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

Trump has tweeted or retweeted over 40 times since 6 a.m. Switzerland time

DAVOS, Switzerland — It's just after 7 a.m. here in Davos, and Trump appears to be up and tweeting.

By an NBC News count, he has tweeted or retweeted more than 40 times since just before 6 a.m. local (midnight ET.) Many are retweets of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as well as various Republican lawmakers.

Chief Justice Roberts admonishes both sides, flashes back to 1905

Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided over hours of proceedings, took a moment to rebuke both sides after things got testy between House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. 

"I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body. One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse," Roberts said.

"In the 1905 Swayne trial, a senator objected when one of the managers used the word 'pettifogging,'" he added, referring to Charles Swayne, a judge who was impeached in 1904 and acquitted by the Senate in 1905. "And the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used. I don't think we need to aspire to that high a standard but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."

 

Schumer's 9th amendment would pave way for new witnesses, evidence

After the Bolton amendment met its demise, Schumer introduced his ninth amendment. It calls for a Senate vote on any motion to subpoena witnesses and documents.

McConnell's rules resolution includes a provision that says there will be a vote only on whether it would be in order for the Senate to vote on motions to subpoena witnesses and documents. To get to actual votes on witnesses and documents, this amendment would have to pass first.

Schumer's latest amendment would eliminate that obstacle and provide for a vote on any motion to subpoena witnesses and documents after the question period. 

Nadler rips Trump's 'absolute immunity' defense as debate gets heated

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., arguing in support of an amendment that would have the Senate subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, blasted a defense cited by Trump's legal team as well as Trump's attorneys in courtrooms across the country: absolute immunity. 

"Obviously, this is ridiculous. It's been flatly rejected by every federal court to consider the idea. It's embarrassing the president's counsel would talk about this today," Nadler said of the strategy before turning a critical eye to the senators before him.

"The president is on trial in the Senate, but the Senate is on trial in the eyes of the American people. Will you vote to allow all the relevant evidence to be presented here? Or will you betray you pledge to be an impartial juror?" Nadler said.

"Will you bring Ambassador Bolton here? Will you permit us to present you with the entire record of the president's misconduct? Or will you instead choose to be complicit in the president's cover-up? So far, I'm sad to say I see a lot of senators voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses, an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously a treacherous vote." 

Trump attorney Pat Cipollone said it was Nadler who should be embarrassed. 

"The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you've addressed this body. This is the United States Senate. You're not in charge here," Cipollone shot back.

Trump's legal team has argued that White House aides have "absolute immunity" to ignore congressional subpoenas, and many did so during the House's impeachment inquiry. But the argument has been rebuffed in court.

A federal judge ruled in November that former White House counsel Don McGahn must obey a subpoena for testimony issued by the House Judiciary Committee, writing in her ruling: "With respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist." 

'A drug deal': What Bolton could tell Congress about Ukraine affair

John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, had a front-row seat to the White House's Ukraine dealings, including the decision to withhold military aid. 

Fiona Hill, Trump's former top Russia expert, testified that Bolton was so disturbed by the administration's effort to persuade Ukraine to investigate Trump's political opponents that he called it a "drug deal" and wanted to alert White House lawyers. Hill also testified that Bolton, who was her boss, called Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was heavily involved in the Ukraine pressure campaign, a "hand grenade."

Bolton, who left his post on poor terms with the president, announced this month that he is willing to testify in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed

Highly anticipated Bolton amendment arrives

The seventh amendment was tabled along party lines, just like the six before it.

And now the moment everyone has been waiting for: a subpoena for John Bolton's testimony.

Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, did not testify during the House impeachment inquiry, saying at the time that he would fight a subpoena. However, he has since walked back that stance and said he would testify if subpoenaed. The administration has indicated that Trump is likely to try to block it.

Bolton is a key impeachment witness, as he was privy to much of the administration's Ukraine efforts. In particular, he had raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's role in shaping Ukraine policy.

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.