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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

ANALYSIS: Did Schiff miss a ready audience?

Schiff might have missed an opportunity to drive home a point about the president’s encroachment on the powers of the Senate. While the California Democrat described how the pause in aid for Ukraine plays into the larger storyline of the impeachment case, he didn’t appeal directly to senators to stand up for themselves and their constitutional authority.

Trump has substituted his judgment for that of congressional appropriators repeatedly, from his decision to reroute money to a border wall to the withholding of Ukraine defense funds. That is, Democratic managers might find a receptive audience for arguments that Trump abused his power by playing around with federal money. 

Nearly one-third of the Senate sits on the Appropriations Committee. Under the thumbnail-sized photos of the panel's members on the Appropriations Committee website, in the lower right-hand corner, sits a  quotation that refers to the source of their power: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by law.” It is from Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

Jerry Nadler to take up Democratic arguments next

Rep. Jerry Nadler will take over Democratic arguments from Schiff when the Senate trial resumes shortly.

Some background on Nadler: As the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he wrote the impeachment articles against Trump based on Schiff's investigation report. Nadler also led hearings into former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's 2016 meddling. Nancy Pelosi noted that Nadler served as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties for more than a dozen years.

Who are the seven House Democrats in charge of prosecuting the case against Trump?

Schiff gives impeachment trial version of CliffsNotes with testimony clips

Rep. Adam Schiff is deploying quick, made-for-TV clips to punctuate his points — and to try to undermine the president’s expected defense — in his opening argument, much like an impeachment trial version of the CliffsNotes study guides.

Schiff played a short clip of Bill Taylor, the former top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who described a conversation he had with a Ukrainian aide.

“Also, on July 20th, I had a phone conversation with Oleksandr Danylyuk, President Zelenskiy’s national security adviser, who emphasized that President Zelenskiy did not want to be used as an instrument in a U.S. re-election campaign,” Taylor said in one of the testimony clips played on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

“Remember that conversation when counsel says Ukraine felt no pressure to be involved in a U.S. re-election campaign,” Schiff said.

And the first senator who appears to have dozed off on Wednesday is ...

'That means you, Lindsey!' Senators asked to silence their phones

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, posted a behind-the-scenes photo to her Instagram page showing the cellphone cubby in the GOP cloakroom. Attached to the sign that tells senators to silence their phones is a sticky note that reads, “That means you, Lindsey!" — apparently addressed to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The photo has since been deleted from Murkowski's account.

A now deleted photo posted to the Instagram of Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Jan. 22, 2020.via Instagram

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.