Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (N.Y.) is telling Democratic colleagues they are winning the impeachment battle after the first week of the President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement 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) TesterSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (D-Mont.), whose home state voted for Trump in 2016.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire 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 BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session 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 GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 CollinsSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol MORE (R-Maine), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySchumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ariz.) and 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 (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 McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire 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 MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 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 SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work 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 BluntBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon passes on Senate campaign 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.