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 SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests 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 TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE on impeachment.

Republicans — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill 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) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee 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: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire 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 PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.)] and the pens. And the first day it was [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter 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."