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 SchiffPelosi blasts Trump's 'dangerous' pick for intelligence chief Sanders says he was briefed on Russian effort to help campaign Trump: Democrats 'trying to start a rumor' about 2020 Russian interference 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 John TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration MORE on impeachment.

Republicans — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump 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) 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.), 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 MurphyKerry responds to Trump accusation he violated Logan Act: 'Another presidential lie' Overnight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash Democratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency funding for coronavirus response 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 PelosiRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter split on Bloomberg video | Sanders briefed on Russian efforts to help campaign | Barr to meet with Republicans ahead of surveillance fight Pelosi blasts Trump's 'dangerous' pick for intelligence chief MORE (D-Calif.)] and the pens. And the first day it was [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer 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."