As the Senate spars over the rules governing the impeachment trial of President Trump, fresh national polling suggests that a majority of Americans would like to see new witnesses and testimony presented at the trial.
It comes as Democratic House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Republican incumbent blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed trial rules as “rigged."
McConnell called for a condensed, two-day calendar for each side to give opening statements, at 12 hours per day. After that, senators would be able to question the Democratic prosecution and the White House defense team. Only then would witnesses be allowed, if they are approved by a majority vote of the Senate.
After cojmplaints by Senate Democrats, McConnell extended opening statements to three days.
More than three in four Americans questioned in a Monmouth Poll released Tuesday said that Trump administration officials, as well as the president, should be invited to testify. And just over half -- 51 percent -- said that members of the Trump administration who refused to appear before last year’s House impeachment inquiry should be compelled to testify in the Senate trial.
Four in 10 say the president should be compelled to testify, with 36 percent saying Trump should be invited but not forced testify, and less than a quarter saying the president should not be asked at all.
A CNN national poll released a day earlier indicated that nearly seven in 10 want testimony from new witnesses. Senate Democrats would need four of their Republican colleagues to cross party lines and join them for their push for new witnesses to be successful. The poll indicates GOP voters are divided on this question, with 48 percent saying they want new witnesses and 44 percent disagreeing.
McConnell’s proposed rules also orginially dictated that evidence collected as part of the House impeachment inquiry would face votes instead of being automatically admitted as evidence in the trial. McConnell amended that rule to allow the House record to be admitted as evidence.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer – apparently pointing to the latest polling -- said that “the public is understanding how unfair Sen. McConnell’s trial rules are and Republican senators are beginning to tell him to change them.”
A majority of Americans, 57 percent, in the Monmouth poll say the House managers should be able to present new evidence in the Senate trial to support the articles of impeachment. Another 37 percent say that the managers should be limited to sharing only what was revealed during the initial impeachment inquiry. As with the push for witnesses, there’s a vast partisan divide over new evidence, with 87 percent of Democrats but just 24 percent of Republicans supporting the move.
In the end, 51 percent of Americans questioned in the CNN poll said the Senate should vote to convict the president and remove him from office, with 45 percent saying the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. There was a massive partisan split, with 88 percent of Democrats but just 8 percent of Republicans calling for a conviction.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS January 16-19, with 1,156 adults nationwide questioned by a live telephone operator. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted January 16-20, with 903 adults across the country questioned by a live telephone operator. The poll’s sampling error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.