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Democrats cry foul over Schiff backlash

Democrats are pushing back at GOP backlash over a controversial line in House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing MORE’s (D-Calif.) closing statement in Friday night's impeachment trial arguments.

Schiff sparked an audible reaction from Republicans when he referenced a CBS News report that cited an anonymous Trump confidant saying GOP senators' heads would be “on a pike” if they opposed President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE on impeachment.

Republicans — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins urges Biden to revisit order on US-Canada border limits Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped MORE (Maine) — quickly distanced themselves, with Collins overheard repeatedly saying "that’s not true" and Murkowski saying Schiff "overreached."

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But Senate Democrats are rallying behind Schiff, accusing Republicans of faux outrage or overreacting to a few sentences in an hourlong closing statement for the House managers. 

"The most dangerous place in America, maybe in Washington, is to stand by the exit door at the White House because when you fall out of favor with this president, he lops off your head, throws your body in the snow and buries you in vicious tweets," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, when asked about the GOP reaction to the line. 

"So the notion that he may be following this and have some feelings about how people vote is not preposterous," Durbin added. 

Asked about the outrage from Republicans, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats hesitant to raise taxes amid pandemic Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Democrats in standoff over minimum wage MORE (D-Mont.), who won reelection in 2018 in a red state, said Schiff's comment wasn't a mistake and that "in some cases people are just looking for excuses." 

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster New rule shakes up Senate Armed Services subcommittees MORE (D-Conn.) added in a tweet that Republicans were jumping on the line as a distraction to avoid the substance of the allegations against President Trump.  

"Let’s be clear - Come hell or high water Republicans were going to find something the House managers said that outraged them," Murphy said.
 
Schiff referenced the report as he was in the final stretch of his closing argument on the Senate floor Friday night.  

"CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, 'Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.' I don't know if that's true," Schiff said.
 
Several Republicans could be seen shaking their heads, with others overheard saying "not true" or "no." 
 
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told reporters that "the whole room was visibly upset on our side," while Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) said Schiff "offended every Republican senator."
 
But Democrats quickly accused Republicans of trying to turn the focus off of whether they will support calling witnesses — the one remaining wild card in Trump's impeachment trial. 

"It’s about to be a dark carnival of distractions, accusations, misdirections, outright lies, and fake outrages. Worse than usual. Keep your eye on two things. 1) what did the President do? 2) how did the Senators vote?" Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a tweet Friday night. 

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) added about the GOP reaction, "Methinks doth thou protest too much." 

It's unclear what if any impact the dust-up will have on a vote next week on allowing witnesses or documents in the trial. Democrats want to call four witnesses and need four GOP senators to support them. 
 
"The Republicans are so afraid to confront the actual facts here that are presented by the house managers that they’re always looking for a diversion. Remember, it was [Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.)] and the pens. And the first day it was [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House Nadler presses DOJ to prosecute all involved in Capitol riot MORE (D-N.Y.)] calling the Senate a cover-up or whatever he did. Yesterday they said we've heard all of this evidence," Schumer said during an interview with MSNBC.
 
 
Collins and Murkowski have both signaled they are open to witnesses. While they've been critical of Schiff, they've both said since the floor kerfuffle that it will not impact their votes. 
 
"Let me make clear that it's not going to have an influence one way or another, his saying it is not going to have an influence one way or the other on my decision making," Collins said Sunday in remarks emailed to The Hill.
 
Asked if Schiff's comment lost her vote on witnesses, Murkowski replied, "No, no, no."