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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GOP senator explains why milk is allowed in the chamber (and other snack and beverage mysteries)
Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., shed some light on the senators' limited snack and beverage situation in a Q&A with NBC News. A gastroenterologist, Cassidy explained why he thinks an obscure Senate rule allows only water or milk on the floor of the chamber. (Spoiler alert: Coffee is also available.)
Q: Why milk in the chamber?
A: “It was thought to be a treatment for peptic ulcer disease in the '50s, and there was no medicines for peptic ulcer disease, but people would drink milk. And so the senators were allowed to drink milk because they had ulcers.”
Q: Have you ever had a glass of milk on the floor?
A: “Of milk, on the floor? I haven’t. You know, I might try it at some point. But they have food back there, so you can go back there and get snacks if you’re really hungry.”
Q: Still or sparkling?
A: “Yeah, they have sparkling water, too.”
Q: The dreaded cloakroom coffee
A: “There’s coffee, but it’s miserable coffee. ... I mean, it’s like, you would wish it on a Democrat, but no one else — just joking. So you eat chocolate or something to keep you awake.”
Q: Why can’t senators just ask for better coffee?
A: “We’re not prima donnas. Most folks are just kind of glad to get what you want, you know what I’m saying? I suppose we could’ve asked, but I mean, it’s just awful. It’s three days old.”
Schiff: Putin's and Trump’s Ukraine narratives look very similar
Schiff claimed that when the president asked about “CrowdStrike” and “the server” in his call with Ukraine’s president, he was repeating Russian disinformation.
“That’s a Russian propaganda conspiracy theory, and here it is being promulgated by the president of the United States,” Schiff said.
Schiff noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed the theory himself as early as February 2017, when he said publicly that Ukraine had boosted Clinton in the 2016 election.
Schiff also played a clip of the sworn House testimony of Russia expert Fiona Hill, who condemned the Ukraine conspiracy theory as a “fictional narrative” advanced by Russian intelligence.
Schiff outlines plan for Democratic arguments
Schiff outlined on Wednesday how the House managers plan to present their case. During the day's arguments, senators "will hear the details of the president's corrupt scheme in narrative form, illustrating the timeline of the effort through the testimony of numerous witnesses who came before the House, as well as the documents and materials we collected as evidence during the investigation."
In the following days, Democrats will discuss the constitutional framework of impeachment "as it was envisioned by the founders," Schiff said, adding that they would then "analyze how the facts of the president's misconduct and cover-up lead to the conclusion that the president undertook the sort of corrupt course of conduct that impeachment was intended to remedy."
Schiff: Evidence paints ‘overwhelming and damning picture’ of Trump's alleged misconduct
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager in Trump's impeachment trial, opened the Democratic arguments on Wednesday by telling senators that his team will present evidence that “paints an overwhelming and damning picture of the president's efforts to use the powers of his office to corruptly solicit foreign help in his re-election campaign and withhold official acts and military aid to compel that support."
The Democrats will present their case over several days; Trump’s lawyers then begin their defense.
GOP senator says his colleagues haven't read up on the Trump case
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., spoke candidly to NBC News on Wednesday about how much attention he thinks his colleagues have been paying as opening arguments kick off:
"If you poll the senators, nine out of 10 will tell you they have not read the transcript of the House hearings and the 10th is lying to you.
"So they are hearing the prosecution's case for the first time, and they're certainly hearing the president's case for the first time."
Schiff launches opening arguments with a case for impeachment over an election
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., kicked off Democrats’ opening arguments Wednesday by quoting founding father Alexander Hamilton (perhaps the hippest early American thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical) and articulating his belief that impeachment — and not just an election — is the appropriate way to deal with the president’s alleged actions.
“The House did not take this extraordinary step lightly,” Schiff said. “The president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box for we cannot be assured the vote will be fairly won.”
Schiff claimed that Trump's solicitation of foreign interference in U.S. elections was a pattern — from "Russia if you're listening" in 2016, to his request for Ukraine to do a "favor" and look into a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden — an action at the center of Trump's impeachment — to Trump's request in October for China to investigate the Bidens.
Schumer criticizes Republicans for their handling of the impeachment trial
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that there was a "cloud of unfairness" over the Senate impeachment trial after Republicans voted down his amendments to allow evidence and witness testimony.
'It was like sitting on a tractor': Senators' impressions of the impeachment trial so far
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., on Wednesday opined on the marathon proceedings on the Senate floor Tuesday night, saying it was “unnecessary to spend all that time having roll call votes on essentially the same thing,” a reference to the protracted series of votes that went late into the wee morning hours on nearly a dozen Democratic amendments, which failed almost entirely along party lines.
Asked about President Donald Trump's remarks this morning about wanting to attend his own trial, Inhofe said, “That’s not going to happen.”
Trump told reporters at the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday: "I'd love to go, wouldn't that be great? I'd love to sit in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces."
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., took the time Wednesday to praise Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager, for his arguments, calling him an “impressive leader.” Carper said the House managers gave a “stellar” performance.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who likewise has praised the work of the House impeachment managers, said he didn't think the White House defense team presented a strong case. Asked what it was like sitting on the Senate floor for so long on Tuesday, Tester said, “It was like sitting on a tractor.”
The plans so far for Trump's defense
Opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial are on track to start today at 1 p.m., with House managers going first. Trump's legal team would be set to deliver their defense starting on Saturday.
Trump's team isn't expected to push back on a Saturday start time, according to multiple sources familiar with the thinking, because there’s a desire to get the trial over with in what they believe will be an acquittal rather than expend political capital on something they’re not too worked up about.
The defense team isn't anticipating the need to use all of their allotted 24 hours, according to a source familiar with the matter. One member of the team, Robert Ray, signaled as much this morning, saying 24 hours is “more than sufficient time” to make the case.
But the team is closely watching the impeachment managers’ opening remarks and will be fluid and flexible in response. If the House Democrats go long, you may see the defense team do something similar. Sources keep stressing the element of unpredictability and are wary of divulging too much by way of strategy in the event things change on the fly.
As for how Trump's team will lay out their arguments, here’s what we know: Multiple sources close to the team say the thinking is White House counsel Pat Cipollone will do the initial opening, where he will address “substantive and constitutional and procedural” positions. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow will likely go next with an overview from beginning to end on how they got here. Then, you’ll see other members of the defense team — Pam Bondi, Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, Ray, etc. — address the points they’ve been brought on to make (Dershowitz and Ray, for example, are expected to make the “threshold” argument that the articles don’t hit the constitutional bar for impeachment).