Sheryl Gay Stolberg at NYT:
With the House headed to a vote to impeach President Trump next week, Senator Mitch McConnell was working hand in hand with the White House to make plans for a Senate trial, a proceeding steeped in tradition and rules but one fraught with political peril for vulnerable Republicans.
Mr. Trump said on Friday that he had no preference for how the trial — expected to begin in early January — unfolds, but he has privately pushed for a prolonged process that would allow him to mount a theatrical defense. Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has resisted that idea in favor of a shorter, more dignified event.
Outraged Democrats, meanwhile, accused Mr. McConnell on Friday of abandoning his duty to render “impartial justice” in an impeachment trial — a response to a television interview in which Mr. McConnell dismissed House Democrats’ articles of impeachment as “so darn weak.” He added that he was “taking my cues” from the White House in shaping the trial.
“If articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate, every single senator will take an oath to render ‘impartial justice,’” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said Friday in a statement, in a veiled reference to those remarks. “Making sure the Senate conducts a fair and honest trial that allows all the facts to come out is paramount.”
Representative Val B. Demings, Democrat of Florida and a member of the House Judiciary Committee who is being mentioned as a possible House manager during the impeachment trial, went one step further, and called Friday for Mr. McConnell to recuse himself from the proceedings.
“No court in the country would allow a member of the jury to also serve as the accused’s defense attorney,” Ms. Demings said in a statement. “The moment Senator McConnell takes the oath of impartiality required by the Constitution, he will be in violation of that oath.”
Mr. McConnell and White House officials — including Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Eric Ueland, the White House congressional liaison — have been meeting privately to hash out their differences and present a plan for the trial to Mr. Trump, but no agreements have been reached, according to two people close to the talks.