Now playing
02:06
McConnell backs Trump. CNN's Erin Burnett isn't buying it
US President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine shot administered in the US during an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Saul Loeb/AFP/etty Images
US President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine shot administered in the US during an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:28
Axelrod explains the message Biden is sending with strike
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks from his office to the Senate Chamber for the fifth day of former President Donald Trump
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks from his office to the Senate Chamber for the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. House impeachment managers asked the senate Saturday for the ability to question witnesses as part of the trial. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
McConnell says he'd support Trump as GOP nominee
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC is seen from the air January 24, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / Daniel SLIM        (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Daniel Slim/Getty Images
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC is seen from the air January 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel SLIM (Photo credit should read DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
05:24
US carries out airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups
The exterior of the U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise on February 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate is scheduled to begin the second impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump on February 9.
PHOTO: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
The exterior of the U.S. Capitol building is seen at sunrise on February 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Senate is scheduled to begin the second impeachment trial of former U.S. President Donald J. Trump on February 9.
Now playing
01:57
Senate parliamentarian rules against minimum wage increase in relief bill
Now playing
03:56
Marjorie Taylor Greene's challenger explains decision to run
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
03:44
Acting US Capitol Police chief explains 'operational challenges' from January 6 riot
Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) speaks with CNN
PHOTO: CNN
Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) speaks with CNN's Alisyn Camerota.
Now playing
07:17
Lawmaker reacts to Rep. Taylor Greene's tweet on her transgender daughter
Connolly
PHOTO: CNN
Connolly
Now playing
03:51
'I will not be lectured' on bipartisanship: Lawmaker fires back at Jim Jordan
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press from the South Lawn of the White House after announcing and initial deal with China in Washington, DC, prior to departing to Lake Charles, Louisiana to hold a campaign rally on October 11, 2019.
PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press from the South Lawn of the White House after announcing and initial deal with China in Washington, DC, prior to departing to Lake Charles, Louisiana to hold a campaign rally on October 11, 2019.
Now playing
02:28
Romney says he's 'pretty sure' Trump will win 2024 nomination if he runs
Now playing
02:04
Senate moderates create obstacle for Biden's nominee
This picture taken 26 December 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC.  The Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), is the world
PHOTO: Staff/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken 26 December 2011 shows the Pentagon building in Washington, DC. The Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (DOD), is the world's largest office building by floor area, with about 6,500,000 sq ft (600,000 m2), of which 3,700,000 sq ft (340,000 m2) are used as offices. Approximately 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel work in the Pentagon. (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
04:30
Pentagon report gives insight on White supremacists in active military
Now playing
03:57
GOP senator continues to push riot conspiracy theory
Now playing
02:08
Cabinet secretary explains why he took on challenging role
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden
PHOTO: Leigh Vogel/Pool/Getty Images
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of the Interior, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
00:59
'We need to work together': Haaland responds to question on blind loyalty
Now playing
01:35
Laughter follows awkward moment between GOP leaders

Editor’s Note: Sign up to get our new weekly column as a newsletter. We’re looking back at the strongest, smartest opinion takes of the week from CNN and other outlets.

(CNN) —  

“Well now there’s two,” sang Muddy Waters. “There’s two trains running.”

One is the House Democrats’ impeachment of President Donald Trump over withholding aid to Ukraine, allegedly for political gain. The other is the Republicans’ so-far solid defense of the President.

Those trains are on a collision course as they head to the US Senate, where the Constitution requires a trial—its shape yet unknown—to determine whether Trump should be removed from office.

But there’s one certain takeaway from this week: On Wednesday Donald Trump became only the third president to be impeached in the 230 years since George Washington was first elected.

“The votes to impeach Donald Trump were partisan and predictable,” wrote historian Jeremi Suri, who watched the more than 10 hours of debate in the House. “But they still mattered enormously because the setting was so grave, and votes on impeachment are so rare.”

PHOTO: Clay Jones

“On the surface, the Democrats and Republicans were describing two different realities, speaking past each other,” Suri noted. “The Democrats diagnosed a lawless, corrupt, lying president. The Republicans recounted how the president had tried to lead, and his opponents had undermined him, time and again. One side narrated Trump’s villainy; the other side lamented Trump’s victimhood.”

It all comes down to a single question, wrote John Avlon: “Do you think American presidents should ask foreign powers to investigate domestic political rivals?

Avlon added, “This is the issue. The President has not only admitted to it – he extended the request to investigate (Joe) Biden to the Chinese. It’s part of a pattern we’ve seen from this President…If you are opposed to impeachment in this case, then you are saying that future presidents should be able to abuse the unique power of the office for personal political gain. That is a recipe for disaster in our democratic republic.”

Presidential freakout?

President Trump, who already was tweeting at a record pace in recent days, sent a remarkable six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the vote on impeachment, and then, just after the House approved abuse-of-power and obstruction-of-Congress articles, gave his longest-ever rally speech, denouncing the Democrats before a crowd in Michigan.

“Even the most secure of US presidents would be unnerved at the prospect that their political demise is only 67 votes away,” wrote Dean Obeidallah. “And while Trump has been called a lot of things, ’secure’ is not one of them.

Get our free weekly newsletter

That letter to Pelosi? “Trump, the world’s most powerful man, and undoubtedly one of the luckiest, continued to drench himself in a thick, sticky coat of self-pity,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “The Salem witch trials gave more due process to the accused, he absurdly claimed, though he refused to participate in the impeachment process after Democrats invited him to do so. The claim drew an exasperated rebuke from the mayor of Salem, who noted that the 1692 trials targeted ‘powerless, innocent victims’– women who died horrific deaths.”

Paul Begala called the letter “Trump’s governing philosophy distilled” and wrote, “He is a wannabe autocrat, who has made his goal clear: to remake America as he has remade the Republican Party – turning a once-proud, strong party into a gaggle of sycophantic lickspittles. His rage for Speaker Pelosi is boundless because she stands up to him. His letter is a window not into a troubled psyche, but something much worse.”

The GOP is keeping score, but with different metrics. In the Washington Examiner, Byron York wrote, “for Republicans, the important numbers were zero and zero. Not a single Republican lawmaker voted for either article of impeachment. For the GOP, it was important to show that impeachment is an entirely partisan, Democrats-only affair, and that is precisely what happened.”

“This impeachment process has never been about truth,” wrote James Schultz, who served in the White House counsel’s office in the Trump administration. “House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has turned what was once a respected committee into one which fosters further public distrust in an already unpopular body of government. His impeachment investigation has little to do with fact-finding and most everything to do with undoing an election.”

Back to the Future?

SE Cupp suggested that those watching the GOP defense of Trump, “might think they had stepped into Doc Brown’s DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future.’”

She noted, “Republican House members, right-wing media and Trump looked and sounded like they were out of a bygone era. The year? 1955. The place? Anytown, USA. The culture? White and male.” Meanwhile Trump was regaling his Battle Creek audience with tales of the glories of dishwashers gone by, saying today’s machines don’t measure up: “Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me…you know, they give you four drops of water.”

“The project of Donald Trump since descending that escalator in 2015 was to appeal to the aggrieved forgotten man whose life hadn’t delivered on the American Dream he was promised in 1950,” Cupp wrote. “Immigrants had taken his job, he was told. Women no longer knew their place. The white man was being driven out by black and brown families. Socialists, atheists and hippies were taking the country to hell in a handbasket.

“Trump reached out to those voters more explicitly and openly than any other presidential candidate had in decades, and he was rewarded for it.”

But for the Republicans to survive as a party beyond Trump, Cupp suggested, they’ll have to chart a more diverse future.

Klobuchar was on fire

PHOTO: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

The week of nonstop news rushed toward its end with a Democratic debate in Los Angeles Thursday evening. It was the most fiery of the recent debates, perhaps because the field of candidates was smaller and the start of actual voting is less than seven weeks away. Sparks flew between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg over the influence of big money in politics. “It should come as no surprise that these two candidates were fighting,” wrote Jen Psaki. “They are near the top of the polls. But the person who took greatest advantage was Amy Klobuchar.”

Check out our roundup of commentators’ views, including takes from Scott Jennings, Frida Ghitis, Carrie Sheffield, Raul Reyes, Julian Zelizer, S.E. Cupp, Errol Louis and Paul Begala.

Next up: Senate

The key player in the upcoming Senate trial of Donald Trump is the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, already infamous among Democrats for his refusal in the spring of 2016 to give Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a chance to win Senate confirmation.

Elie Honig wasn’t impressed with what McConnell has said so far: “Give … McConnell this much: at least he’s open and transparent about his plan to rig the upcoming Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.”

PHOTO: Mike Luckovich/Creators Syndicate

Honig added, “McConnell … came right out and said that he will work ‘in total coordination with the White House counsel.’ McConnell’s disdain for even the appearance of a fair process is so pointed that it seems his end goal is to de-legitimize the upcoming trial before it begins.”

Don’t miss

PHOTO: Hilary B Gayle

Jill Filipovic: ’Bombshell’ exposes some very ugly truths

Glenn Gamboa: The secret of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” juggernaut

Michael D’Antonio: After impeachment will come Trump’s wrath

Edward Foley: A different billionaire may decide who wins next November

Allison Hope: Hallmark miscalculated when it erased lesbians from Zola ad

Ravi Krishnani: India: The world leader in Internet shutdowns

AND…

Bill Clinton’s two-track story

PHOTO: GEORGE BRIDGES/AFP/Getty Images

The impeachment vote brought back memories of the last time Congress took that step, in 1998, against President Bill Clinton. While that drama was playing out, the US was also bombing Iraq, a clash of news narratives that former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart—then brand new to the job– recalled as particularly challenging.

“We gathered 150 members of Congress – all Democrats – down on the South Lawn to stand with the President and repeat our simple message: This impeachment was all partisan; it’s all politics…”

“Only hours apart … Clinton told the press that there were no Republicans in this country, there were no Democrats, there were just Americans, and that we had won the military operation.

“Then the President left, leaving me to explain to 50 waiting reporters how the two announcements fit together. And I think it was so audacious that we took the breath away from even the press, and they seemed to let us get away with it.”

At day’s end, one of the President’s top aides came into Lockhart’s office, got two beers out of the bar and put his feet up, Lockhart recalled.

“I’ll never forget what he said to me: ’You know, except for getting impeached, we had a pretty good day.’”