arm and state Democratic parties have started targeting GOP senators running in key elections next year, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (Maine), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBipartisan Senate proposal would grant million to minority businesses Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE (N.C.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (Colo.).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) knocked Collins on Wednesday after video surfaced of her backing impeachment witnesses, who ultimately gave closed-door depositions, during the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Clinton. Collins’s comments were made after the Senate trial had started.

“It’s been a long time since Senator Collins could credibly call herself an independent voice in the Senate, and her refusal to do her job and stand up to Mitch McConnell’s partisan cover-up scheme makes it clear why,” said Stewart Boss, a DSCC spokesman, in a statement.

The North Carolina Democratic Party similarly questioned whether Tillis would “be another rubber stamp for McConnell and enable this cover-up.”

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyGiffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall Democrats back up Biden bid to return to Iran nuclear deal Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE (D-Conn.), however, appeared hesitant that Republicans would face political blowback specifically on procedure, questioning how much people would follow a process fight while noting that Americans generally didn’t want a truncated trial.

“I don’t think that people support a rushed trial,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of people that don’t think Trump should be impeached who also don’t think the process should be rushed.”

Under impeachment trial rules, any senator can force a vote on a motion, with a simple majority needed to be successful. Unlike normal Senate votes, Vice President Pence cannot break a tie. That means Schumer needs four GOP senators to successfully call witnesses or request documents. He needs only three Republicans if he wants to block a GOP motion because, according to senators, a 50-50 vote would result in a motion failing.

Schumer has predicted that he’ll have a “whole bunch” of GOP support on the floor if Democrats force votes on witnesses, but his tactics appeared to have gained little traction with Republicans this week.

“I think the leader is viewing it as I do, as the political process that it is,” Tillis said. “It’s not going to take long to go through the information that the House has provided.”

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When asked about witnesses, Collins, who is one of two Senate Republicans running for reelection in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy does Bernie Sanders want to quash Elon Musk's dreams? Republican legislators target private sector election grants How Democrats can defy the odds in 2022 MORE in 2016, said it was “premature for us to make a decision.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left Press: Corporate America defies the GOP MORE (R-Utah), one of Trump’s most vocal critics within the GOP caucus, has said he’s “indifferent” on whether senators make a decision on witnesses before the trial starts, like Schumer wants.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds The Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council MORE (R-S.C.), who is up for reelection next year, called Schumer’s effort on witnesses a “political ploy” to “put a handful of Republicans in a box.”

“He’s always thinking of ways to take advantage in a crisis. It’s falling on deaf ears, I hope,” Graham added. “He’s trying to find a way to create a political issue for a handful of Republicans.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates MORE (R-Texas), who is also up for reelection, dismissed Schumer’s campaign as “posturing.”

“He’s pulling out all the stops,” Cornyn said, “but I think in the end there will be no live witnesses.”