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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

McConnell asks Schumer to speed things along after another amendment gets killed

The fourth Schumer amendment, to call Mulvaney as a witness, was defeated along party lines, 53-47 — just like the previous three. 

McConnell, after remarking that he had observed a "certain similarity of all of these amendments," asked Schumer whether he would be willing to stack the votes on the remaining Democratic amendments into one to speed the evening along. Schumer did not agree and told him he would be willing to hold amendment votes Wednesday if senators wanted to go home now. 

"The bottom line is very simple," Schumer said. "As has been clear to every senator in the country: We believe witnesses and documents are extremely important and a compelling case has been made for them. We will have votes on all of those. We will also — the leader, without consulting us made changes, a number of significant changes that significantly deviated from the 1999 Clinton resolution. We want to change those. So there will be a good number of votes."

McConnell put the trial into a quorum call, or a break — but moments later, the trial resumed with the reading of Schumer amendment No. 5 into the record. 

Mulvaney was 'crucial' in planning the Ukraine scheme, Jeffries says

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., one of the seven House managers and the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, argued in favor of the Democratic amendment that calls for a subpoena of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Mulvaney, who also leads the Office of Management and Budget, played a key role in the president's efforts to freeze nearly $400 million in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and withhold a White House meeting.

"Based on the extensive evidence that the House did obtain, it is clear that Mulvaney was crucial in planning the scheme, executing its implementation and carrying out the cover-up," said Jeffries. 

"Emails and witness testimony show that Mr. Mulvaney was 'in the loop' on the president's decision to explicitly condition a White House meeting on Ukraine's announcement of investigations beneficial to the president's re-election prospects," he added. "He was closely involved in implementing the president's hold on a security assistance, and subsequently admitted that the funds were being withheld to put pressure on Ukraine."

Mulvaney is one of four witnesses that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would like the Senate to subpoena. The House issued a subpoena compelling Mulvaney's testimony during the impeachment inquiry last year but he defied it at the direction of the White House. 

ANALYSIS: Why Trump's defense was looking shaky on Day 1

President Donald Trump's defense failed him at the opening of his Senate impeachment trial Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had one job. He just had to collect 51 votes for the trial rules he had written, in close consultation with White House officials, to deliver Trump an acquittal quickly, quietly and with as few surprises as possible.

He couldn't do it.

The other half of Trump's squad, his legal team, chose not to defend his actions with a cogent explanation for them. Rather than rebutting hours of evidence presented by House Democratic impeachment managers, White House lawyers opted to repeat Trump's attacks on the process and the disjointed set of rejoinders he's delivered to Democrats in public.

Read more of the analysis here.

So what does Trump think about the trial today?

SO WHAT DID PRESIDENT TRUMP THINK OF TODAY? He was absolutely engaged in the impeachment proceedings today, getting "minute-by-minute" updates on the process, according to Rep. Mark Meadows, one of the president’s closest allies and an impeachment team member. Legislative Affairs head Eric Ueland backed that up, telling reporters that the president is "very impressed" with what’s been happening on the Hill. But take all that with a grain of salt: the president likes to see impressive TV performances, and we have reason to believe that he may have more mixed feelings than what aides are letting on. And the president is also someone who likes to gauge the reviews so his opinion may end up shaped by the tone from his preferred cable news shows. (An early guide: Sean Hannity, in his opener, is adopting a bored affect and introducing the network’s Congressional correspondent as someone who’s been "suffering through a lot of this tediousness.")

WILL THE PRESIDENT’S DEFENSE TEAM FILE A MOTION TO DISMISS BY 9AM WEDNESDAY? It’s possible, but the chances seem less-than-likely. Ueland didn’t shut the door on it tonight, but Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sounded more definitive, telling reporters he believes a motion to dismiss is unlikely: it’s "not nearly as good an outcome for the president and for the country as will be a final judgment on the merits." Again, it’s kind of a moot point regardless since Senate Republicans don’t think there are the votes to support such a motion.  

IS THE DEFENSE GOING TO PUSH BACK ON THE APPARENT SATURDAY START FOR THEIR OPENING? Seems doubtful. Two sources familiar with the thinking suggest it’s not likely the White House team will put up much of a fight on the expected Saturday start to opening arguments (that’s if House managers take up their allotted three days.) That’s subject to change, as always. But weekend arguments would, in theory, let the president’s defenders get in their first word before the Sunday political talk shows, and then have a weekday audience for the rest of their arguments Monday and, if needed, Tuesday. 

Schumer and McConnell a study in contrasts

As Rep. Adam Schiff spoke on the floor, Sen. Chuck Schumer smiled and laughed while talking to the aides seated next to him — a strikingly different demeanor from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stoic posture across the aisle. 

In a brief moment of bipartisanship, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., walked over to the Republican side behind the last row of senators. As he was passing by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., he crouched down and the two chatted and laughed briefly. A packet of gum was being passed around that back row between Sasse, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others. 

While the table on the prosecution side with the managers was full of open binders, notebooks and laptops the Trump defense team's table looked neat. Their binders were not open while Schiff and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., spoke, and their laptops also remained closed. 

During the arguments, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren took notes on occasion, and Republican Sens. Amy Murkowski and Susan Collins watched Schiff intently for the duration of his remarks. In the final few minutes of Schiff's comments, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, tapped on his watch to indicate the California Democrat was nearing the end of his time. Schiff seemed to look in his direction but did not pause or stop.

When Crow was speaking, the other House managers watched him intently, turning in their chairs to face him. Rep Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was the one exception; he took notes throughout and referred back to binders and notes. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., read during most of the proceedings, while Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., yawned several times. Cruz slumped back in his chair, scowling, while Schiff and Crow spoke. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., had a similar posture and didn’t take notes or read. 

One amendment out, one amendment in

McConnell moved to table the third Democratic amendment, which would have subpoenaed OMB documents related to the charges against the president and regarding the suspension of assistance to Ukraine.

Schumer introduced a fourth amendment to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Senators will now take a 30-minute recess to eat dinner. It'll be pizza for both sides, Republicans will eat Ledo's in the Mansfield room, where they usually hold their policy luncheons, and Democrats will eat Ledo's in the cloakroom.

During dinner, they will discuss what happens next. When they return from this recess they will debate, for up to two hours, the Mulvaney amendment. Then there will be another vote to kill the amendment.

Article II: Inside impeachment — Rewriting the rules

On Tuesday’s bonus episode of Article II, host Steve Kornacki explains the last-minute changes that Mitch McConnell made to the impeachment trial rules in response to pressure from moderate Republican senators.

Download the podcast.

Yawning, note-taking, sharing breath mints: What senators are doing during arguments

Some senators appear to be losing steam as the trial headed into the night.

There were many yawns, including from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, was most definitely sound asleep for the majority of Rep. Val Demings' presentation. When Jay Sekulow took the stand, speaking audibly louder, Risch was jolted awake.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa took copious notes throughout Demings’ presentation. Grassley and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., were noting each piece of evidence presented on the screens. New Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., also took notes throughout.

When Lev Parnas' interview with Rachel Maddow was shown, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., began laughing and writing something down. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was smiling from ear to ear, sitting up in his chair and looking at Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained still and serious throughout. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., passed a note to Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and the two laughed and nodded.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., passed breath mints from his desk to senators sitting nearby, including Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., sat with a blanket over her lap. Schumer appeared to be quite thirsty, with pages refilling his water glass every 10 minutes. Grassley had a sheet of paper on his desk with photo identifiers.