It's not a sure thing, but the smart money says the Senate is poised to acquit President Trump of impeachment charges without calling witnesses. That became clear after GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, whose vote was said to be in question, announced that he did not want to hear new testimony. At CNN, Chris Cillizza points out this means the trial might be wrapped up before Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 4, and he gives Mitch McConnell all the credit for orchestrating this political feat. This outcome "was unthinkable 10 days ago and is a testament to McConnell's skills as a persuader and vote-counting virtuoso," he writes. Cillizza recounts the strategy, beginning with McConnell's "power play" move to go ahead with the trial with no guarantees on witnesses.
As the trial progressed, McConnell kept a low profile, but Cillizza likens him to a duck—placid on the surface but paddling furiously below water. He persuaded enough GOP senators, especially vulnerable ones, that allowing witnesses would prolong the trial and cause more them harm in the long run. And then there was the Alexander factor. The Tennessee senator is a longtime friend of McConnell's. At Mediaite, John Ziegler thinks the whole will-he-or-won't-he drama was a McConnell charade believed by gullible reporters. "It was always clear that McConnell was setting Alexander up for the role of the guy who, after careful and considerable contemplation, decided that it was somehow in the best interest of the country for Trump’s impeachment trial to be the first in history to not have witnesses." But there was never any chance Alexander would vote otherwise, he adds. Read Ziegler's full column here, and Cillizza's full column here. (Read more Trump impeachment stories.)