EVENT ENDED

Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Democrats make case for obstruction

In their final day of arguments, House Democrats presented their case alleging Trump obstructed Congress.
Image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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The Democratic House managers used their final day of arguments on Friday — the fourth full day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — to make their case that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress in denying them witness testimony and documents.

Follow us here for all of the latest breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Highlights from the Senate trial

  • Democrats finished hours of arguments in which managers called Trump a "dictator" and a danger to the nation with a plea to the Senate: "Give America a fair trial, she's worth it," lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff said.
  • The White House is set to begin laying out Trump's defense Saturday morning.
  • "Get rid of her": A voice appearing to be Trump's is heard on tape demanding Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.
  • Schiff warned his fellow lawmakers that "the next time, it just may be you" who Trump targets.
  • Democratic House manager Rep. Val Demings says the evidence is "pretty painful" for senators.

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry.

Live Blog

House managers say Trump 'exemplifies' why impeachment is in the Constitution

House managers, in response to Trump's trial brief, said Tuesday that the president "exemplifies why the framers included the impeachment mechanism in the Constitution."

"President Trump’s impeachment trial is an effort to safeguard our elections, not override them," the Democrats wrote. "His unsupported contentions to the contrary have it exactly backwards. President Trump has shown that he will use the immense powers of his office to manipulate the upcoming election to his own advantage. Respect for the integrity of this Nation’s democratic process requires that President Trump be removed before he can corrupt the very election that would hold him accountable to the American people."

The managers also said Trump's brief "is heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct. It is clear from his response that President Trump would rather discuss anything other than what he actually did."

The brief, they added, "does not explain why, even now, he has not offered any documents or witnesses in his defense or provided any information in response to the House’s repeated requests. This is not how an innocent person behaves."

Read the full response.

 

Fact check: Could Trump's trial be the first without witnesses and documents?

"If Sen. McConnell makes this the first impeachment trial in history without witnesses or documents, it will not prove the president innocent,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on Tuesday morning.

Is it true that this could be the first impeachment trial without witnesses or documents?

Let's review the history of presidential Senate trials. The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson took more than two months and included documents as well as testimony from 41 witnesses. The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which lasted 37 days, included both documents and videotaped footage of witness testimony played on the Senate floor.

Still, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not shut the door on all witnesses and documents. He's giving his party — which enjoys majority control of the Senate — the chance to decide the issue with a vote. 

Schiff initially — and correctly — claimed that McConnell was departing from historic precedent: In the Clinton trial, House findings were admitted as evidence at the start of the Senate trial. This time, McConnell did not originally plan for that. However the text of the organizing resolution, read out by the clerk Tuesday afternoon, appears to have been changed to automatically include House evidence, unless there's an objection.

Schumer again hits McConnell, Trump for proposed impeachment trial rules

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., used his Senate floor speech to restate the points he made at his multiple press conferences earlier Tuesday and on Monday, blasting McConnell’s resolution on the impeachment trial rules.

"The McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial with little evidence, in the dark of night,” Schumer said. “If Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don't they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?" 

“This resolution will go down as one of the darker moments in Senate history,” Schumer added.

He also took direct aim at Trump himself, asking, “If the president believes his impeachment is so brazen and wrong, why won't he show us why?"

"If the president's case is so weak that none of the president's men can defend him under oath, shame on him.”

A celebrity sighting in the gallery

McConnell says his proposal is 'fair' and 'even-handed'

McConnell said his proposal for Trump's impeachment trial "sets up a structure that is fair, even-handed, and tracks closely with past precedents."

He called his proposal a "sharp contrast with the precedent-breaking inquiry in the House."

McConnell's proposal allots each side a total of 24 hours to present arguments over two working days. Additionally, it suggests that none of the House evidence will be automatically admitted into the trial. Instead, the Senate will vote later on whether to admit the documents.

Once both sides present their cases, 16 hours will be provided for senators to ask questions in writing. The Senate would then consider whether to subpoena witnesses and documents. If witnesses and documents are approved, McConnell's resolution makes clear that witnesses must first be deposed, a process that typically takes place behind closed doors, before a determination over testimony is made.

Democrats on Tuesday blasted the proposal as "appalling," a "national disgrace," and "deliberately designed to hide the truth."

Schumer pledged to offer amendments to change the "most egregious things" McConnell proposed. McConnell said he will move to table Schumer's pledged amendments during Tuesday's debate on the impeachment process resolution.

What Trump is doing today

Trump is in Davos and is being “briefed by staff periodically” on Tuesday’s proceedings, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. But he's also got an eye on Fox News, interrupting his Wall Street Journal interview this morning to make various comments on segments.

The president told the Journal he did not currently have plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is also attending the summit. "I didn’t know he was here. I don’t think we had it planned," Trump said when the newspaper asked him about a potential meeting. But Trump said he'd be willing to meet with the Ukrainian president, adding, "I think he’s a really good guy."

Earlier in the morning, in quick on-camera questions and answers, Trump again railed against the impeachment as “a hoax. It's a witch hunt that's been going on for years. And it's frankly - it's disgraceful. But we look forward to being here. “

The president also said Tuesday that the trial “goes nowhere because nothing happened" and expressed confidence that “it's going to work out fine.”

Trump's meetings and events wrap up at 2 p.m. ET, so he will be able to tune in to afternoon impeachment coverage in the U.S. if so inclined. 

Schumer slams McConnell's proposal, outlines proposed amendments

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday again slammed the impeachment trial rules, calling them “completely partisan” and accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of letting the White House basically write them.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump,” Schumer said at a press conference alongside other Senate Democrats. “It appears that leader McConnell decided to go along with the president's desire to cover up his wrongdoing, hook, line and sinker. It almost seems the resolution was written in the White House, not the Senate.” 

Schumer vowed to offer amendments to the proposal that would allow for subpoenas to be issued for White House documents “related to the charges against the president” and for the calling of witnesses.

Schumer also slammed McConnell’s resolution as “a national disgrace” that “will go down in history as one of the very dark days of the Senate.”

McConnell's evidence proposal explained

McConnell's organizing resolution for the Senate impeachment trial has a provision that would allow a vote on whether to include evidence presented in the House investigation, as well as evidence that emerged after the articles were sent to the Senate, into the official trial record.

The vote would occur after the Senate takes up the issue of calling additional witnesses or documents, which is after the arguments and question-and-answer portion of the trial (which would hypothetically discuss all this evidence). 

What does it mean?

Team McConnell sees the issue as a vote on the legitimacy of the House impeachment investigation. If Republicans think it was a sham process, then they’d vote with the majority leader on the evidence issue.

“Impeachment rules do not automatically admit evidence from the House into the Senate trial,” a senior Republican leadership aide told reporters. “This is an important fact specific to this trial because the White House was denied due process throughout the 12 weeks of partisan House proceedings. That makes this record meaningfully different from the House record in Clinton, which consisted primarily of evidence compiled by court-appointed prosecutors in the federal grand jury process.”

House managers will be able to discuss the information during their arguments and senators will still have access to all the House evidence during the trial, a senior Republican leadership aide said. Those documents will be printed and placed on senators' desks.

But if McConnell wins this vote, then the evidence will not be included in the official Senate impeachment record. In the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, the House record was admitted as evidence as a part of the organizing resolution.

“A trial with no evidence — no existing record, no witnesses, no documents — isn’t a trial at all,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted after the resolution was released, “It’s a cover up.” 

 

Schiff rips McConnell's impeachment rules proposal as “process for a rigged trial"

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House impeachment manager, on Tuesday blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s impeachment trial rules proposal as "a process for a rigged trial.”

"This is not a process for a fair trial. This is the process for a rigged trial,” Schiff said at a brief press conference alongside the six other House managers for the trial.

“This is the process if you do not want the American people to see the evidence. This is a process you use if you want to, hand in hand, working in concert with the president, allow the president to continue to obstruct the Congress and deny the truth to the American people.”

The proposal by McConnell, R-Ky., allots each side a total of 24 hours to present arguments, although that time is confined to two working days. Additionally, it suggests that none of the House evidence will be automatically admitted into the trial. Instead, the Senate will vote later on whether to admit the documents.

Arguments will begin Wednesday afternoon, according to those rules, which are expected to be adopted Tuesday. The proposed 12-hour sessions to present each side's case could lead arguments to extend well into the night and possibly the early morning hours.

Schiff took particular aim at that aspect of the rules, accusing McConnell and the Republicans of “compressing the time of the trial” so that “the proceedings could conceivably go well into the night when apparently Sen. McConnell hopes the American people will not be watching.”

House managers call White House counsel a fact witness, warn of 'disqualification' from defense team

The House managers in the impeachment trial have told President Donald Trump's lead lawyer, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, that they believe he is a fact witness to the charges and are demanding he disclose all related information so that the Senate and Chief Justice John Roberts "can be apprised of any potential ethical issues, conflicts, or biases.”

The managers sent a letter to Cipollone on Tuesday saying that the risks associated with his being an advocate for Trump and an alleged witness "are so serious that they can require a lawyer's disqualification."

Read the letter.

The White House responded in a statement later Tuesday, calling the Democrats "an utter joke."

"The idea that the Counsel to the President has to turn over protected documents and confidential information is ludicrous, and to imply he can’t represent the President of the United States in an impeachment proceeding is completely absurd," the statement said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff walks to a press conference with other impeachment managers at the Capitol on Jan. 21, 2020.J. Scott Applewhite / AP