The Senate got the formalities of President Trump's impeachment trial started Thursday, though the real work of the trial is not expected to start until next week. At noon, House impeachment managers read the two articles of impeachment against Trump, formally beginning the third such trial in US history. Afterward, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn in to preside over the trial, and he in turn swore in the senators as jurors. (Only 99, however: Republican James Inhofe was absent because of a family medical issue.) All this as related developments—including a government watchdog assessment critical of Trump's withholding of Ukraine aid and allegations by a Rudy Giuliani associate—continue to emerge. Coverage:
- The trial: Expect the Senate be in session six days a week once things get rolling. There's no timetable on how long it will last, notes Rolling Stone, though White House adviser Kellyanne Conway predicted two weeks during an appearance on Fox News Thursday. “These two articles are very weak,” she said, per the Washington Post. “We don’t see the need to have a lengthy, protracted trial.”
- McSally's slam: GOP Sen. Martha McSally tweeted a video of herself shutting down CNN reporter Manu Raju when he asked her before the trial began whether the Senate should consider new evidence. “You’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you,” McSally said. “You’re not going to comment?” Raju asked. “You’re a liberal hack,” McSally responded. The senator is taking flak from those defending a journalist's right to ask what seemed to be a straightforward question, notes Mediaite, which has examples.
- That GOA report: Will the watchdog's assessment that it was illegal to withhold Ukraine aid be consequential? Apparently not. “I think they misunderstand the law," said Rand Paul, in comments similar to other skeptical GOP senators. "I think presidents withhold money all the time, move money around,” he said, per Politico. “I think there’s a great deal of latitude to what presidents do. So I think they’ve misinterpreted the law.”
- The judge: The AP predicts that Roberts will play a modest role in the proceedings. He is expected to follow the model of William Rehnquist, who drew little attention when he presided over the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. One legal distinction: Roberts has little experience running a trial, compared to the appellate proceedings at the Supreme Court.
- The wildcard: Will there be witnesses? The Hill sees this as perhaps the biggest question yet to be answered, and it won't be answered until after opening arguments by both sides. Democrats who want to hear from top White House officials need four Republicans to force the issue, though Republicans such as Rand Paul are pushing back. For the record, the Hill's preview also notes that it's all but guaranteed the trial will end in Trump's acquittal.
- Those pens: In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Mitch McConnell faulted Nancy Pelosi for handing out commemorative pens after signing off on the impeachment articles Wednesday. “The speaker of the House apparently saw nothing strange about celebrating the third presidential impeachment in American history with souvenirs and posted photographs," he said, calling it evidence of a partisanship. "That pretty well sums it up. That’s what the process has been thus far. But it’s not what this process will be going forward.”
(Read more Trump impeachment