Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report Trump administration freezes funding for study of hurricane barriers: report MORE (N.Y.) is telling Democratic colleagues they are winning the impeachment battle after the first week of the President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE’s trial, a reflection that the opening arguments of House managers have exceeded senators’ expectations.

Schumer touted polling at a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Thursday that he said showed public opinion is moving toward the party since the start of the impeachment trial.

The Democratic leader emphasized that the percentage of Americans who favor subpoenaing additional witnesses and evidence for the trial continues to tick above 70 percent and that over 50 percent support removing Trump from office, according to lawmakers familiar with the meeting.

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“Everyone is really impressed with the team, [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff [D-Calif.] and his house-manager team,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on internal discussions.

“He says he thinks the polls are moving, they’re going up,” said the lawmaker. 

Schumer publicly touted recent poll numbers at press conferences on Thursday and Friday.

“Every day the poll numbers, which were high to begin with, go further. Even a majority of Republicans believe there ought to be witnesses and documents,” he said Friday, without specifying what polls he was referring to.

“It’s overwhelming on witnesses and documents, among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Overwhelming, private and public,” he said of the polling data.

An Emerson College poll conducted over the first three days of the trial showed that 51 percent of more than 1,100 registered voters across the country supported removing Trump from office.

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It also showed a strong majority, 58 percent, want the Senate to call witnesses as part of its trial.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday showed that 66 percent of 1,000 adults nationwide think the Senate should call new witnesses at the trial while only 27 percent said it shouldn’t.

But the poll also found more people think Trump should not be removed from office than those who think he should be convicted and removed.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said the Senate should vote to remove Trump from office while 49 percent said it shouldn’t. The survey was conducted from Jan. 20 to Jan. 23, overlapping with the first three days of the trial.

Importantly for Democrats, the survey showed a majority did not think the Senate trial will be fair. Just 56 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll said they thought the trial would be fair, down 6 points from what the survey found in mid-December.

It suggests the Democratic messaging that the trial is not being run fairly in the GOP Senate may be resonating.

Democratic senators say they feel good about the trial.

“If people were watching this over the last two or three days, it was pretty compelling,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senator: 'The ultimate of ironies' for Trump to hit Romney for invoking his faith Committee on Veterans Affairs sends important message during tense Senate time Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash MORE (D-Mont.), whose home state voted for Trump in 2016.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (D-Ill.) said Schiff has done “an extraordinary job” and “the evidence has been presented in a powerful and convincing way.”

Republicans have cast doubt on the arguments of House managers, decrying the rules of the House inquiry, accusing Democrats of being politically motivated and arguing that Trump had a legitimate policy reason to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate corruption possibly linked to former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden looks to shore up lead in S.C. Hillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Vulnerable Democrats brace for Sanders atop ticket MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

But GOP lawmakers haven’t made any real effort to challenge the underlying facts of the House manager’s presentation, something that Schiff touted when he called on them Thursday to vote to remove Trump from office.

“Do we really have any doubt about the facts here?” he asked. “Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with?”

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Instead, Republicans are focused on wrapping up the trial as quickly as possible. Senate GOP leaders are confident they have the votes to block Democratic calls for additional witnesses and documents next week.

One of Trump’s staunchest allies, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE (R-S.C.), who has called for a swift end to the trial, admitted this week that Schiff has done a good job.

“He's well spoken. Did a good job of creating a tapestry. Taking bits and pieces of evidence and emails and giving a rhetorical flourish. Making the email come alive," Graham told reporters Thursday.

Republicans facing tough reelections this year — Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (R-Maine), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyLoeffler releases new ad targeting Sanders's 'socialism' GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman Overnight Health Care: Officials confirm 34 total coronavirus cases in US | ObamaCare favorability hits highest level in poll | McSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Colo.) — have kept very low profiles this week.

Democrats feel like they’re riding high and that the trial has exceeded their expectations.

Senators say there has been little conversation across the aisle this week, but Democratic senators say they have carefully watched their GOP colleagues faces during the trial, scanning for their reactions.

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When Schiff delivered his impassioned closing argument on Thursday to a pin-drop quiet Senate chamber, Schumer sat hunched down in his chair with a slight smile on his face.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives To avoid November catastrophe, Democrats have to KO Sanders MORE (R-Ky.), who sat at his own desk only a few feet away, looked impassive, with a slight frown on his face. And two swing Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MORE (R-Alaska), sat together behind the GOP leader, staring solemnly at Schiff as he spoke.

“At several moments yesterday, the testimony was so compelling that their eyes were focused almost to a person on what Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley: Dems cancel surveillance vote after pushback to amendments | Facebook to ban certain coronavirus ads | Lawmakers grill online ticketing execs | Hacker accessed facial recognition company's database Hillicon Valley: Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments | Lawmakers grill Ticketmaster, StubHub execs over online ticketing | Democrats cancel surveillance vote over pushback to amendments MORE had to say,” Schumer recalled.

When the House was debating the two articles of impeachment before passing them in December, some Senate Democrats privately voiced concerns that the Senate trial would be a dud.

One senator told The Hill at the time there was concern that it would make for boring television and that network and cable television would tune out as the House managers spent hours looking down at briefing books and reciting dry arguments in a monotone.

Democrats feared before the Christmas break that McConnell wouldn’t even allow the House managers to use video presentations on the Senate floor, a restriction that Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCongress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium MORE (R-Mo.) confirmed as a possibility earlier this month.

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Instead, McConnell decided last week to allow video and the House managers have used them often and effectively, although some Republicans have complained about watching the same clips repeatedly.

On Thursday, after Schiff wrapped up his second day of expectations, the same senator who was previously worried about a boring hearing, heralded the trial as a success.

“Schiff is a star, no doubt about it,” the lawmaker said.