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.
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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.
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Where'd everybody go?
There were around 36 empty seats on the Senate floor as Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, spoke, meaning the chamber was about a third vacant. Some of the notable absences included Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Some senators eventually began to trickle back in, including several who remained standing to stretch their legs.
As Garcia continued, most Republicans had their hands in their laps and were not reading or taking notes, except for Republicans Cory Gardner of Colorado and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who were constantly flipping through binders and reading material and taking notes. Among the Democrat, Tim Kaine of Virginia and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were very focused on note-taking. Dianne Feinstein of California was also flipping through her large briefing book and notes.
The House managers were all reading or watching Garcia as she spoke while Trump's defense team sat huddled, passing a note among themselves and chatting. When Trump attorney Pam Bondi took the floor, the Republican side of the room seemed to re-engage and listen a little more intently. The House managers and Intelligence Committee staffers shook their heads when she attacked them personally; then they huddled to chat. While Bondi was speaking, Trump's defense team listened closely and watched her, and when she sat back down, the team nodded approvingly and smiled.
Sekulow objects ... to the brevity of Schumer's latest amendment?
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's attorneys, made an odd assertion about the length of the amendment to the rules currently under debate, which, as Schumer promised, is indeed brief.
"The idea that you can cure constitutional defects in three paragraphs doesn't pass constitutional muster," Sekulow said.
The majority of the amendments to the Constitution, including all 10 in the Bill of Rights, are written in three paragraphs or fewer.
Republicans get restless; Schiff says it's 'not our job' to make this easy
A bit earlier, when impeachment manager Jason Crow, D-Colo., was arguing for an amendment to subpoena the Defnse Department for documents related to the freeze on aid to Ukraine, some Republicans appeared to have lost patience.
Republicans were fidgety and chatty on their side of the aisle, while Democrats appeared more serious and definitely not as talkative with their neighbors. Schumer remained in conversation with his aide throughout the presentations, while McConnell sat stone-faced and silent for the most part. During the defense's presentation, when White House attorney Patrick Philbin remarked that Democrats were spending the day arguing when to call witnesses and not whether they would, McConnell was visibly chuckling in his seat — as Schumer smirked.
When Schiff took the floor and said, "Senators, I'll be brief," Republicans audibly sighed and groaned.
"Yeah, we're making it hard for you. We're making it hard for you to say no," Schiff said. "We're making it hard for you to say, 'I don't want to hear from these people, I don't want to see these documents.' We're making it hard. It's not our job to make it easier for you. It's our job to make it hard to deprive the American people of a fair trial."
Schumer casts wide net with 7th amendment but insists 'it's short'
Per Schumer's office, the seventh amendment would require that if, during the impeachment trial, any party seeks to admit evidence that has not been submitted as part of the House record and that was subject to a duly authorized subpoena, that party shall also provide the opposing party all other documents responsive to that subpoena.
Schumer's amendment to subpoena two OMB officials fails
The sixth amendment introduced by Senate Democrats, to subpoena testimony from Robert B. Blair and Michael P. Duffey, two White House Office of Management and Budget officials with direct knowledge of the Ukraine aid freeze, was killed along party lines.
Schumer's not done, but McConnell announces a five-minute break.
Democratic senator throws cold water on Biden testimony
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., threw cold water on suggestions that Democrats agree to subpoena former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton.
This comes as other Democrats, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, have indicated that they would be open to letting Republicans call Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of the embattled Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father, as vice president, was pushing to oust Ukraine's top prosecutor, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr to look into the Bidens during a phone call in July.
But others, including Coons, have argued that testimony from the Bidens would be a distraction and could add fodder to a baseless conspiracy. There has never been evidence that either Biden behaved improperly.
Why Democrats keep introducing doomed amendments
Despite multiple amendments for additional witnesses failing along party lines, Democrats have continued to push for additional subpoenas for witnesses and documents, causing the proceedings to go late into the night.
NBC News' Leigh Ann Caldwell explains.
Amendment 5 fails; Schumer introduces another to subpoena two White House officials
Schumer's fifth amendment, to subpoena certain Defense Department documents and records, was killed like all the others, 53-47, along party lines.
Schumer immediately introduced an amendment for the Senate to issue subpoenas for the testimony of two White House officials, Robert Blair and Michael Duffey.
Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas, the House manager rising in support of the amendment, argued that Blair and Duffey must appear as witnesses because they "operated the machinery of the executive branch ... and executed Trump's order" to freeze the aid to Ukraine. The pair had defied subpoenas from House impeachment investigators.
"They stood at the center of this tangled web," she said.
Crow argues Pentagon documents will further prove Trump-Ukraine scheme
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., argued on behalf the impeachment managers in favor of Schumer's amendment to subpoena the Defense Department for certain records related to the freeze on military aid to Ukraine.
He cited the testimony of Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine, as one reason those documents would shed additional light on whether Trump improperly withheld military aid for Ukraine as leverage to compel Ukraine to launch politically advantageous investigations.
In a public hearing in November, Cooper explained how and when she became aware of the hold on the aid and said she had recently learned of the existence of multiple emails that had been sent to her office (but that she hadn't received). The emails pertained to questions she had been asked during her deposition in October about whether she knew if the Ukrainians had known about the hold or had asked any questions about it.
Cooper said her staff later showed her two unclassified emails from the State Department. They were sent two hours apart on the afternoon of July 25. The first, Cooper said, showed that Ukraine's embassy was "asking about the security assistance," and the second suggested that "Hill knows about the [aid freeze] situation." Fiona Hill is Trump's former top Russia adviser.
The Pentagon had previously defied a subpoena from House impeachment investigators for information and documents related to the aid freeze.
Trump's defense team argued that Democrats were jumping the gun by pushing for additional documents and witnesses at this stage, saying McConnell's rules allow for the issue to be decided later, after both sides have presented their arguments.
"We're not here to make it easy for you," Schiff responded.
We're back and debating Schumer's amendment to subpoena Pentagon records
If that short break was used to try to reach a deal to move the proceedings along, it appears it didn't work.
McConnell resumed the trial, and then Schumer immediately introduced his fifth amendment, which seeks to subpoena certain Defense Department documents and records.
They will go into up to two hours of debate on the amendment. Several senators looked tired an hour ago, as Jeffries made the case for why Mulvaney should be called as a witness.
As Jeffries spoke, some senators appeared to be eating snacks. A few chatted quietly. Most watched the screens as the videos were played, although a few looked around the room and up at the galleries.
As the clock approached 9 p.m., a few senators rested their heads against their hands as they sat listening, and Senate pages walked through the room refilling water glasses.
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.