New poll on the eve of Trump's impeachment trial finds that 51% of Americans think he should be removed from office

ssheth@businessinsider.com (Sonam Sheth)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, from a campaign trip to Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Associated Press

  • A slender majority of Americans in a new CNN poll said President Donald Trump should be removed from office.
  • The poll, which was taken Thursday to Sunday, found that 51% of Americans said the Senate should convict Trump in his impeachment trial, which would trigger his removal from office.
  • The House of Representatives voted last month to impeach Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
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A slender majority of Americans in a new CNN poll said the Senate should vote to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office.

Fifty-one percent of Americans — a majority within the poll's margin of error — said the Senate should vote to remove Trump, while 45% said the Senate should vote to acquit him.

CNN's poll, which was conducted Thursday to Sunday by SSRS and interviewed 1,156 adults by phone with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points, also found that 58% of Americans believed the president abused his power and 57% believed he obstructed the inquiry by Congress into the matter.

A Fox News poll early last month found that 50% of voters believed Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 53% believed he abused his power, and 48% believed he obstructed Congress.

That poll used slightly different question wording than CNN's and was conducted before the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Both charges relate to his efforts to strong-arm Ukraine into pursuing investigations that could have been politically beneficial to him while withholding vital military aid and a White House meeting from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump's trial in the Senate officially kicked off last week when the House impeachment managers officially read the articles of impeachment into the Senate record and senators were sworn in.

But the key portion of the trial — during which the impeachment managers and the president's defense team present arguments for and against removal — is scheduled to begin Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.

One of the biggest questions heading into the trial is whether to call witnesses. Senior GOP lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have strongly opposed calling witnesses, arguing that they have all the information they need and that the impeachment process itself is a sham.

But cracks have emerged in the Senate GOP ranks. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, for instance, have signaled their support for calling witnesses. And Collins told Maine's Bangor Daily News earlier this month that she was working with a "fairly small group" of fellow Republican senators to ensure the upper chamber brought witnesses in to testify in Trump's impeachment trial.

CNN's latest poll found that a significant majority — 69% — believed the impeachment trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House's impeachment inquiry. Among Republicans, 48% say they wanted new witnesses, while 44% said they did not.

Broad public support for calling new witnesses means Congress could hear from officials at the highest levels of the executive branch, like the former national security adviser John Bolton; the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mulvaney and Pompeo defied House subpoenas for testimony last year. Bolton announced this month that he was prepared to testify in the Senate trial if lawmakers were to subpoena him.

Trump's actions in Ukraine first came to light in an anonymous whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed in August. The complaint detailed a July 25 phone call in which Trump repeatedly pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to work with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and US Attorney General William Barr to investigate the Bidens as well as a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Democrats.

But a string of public testimony from career government officials since then revealed that the phone call was just one data point in a months-long effort to bully Ukraine into caving to Trump's demands.

The contents of the whistleblower complaint were corroborated by a White House memo summarizing the July 25 phone call. Trump himself has said several times — in public — that he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Moreover, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, testified to Congress that "everyone," including senior officials like Bolton, Pompeo, and Mulvaney, was in the loop on what Trump was doing.

Additional reporting and documents since the House impeached Trump in December revealed that there was widespread concern across lower levels of the government, including in the State Department and the Pentagon, about the legality of the president's actions.

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