Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment

The politics of impeachment are rapidly shifting, and not in Donald Trump’s or Republicans’ favor. 

That is not to say that he will not be let off the hook in the Republican-controlled Senate, where most GOP senators have pledged their loyalty to Trump and to the party and not to their office or to the voters. But it is to say that the political price for such weak-kneed, noodle-spined blind loyalty is becoming steeper by the day. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE’s (D-Calif.) move to hold on to the articles of impeachment through the holidays started shifting the political tectonic plates. Counter to the commentary of the day, her effort to ensure more of a possibility that the Senate trial will include witnesses succeeded in providing time for more damning information to come into view. It also provided time for more potential witnesses to either express their willingness to testify or to publicly tell their story of a complicit Donald Trump.

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Pelosi knew she was never going to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding Trump upends controversial surveillance fight MORE (R-Ky.) to do the right thing. He always had a stronger hand, and he was always going to do as little as he needed to do. He wanted a short trial with no witnesses. 

It was also clear – from McConnell’s own words – that he was not going to be an impartial juror, and that he would run the trial to the benefit of Trump, even though that violates the oath he and the other 99 senators took at the beginning of the trial.

But Pelosi knew things would start changing.

It still may be a short trial. But the possibility that there will be witnesses grows stronger by the day. 

In the time that Pelosi held the articles of impeachment, we learned that there were damning emails showing the aid to Ukraine was held up only 90 minutes after Trump’s conversation with President Zelensky, and that the order came from the administration.

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In that time, former National Security Advisor John Bolton declared he would be willing to testify if he received a subpoena from the Senate to do so.

In that time, we learned that Trump’s own Government Accounting Office declared that the administration violated U.S. federal law in withholding the money that was congressionally mandated to go to Ukraine for military and security aid. The GAO stated that “the President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law,” and that the “faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

In that time we learned of the vicious details of a smear and persecution campaign against U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchHouse panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Former US ambassador Yovanovitch lands a book deal: report MORE, the specifics of which read like a Mario Puzo mafia novel, in which the intrigues, insults and surveillance all center on getting rid of a top U.S. diplomat committed to rooting out corruption in a foreign country

In that time we learned that the Ukraine government opened up an investigation of allies of Trump after reports that they were surveilling Ambassador Yovanovitch.

In that time we learned that indicted Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiWanna beat Sanders? Hope he wins South Carolina Giuliani: Bloomberg 'jeopardized' stop and frisk by 'overusing it' Giuliani asked for post-9/11 mayoral election to be canceled so he could stay in office: book MORE associate Lev Parnas has firsthand knowledge of the conversations, actions and deliberations that took place in Ukraine, the quid pro quo, the squeeze Zelensky and Ukrainian officials felt from Trump on initiating an investigation against Biden in return for the aid and a White House meeting, and the smears and insidious tactics used to get rid of Yovanovitch

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All of this new information has led to increased pressure on Republicans. They must ensure that the Senate trial is seen as somewhat objective and that Republican senators are not perceived as sticking their heads in the sand to avoid acknowledging additional damning evidence against Trump.

Indeed, most Americans believe the Senate trial should include witnesses. Sixty-six percent believe John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight 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 Bolton's lost leverage Azar downplays chance Trump will appoint coronavirus czar MORE should testify, and 57 percent (including 40 percent of Republicans) believe the Senate should call more witnesses.

GOP Senators who believe in fairness and the rule of law and who do not blindly side with Trump (Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPresident Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Conservative activist Charlie Kirk urges CPAC crowd to boo Romney The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response MORE (R-Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Murkowski, Manchin introduce major energy legislation The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate MORE (R-Alaska)) and those who have tough re-election battles ahead in their swing states (Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' GOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Chamber looks to support Democratic allies in 2020 MORE (R-Maine), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' GOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats The Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? MORE (R-Colo.) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisChamber looks to support Democratic allies in 2020 The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada Top GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat MORE (R-N.C.), have said they would be open to more witnesses and may vote to get them. Democrats need only four Republicans to side with them to force more witnesses to be called. 

This does not seem like an insurmountable number, especially given the new and damning evidence that continues to accumulate against Trump that paints a rancid picture of rampant corruption, abuse of power and political expediency.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is also a wild card in this process. He has proven to be allergic to politicization of our justice system, and he wants to protect the sanctity of the courts. Since all fair trials need witnesses, it may fall to Roberts to put his finger on the scales in the interest of fairness. 

It is very unlikely that Trump will be forced out of office, even if most Americans believe he should be removed. 

But if McConnell and his GOP colleagues in the Senate get their way and no witnesses are called, leading to a sham trial and subsequent Trump acquittal, the GOP will pay at the polls — both in the Senate and the White House.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.