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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

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.

1102d ago / 9:21 PM UTC

Skittles, milk and Sudoku: What senators are doing during arguments

As the arguments continue, senators seem a bit restless on the floor.

Tom Cotton was on his second glass of milk since they resumed around 4 p.m.

Richard Burr, across the aisle, noticed the milk and also asked for a glass

Meanwhile, Rand Paul was spotted with a hidden crossword puzzle in his papers. There also appeared to be a Sudoku game on the page.

Joni Ernst was eating skittles and had a blanket to keep warm.

1102d ago / 9:09 PM UTC
1102d ago / 9:08 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 8:51 PM UTC

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?

1102d ago / 8:07 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 7:59 PM UTC

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

1102d ago / 7:57 PM UTC
1102d ago / 7:54 PM UTC

'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.

Image: A now deleted photo posted to the Instagram of Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Jan. 22, 2020.
A now deleted photo posted to the Instagram of Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Jan. 22, 2020.via Instagram
1102d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

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.”

1102d ago / 7:24 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 7:13 PM UTC

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."

 

1102d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 6:45 PM UTC

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."

1102d ago / 6:44 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 6:20 PM UTC
1102d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 5:42 PM UTC

'It was like sitting on a tractor': Senators' impressions of the impeachment trial so far

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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.”

1102d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

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).

1102d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

1102d ago / 4:27 PM UTC

How's Chief Justice Roberts handling two jobs?

During oral arguments in the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, Chief Justice John Roberts showed no sign of his late night (after 2 a.m.) across the street, presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of the president. 

At the court, Robert participated in the questioning as usual, kept the argument on track and at one point even showed a flash of humor.

One of the arguing lawyers, faced with nearly two simultaneous questions, said in answering one he would then try to answer the other.

"It is recommended," Roberts said, producing laughter in the courtroom.

(Which says something about what's considered a knee-slapper in the Supreme Court.)

Image: John Roberts
Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts walks to the Senate chamber at the Capitol on Jan. 16, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP
1102d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

Trump travels from sunny Swiss retreat back to impeachment storm

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President Donald Trump departed the sunny Swiss mountain retreat of the world’s elite in Davos on Wednesday morning for the storm raging in Washington.

After a mostly warm welcome, at least on the surface, from the crowd of business executives, financiers and foreign dignitaries gathered here for the annual economic forum, the president was set to land in Washington as Democrats prepared to make their formal case against him on the floor of the Senate.

For most of his less than 36 hours here, Trump had appeared inclined to keep the topic of impeachment at arm's length, counterprograming the first day of the trial with the image of a president hard at work on the international stage. It will most likely be one of the last times he’ll be able to do so for the next few weeks as the impeachment trial plays out on live television throughout the day and into the evening, consuming news coverage. But impeachment wasn’t far from the president's mind.

Here's more on what Trump thinks about the impeachment trial so far.

1102d ago / 3:50 PM UTC
1102d ago / 2:24 PM UTC

Sen. Chris Murphy reveals behind the scenes at the Senate trial

1102d ago / 2:20 PM UTC

Republicans decline to dismiss charges against Trump

Senate Republicans on Wednesday declined to dismiss the impeachment articles against President Donald Trump.

The GOP had until 9:00 a.m. to file the motion and did not do so.

Such an effort had been considered unlikely to succeed in any event. 

1102d ago / 1:51 PM UTC

What does Trump think?

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President Donald Trump was absolutely engaged in the impeachment proceedings on Tuesday, getting "minute-by-minute" updates, according to Rep. Mark Meadows — one of the president's closest allies and an impeachment team member.

White House legislative affairs head Eric Ueland backed that up, telling NBC's Hill team that the president is "very impressed" with what's been happening on the Hill.

But take all that with a grain of salt: Trump 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.

1102d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

Trump says he wants to attend his own trial and 'stare into their corrupt faces'

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he'd like to see former National Security Adviser John Bolton and other top officials testify at his Senate impeachment trial — but suggested he would block their testimony because it’s a national security risk.

"I would rather interview Bolton. I would rather interview a lot of people. The problem with John is, that it's a national security problem," the president said during an impromptu press conference in Davos, Switzerland. 

Trump also coyly said he’d love to attend his own Senate trial.

"I'd love to go, wouldn't that be great," Trump told reporters. "I'd love to sit in the front row and stare in their corrupt faces."

READ the full story here.

1102d ago / 12:57 PM UTC

1102d ago / 10:40 AM UTC

One senator took a bathroom break at the worst time. Giggles ensue.

The last hour before the Senate adjourned early Wednesday morning was filled with stretching, clapping, chatting, yawning. And an ill-timed call from Mother Nature. 

The same cast of Republican senators remained chatty until the very end, including Sens. Perdue, R-Ga., Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb. Some Democrats grew talkative as well, with 2020 candidates Klobuchar and Warren standing off to the side in conversation. Sanders stood on his own stretching his legs a few rows down.

But others…definitely sleepy.

Sen. Murray, D-Wash., nudged Sen. Feinstein, D-Calif., to pay attention when her name was called during the 11th amendment roll call. Sen. Alexander came back from the cloakroom to find Sen. Rand Paul accidentally in his seat. Many senators ended up standing — although McConnell had asked them to remain seated — to keep themselves from slumping in their chairs.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., took a bathroom break at the wrong time, during the vote on the rules resolution — the last vote before the Senate adjourned.

During his absence, McConnell was standing and waiting at his podium. Schumer and fellow Democrats were giggling. Moments later, Sen. Manchin, D-W.Va., emerged from the cloakroom and said "one minute" to more giggles from Democrats. Finally, when Heinrich re-entered the chamber to cast his vote, which meant adjournment was imminent, Democrats and Republicans cheered and clapped.

Heinrich looked pretty uncomfortable.

When the Senate adjourned after nearly 13 hours, senators dashed off of the floor. Aides had senators’ coats and belongings ready to go for hours in the Senate reception room where many waited for their members.

1102d ago / 10:31 AM UTC

1102d ago / 6:53 AM UTC

Senate passes McConnell impeachment rules after nearly 13 hours of debate

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The Senate passed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution laying out a blueprint for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial along party lines early Wednesday after a daylong back-and-forth between House prosecutors and lawyers for the White House.

The Republican majority had earlier voted down several amendments proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to subpoena documents and call witnesses.

The vote came just before 2 a.m. Wednesday and after Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., suggested senators were voting for a "cover-up," something that drew sharp responses from the president's legal counsel.

1102d ago / 6:46 AM UTC

Senators prepare to vote on McConnell plan after last amendment fails

The Senate voted 53-47 to table the 11th amendment.

Senators will now vote on the final passage of McConnell's organizing resolution.

1102d ago / 6:46 AM UTC

OMB releases 192 pages of Ukraine-related documents to watchdog group

Just before midnight, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a trove of Ukraine-related documents, "including records that have not been produced to Congress in its impeachment investigation," the watchdog group American Oversight said. 

American Oversight obtained the records as part of a number of Freedom of Information Act requests.

"We have an email from the night before the call with the president of Ukraine saying they were drafting the footnote to put that hold in place," Austin Evers, the group's executive director, told MSNBC's Ali Velshi. "So, again, this is black-and-white evidence of the machinations that the president was putting the entire government through to execute his corrupt scheme."

Many of the documents are so redacted as to render them unreadable, according to an initial NBC News review. The pages include emails and letters from several GOP lawmakers and staffers asking for an explanation of the withheld Ukraine aid.

In addition, there are emails from OMB's acting director, Russell Vought, and associate director of national security programs, Michael Duffey, on the morning of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25.

1102d ago / 6:44 AM UTC

First GOP defection: Collins breaks with party to vote for a Schumer amendment

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As expected, Schumer's 10th amendment failed. Unlike with the previous nine amendments, however, the vote did not come down exactly along party lines. Susan Collins of Maine became the first Republican defection of the day, and the amendment was killed, 52-48.

The amendment was to allow senators more time to file responses to motions.

Collins, a moderate Republican who is up for re-election this year, is considered one of the most likely in her party to vote to call witnesses and hear new evidence. She had also pushed McConnell on Tuesday to soften the rules in his proposed blueprint for the trial.

1102d ago / 6:25 AM UTC

Watch: Sekulow, Nadler trade blows over executive privilege

1102d ago / 6:22 AM UTC

We're in the home stretch

Schumer's office says there are just two amendments left. After those amendments are finished, the Senate will vote on final passage.

Amendment 9 was tabled at about 1:18 a.m. 

The 10th amendment is to allow adequate time for parties to respond.

1102d ago / 6:20 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 6:19 AM UTC

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."

 

1102d ago / 6:13 AM UTC

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. 

1102d ago / 6:01 AM UTC

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." 

1102d ago / 5:24 AM UTC
1102d ago / 5:20 AM UTC

'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

1102d ago / 5:12 AM UTC

Highly anticipated Bolton amendment arrives

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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.

1102d ago / 5:00 AM UTC

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. 

1102d ago / 4:58 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 4:49 AM UTC

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."

1102d ago / 4:26 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 4:23 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 4:15 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 3:53 AM UTC

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.

1102d ago / 3:37 AM UTC

Amendment 5 fails; Schumer introduces another to subpoena two White House officials

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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.