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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE

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

Schiff gives overview of House case, says Trump should be removed

Schiff spoke from the Senate floor, giving an introduction of the case House managers will present against Trump.

Schiff said the House managers believe Trump should be convicted or else "the power of impeachment must be deemed a relic."

The evidence against Trump is "overwhelming," Schiff said, and that if the Senate does not expand on the House record the "full scale" of his conduct toward Ukraine may never be known.

Pointing to changes made to McConnell's process resolution just moments before speaking, Schiff criticized the idea that the Senate must conform to the process from the Clinton impeachment trial.

Schiff also called on the Senate to have a series of Trump administration officials testify in the trial.

Got Milk? Senate rules allow for only water, milk on the floor

If you’re lactose intolerant, stop reading here. 

FUN FACT: The only beverages allowed on the Senate floor is water and MILK. It’s an arcane Senate rule, per multiple Senate leadership aides.

  • The Senate historian’s office told NBC News that the "current practice in the Senate is to allow only water into the Senate Chamber. Technically, milk is also allowed, but in recent years the practice has been to allow only water (still or sparkling)."
  • We have not seen anyone with milk in the chamber.

As we’ve already noted:

  • Food is not allowed in the Chamber. The exception to that regulation is the candy desk, which is stocked with candy and available to senators.

White House may assert executive privilege to block Bolton testimony, Republicans say

If former national security adviser John Bolton is called to testify at the Senate impeachment trial, several Republicans told NBC News they believe that President Donald Trump will assert executive privilege.

A president claiming executive privilege during the trial would be unprecedented, and it's unclear how the Senate would handle the dispute. Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the proceedings and can rule on what evidence can be allowed — but his rulings can be overruled or sustained by a majority of the Senate.

Bolton testifying would touch off concern in the White House because of his proximity to presidential decision-making, according to a senior administration official.

"It would be extraordinary to have the national security adviser testifying about his communications directly with the president about foreign policy and national security matters," the official said.

Read more here.

Dems say they're pressuring GOP senators on impeachment in other ways

In First Read Tuesday morning, we observed how Democrats aren’t trying to pressure vulnerable GOP senators over the TV airwaves on impeachment.

Of the 11 impeachment-themed television ads airing across the country right now, according to the ad trackers at Advertising Analytics, all are from Republicans and GOP groups.

But Democrats at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tell us that they’ve been pressuring GOP senators — like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine — in other ways.

For Maine’s Senate contest, for instance, the DSCC has created a website – WhatChangedSusan.Com – highlighting how Collins called for more evidence and witnesses in Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, but hasn’t made the same explicit demands for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

And in Colorado, the DSCC has blasted out press releases noting that Gardner has refused "to answer basic questions on [the] president’s conduct” or on the demand for “a fair trial.”

Senators pour onto the chamber floor

As soon as Schumer finished speaking, senators poured onto the floor. Democrats have thick binders with blue cover pages. Republicans, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas, walked up to greet White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., one of the House managers, enthusiastically greeted home state Democratic colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both erstwhile presidential candidates, chatted with Chaplain Barry Black in the back of the chamber for a while.

While most senators sat, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., wandered around, randomly doing mini squats as if to prepare for the long, seated day ahead.

White House counsel Cipollone: McConnell's proposal a 'fair process'

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s trial resolution creates “a fair process.”

"We support this resolution. It is a fair way to proceed with this trial," Cipollone said.

"It requires House managers to stand up and make their opening statement and make their case," he continued, adding that, "it is time to start with this trial. It's a fair process."

"We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong," he said. 

Here's how we expect today to go

The Senate impeachment trial resumed shortly after 1 p.m. Here’s how we expect the rest of the day to go:

  1. Senators, House managers, and the WH counsel should be in their seats and ready to go. We do not expect the Sergeant at Arms to introduce them like he did when they came to the floor and read the articles on Thursday.
  2. Chief Justice Roberts will gavel the trial back in session, saying something like, “The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment…” (There may be a prayer here.)
  3. Chief Justice Roberts will say: “The Sergeant at Arms will make the proclamation…”
  4. The Sergeant at Arms, Michael Stenger, will say: “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, President of the United States.”
  5. At this point, McConnell may pass a number of housekeeping measures about various issues related to the trial, including possibly entering the trial briefs into the Senate record.
  6. Then we expect McConnell will formally introduce the organizing resolution, and any senator can ask that the entire resolution be read on the floor. (In 1999, Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, asked for that to happen. It was only four pages, so it didn’t take long. The clerk would then read the resolution).
  7. There will be up to two hours of arguments, equally divided, by the House managers and the WH defense team. They may or may not use the entire two hours.
  8. After that, we expect Schumer/Democrats to introduce an amendment to the organizing resolution, which we expect would take up the issue of witnesses and documents. That is also subject to up to two hours of arguments, equally divided, by the House managers and the WH defense team. Again, they may or may not use the entire two hours.
  • To reiterate, Senators cannot participate in this back and forth, only the House managers and WH defense team. This would mean that there would theoretically be up to 4 hours of back and forth before we see the first vote on Tuesday, and we expect all of this to be open. 
  • When they vote, each senator's name will be called, and the senator will stand and vote. There is a chance that the vote on that first Democratic amendment could be a vote on a motion to table, which would actually mean Republicans vote YES and Democrats vote NO to kill it (we'll alert everyone if this ends up being the case). 
  • What happens after that vote? Likely more amendments, but that's all TBD. We expect Tuesday to be a long day.
  • There is no limit on amendments, but we (obviously) don’t expect amendments to never end. We hope to have guidance early Wednesday on how many amendments Democrats will introduce. Again, it will largely depend on what’s in the organizing resolution.
  • We are in uncharted territory here. The reason why all of this isn't set in stone is simply because the Senate has never had a debate with amendments for the organizing resolution. In 1999, all 100 Senators agreed (after meeting in a closed session in the old Senate chamber) to pass unanimously this initial organizing resolution. Aides and senators who typically go back and look at precedent to determine how a session will go can’t do so here, so we’re all going to be riding this out together.

OPINION: The Senate impeachment trial is a minefield. Will Republicans repeat Democrats' mistakes?

Imagine an alternate timeline in which House Democrats declined to pass articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, 2019.

In that universe, the last four weeks would have been most eventful. It would have been a month that saw the release of emails from Office of Budget and Management officials obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests that indicate the order to withhold Ukrainian security aid came directly from the president. A federal appeals court would have continued to litigate the Democratic subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was compelled to testify against the president’s wishes by a lower court on Nov. 25. The subpoena of former national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, would have also been under review (even though House Democrats withdrew that subpoena in November). January would have culminated in the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office’s finding that the delay Trump allegedly ordered was “not programmatic” and violated the law.

Back in our current timeline, though, Democrats have all but surrendered control of the impeachment process to Republicans. The OMB emails landed with a thud. The severity of the GAO’s finding will be left to Republicans to determine. The courts litigating Democratic subpoenas dismissed those cases when the venue in which Trump’s associates might have testified — the House impeachment inquiry — effectively closed. And the stunning accusations levied against the president by Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas have been made in forums like cable news, where his truthful testimony cannot be compelled.

Given the revelations that have emerged over the last month, however, the GOP risks repeating House Democrats’ mistakes if they fail to take their prerogatives seriously while they control the impeachment process.

Read the full opinion piece.