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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

Fact-checking Trump's lawyer's math

Trump’s lawyers keep saying Democrats held the articles of impeachment for 33 days, an inaccurate number.

Trump was impeached on Dec. 18; the articles of impeachment were delivered 28 days later, on Jan. 15.

McConnell makes last-minute, handwritten changes to Trump impeachment trial rules

McConnell changed a controversial provision in the rules for the impeachment trial that would have required House prosecutors and White House lawyers to make 24 hours of legal arguments in just two days and could have barred evidence gathered by the House.

The last-minute changes — which were written by hand on the resolution, with other lines crossed out — were revealed on Tuesday as the organizing resolution for President Donald Trump's Senate trial was being read into the record on the Senate floor. The new version gives both sides 24 hours to make their case over three days, instead of the two initially proposed by McConnell on Monday.

Democrats complained that the two-day limit would have meant that they would be making the arguments until 1:00 a.m. or later, depriving much of the public from being able to watch the proceedings.

It wasn't only Democrats who had issues with the timeline. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, raised "concerns" about the resolution, playing a role in the changes, their spokespersons said. 

The White House apparently got at least a little bit of a heads-up about the last-minute changes, according to a source familiar.

Read the full revised resolution here.

Trump as Senate trial gets underway: 'READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!'

As the Senate trial got underway on Tuesday, Trump weighed in on Twitter.

"READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!" he tweeted, pointing to the White House summaries of two phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

It's Trump's July 25 call with Zelenskiy that launched a series of events that led to his impeachment. In that call, Trump asked his counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Democrats.

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.