President Trump and his band of defenders, led by Mitch McConnell, are working very hard to create the impression that they’re in a position of great strength in the political battle that has erupted over Trump’s coming Senate trial.

But the main thing Trump and the Senate majority leader have going for them right now is that some media figures are reluctant to describe the basic contours of this situation clearly and accurately.

So let’s try to remedy that: Trump and McConnell don’t want a Senate trial that includes the handful of witnesses that Democrats have demanded because Trump is flagrantly guilty of all of the corruption for which he’s now been impeached. Trump got caught, and they all know he did everything he’s been accused of doing.

Such a trial would risk exposing this further — or worse. That’s because Trump’s conduct is without question even more corrupt than we currently know — probably much more so — and such a trial would risk additional revelations to this effect.

The latest battling comes in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that she may hold off on transmitting the articles of impeachment — which passed the House on Wednesday night — to the Senate.

To be fair, Pelosi did create some confusion about her intentions. After this declaration prompted widespread uncertainty among Democrats about what’s coming next, Pelosi clarified matters.

So now the House will send over impeachment articles — and divulge a list of House managers who will serve as prosecutors at Trump’s trial — when the terms of the Senate trial are set.

“When we see the process that is set forth in the Senate, then we’ll know the number of managers that we may have to go forward and who we will choose,” Pelosi told reporters.

But Trump and McConnell have responded to the possibility of any delay in transmitting the articles with an absurd talking point: This actually shows how weak the case against Trump is.

On Thursday, McConnell charged that Pelosi fears sending over the House’s “shoddy work product," claiming that Democrats are “too afraid to even submit their accusations to the Senate and go to trial.”

Trump echoed this claim:

This is nonsense. In reality, Pelosi and Democrats are holding off on sending the articles because McConnell has already shown that he is afraid to hold a trial that will actually examine the charges against Trump.

We know this because McConnell basically told us so on national television.

When McConnell blithely vowed on Fox News to run Trump’s trial in “total coordination” with the White House legal team, McConnell revealed he’s determined to structure the trial with a single goal in mind: making sure it creates as few revelations as possible — since that means political pain for Trump and for McConnell’s majority — no matter how absurdly it must be structured to pull this off.

To that very end, McConnell rejected Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for witnesses at the trial, which included acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

We know why McConnell rejected that demand: because those witnesses almost certainly can testify to Trump’s state of mind in freezing military aid to Ukraine, at precisely the moment when he and his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani were implementing an elaborate plot to extort Ukraine into announcing investigations that would help Trump politically.

Indeed, this is exactly why the White House also blocked their testimony when House Democrats demanded it during the impeachment inquiry.

At bottom, this is a simple matter. Democrats are demanding to hear from witnesses whom we have not yet heard from, and who have direct knowledge of what may be the most corrupt act at the core of the scheme — the freezing of the aid — which Republicans claim was an entirely innocent act. Senate Republicans are refusing to hear from them, just as the White House wants.

Some reporters have suggested Pelosi has no leverage to force McConnell to agree to hear from these witnesses by withholding the articles, because McConnell can simply refuse to hold a trial.

But it’s not clear that McConnell can do that. For one thing, as Maggie Haberman reports, Trump wants a trial, because he wants to be able to say he’s been acquitted. This creates an additional complication for McConnell: Trump wants a trial and also wants it to be rigged on his behalf. He doesn’t want to hear from those witnesses, either, which is why the White House blocked them.

So that means McConnell is under pressure to hold a trial, but he’s also under pressure to keep it from producing any new revelations. Yet vulnerable GOP senators might not accept a sham trial, and McConnell can’t have one unless 51 GOP senators vote for such a process.

McConnell may still be able to pull that off in the end. And it’s not necessarily clear whether withholding the articles will enhance Pelosi’s leverage to prevent that from happening.

But even if McConnell does succeed, that’s also terrible politics for Trump and Senate Republicans, since an enormous majority wants to hear from Trump’s top aides, i.e., wants the trial to be used for further fact-finding. That means a sham trial puts them on the hook for a coverup. That may be the least bad option — something revelatory might be worse — but it’s still bad.

Either way, right now this isn’t complicated. If Democrats are acting out of concern that McConnell wants a sham trial rigged to protect Trump, that’s because McConnell told us so. And he wants a sham trial because Trump is guilty.

The House impeached Trump, but it was a victory for alternative facts, Russian disinformation and Fox News, says columnist Dana Milbank. (The Washington Post)

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