David A. Graham: Impeachment is incredibly popular
There’s a good chance the Senate won’t hear from any new witnesses or see any new documents at all; in any case, a vote on that will be held later. Any witness would be deposed before testifying. The Senate will still be able to vote to dismiss the charges outright, though Republicans have suggested that there’s not majority support for that step. The House impeachment managers, a team of Democrats appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will have 24 hours to present their case—but over the course of only three calendar days. (McConnell initially budgeted only two days, but switched to three at the last minute.) Since the days start at 1 p.m., that means managers will be running into the night if they take all their time.
McConnell indicated that the rules would mirror those adopted for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but they diverge in crucial respects. These include the two-day limit, which is clearly designed to minimize public attention, and the method by which the rules were adopted: The Clinton rules came out of a bipartisan agreement, while the Trump rules are expected to pass on something like a party-line vote.
Trump’s acquittal is effectively a foreordained outcome—especially if senators don’t hear any more evidence or witnesses, though it’s not clear that any evidence of misconduct by the president could really sway Republican senators at this point. So why bother having a trial at all?
The catch is voters, and in particular the multiple electorates that McConnell has to consider: the nation as a whole, but also the voters in those states where vulnerable Republicans are up for reelection.
The Senate can scarcely afford to hold a trial. The Senate majority leader has forged a surprisingly effective working relationship with Trump, who detests the idea of a trial. And if McConnell held a real trial, he would risk uncovering new information that is damaging to the president. The House impeachment hearings, rushed as they were, provided a parade of scathing revelations about Trump’s lawlessness and abuse. Even without a real threat of conviction, that’s not in Trump’s interest, and it’s not in McConnell’s interest to come up with even more evidence against Trump and then still acquit.
Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: Trump’s impeachment brief is a howl of rage
Yet McConnell can’t very well not hold a trial either. He’s said that the Senate rules require one, although he has hedged a bit by allowing the possibility of a motion to dismiss. The public wants a trial, too. There’s been durable, widespread public support for impeachment since September. FiveThirtyEight’s average of polling finds that a slim plurality supports removing Trump from office. A new CNN poll even finds a majority for removal (51 percent).