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 McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season 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 MulvaneyJan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 11, including Pierson, other rally organizers MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWhen will Biden declare America's 'One China, One Taiwan' policy? India's S-400 missile system problem Overnight Defense & National Security — GOP unhappy with Afghan vetting MORE.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports 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 ThuneParnell exit threatens to hurt Trump's political clout Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama McConnell, Schumer hunt for debt ceiling off-ramp 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 ConwayChristie says he was unable to reach Trump on Jan. 6 Watchdog cites 13 Trump officials who violated Hatch Act before 2020 election Ethics watchdog accuses Psaki of violating Hatch Act 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 DurbinGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks 91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case 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 CollinsGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall MORE (Maine), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' Republicans press Milley over perceived progressive military agenda Gun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA MORE (N.C.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerGun control group alleges campaign finance violations in lawsuit against NRA Colorado Supreme Court signs off on new congressional map Colorado remap plan creates new competitive district 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 MurphyRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO Israel signals confidence in its relationship with Biden 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 ClintonRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future Popping the progressive bubble MORE in 2016, said it was “premature for us to make a decision.”

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai 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 GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback 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 CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 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.”