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.
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ANALYSIS: Democrats aren't interested in a witness swap. Was there any upside to a deal?
Top Democrats made clear Wednesday that any potential deal for a witness swap — the testimony of Hunter Biden for the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton — is off the table.
Here's one possible reason why: Just because the senators agree to the witness swap doesn’t mean that the witnesses or the White House are parties to the deal. The witnesses and the White House may resist this testimony, resorting to the courts or otherwise. President Trump said Wednesday that Bolton’s testimony would cause a “national security problem.” Trump is not a party to any witness swap; he may find a way to interfere with the deal.
It's possible that only Hunter Biden would end up testifying, given the power of the Republican majority, in which case this would be a horrible deal for Democrats.
But assuming the possibility of a true Bolton-for-Biden deal, one approach might be to call Republicans’ bluff and take it. Hunter Biden would deny under oath allegations Democrats already consider debunked, and John Bolton is, at present, the number one draft pick of Democratic witnesses. His testimony could lead to legitimate grounds for additional witness testimony, as well. But again, that's assuming a world where the witness swap results in the seamless and prompt production of these witnesses. That’s just not part of the deal, and that's why Democrats might not be interested.
What's more, there's a game of witness "chicken" at play. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was right to note that a majority of Republicans could call Hunter Biden without any deal. But if the Senate Republicans summon Hunter Biden, and not Bolton or any of the other witnesses requested by Democrats, then they risk undermining one of their guiding principles: this unjustified trial doesn’t need witnesses; it needs to be over.
Danny Cevallos is a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
Schiff: Trump was trying to put his 'alibi out there' in key call with Sondland
Schiff pointed to a September phone call between Trump and Sondland as an example of the president's suspect conduct as his efforts in Ukraine were coming under more scrutiny.
The call Schiff highlighted was the one in which Trump insisted there was "no quid pro quo" with regard to pushing the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens and Democrats as he was withholding an official White House visit and nearly $400 million in military aid to the country.
"During this call between the president and Ambassador Sondland, without a prompt, President Trump told Sondland there's 'no quid pro quo,'" Schiff said. "Now, why would he do that? ... That's the kind of thing that comes up in a conversation if you're trying to put your alibi out there."
In November, Sondland testified that he did believe there was at least one quid pro quo with Ukraine, alleging that a White House visit was conditioned on the announcement of investigations. That same day, Trump read his side of that conversation, in which he claims to have said, "I want nothing" and "I want no quid pro quo."
ANALYSIS: Sekulow reads over 'quid pro quo' in article of impeachment
Trump defense lawyer Jay Sekulow said Wednesday that Democrats were leveling new charges against the president when they repeatedly said the president offered a "quid pro quo" to Ukraine — military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for investigations Trump desired.
"Notice what's not in the articles of impeachment — allegations or accusations of quid pro quo," Sekulow told reporters. "That’s because they didn't exist. So you know, there’s a lot of things we’ll rebut but we’ll do it in an orderly and I hope more systematic fashion."
But while the first article of impeachment doesn't use the Latin phrase — which means "what for what" — it charges the president with "conditioning" official acts of the U.S. government on acts by Ukraine. The House impeached Trump for a quid pro quo in plain English.
Here's the dramatic moment the impeachment protester was tackled by police
The protester who interrupted Jeffries was charged with unlawful conduct later Wednesday. See the dramatic moment he was tackled by Capitol Police as he burst through the chamber doors, as depicted in a courtroom sketch by artist Bill Hennessy.
Schiff uses text messages to paint picture of shadow Ukraine policy
Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, is using his time at the lectern to review text messages sent among and between Volker, Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Zelenskiy, Sondland and Giuliani that he said paint a picture of the shadow Ukraine policy that several witnesses testified to in November.
"Think about how unusual this is. This is the president's personal lawyer who's on this personal mission on behalf of his client to get the investigations in Ukraine. The president of Ukraine can't get in the door of the Oval Office and who are they going to? Are they going to the Security Council? No. Are they going to the State Department? No. They tried all that, they're going to the president's personal lawyer,” Schiff said.
“Does that sound like an official policy to try to fight corruption?” he added.
And they're back!
The dinner break is over, the proceedings have resumed, and Schiff is back at the lectern.
Republicans say they haven't heard anything new today
Republican lawmakers, as well as the president's legal team, echoed one another in saying they had heard nothing new Wednesday as they emerged during a brief break in the impeachment trial.
Speaking with Fox News, Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow said the case presented by House impeachment managers amounted to "repeat cycles" within the first five hours of the presentation.
"We're hearing the same things each time," he said,
Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and John Barrasso of Wyoming expressed similar sentiments as they left the Senate floor.
"Six hours of testimony so far today since I didn't hear anything new, at all," Barrasso said. "We were here all day yesterday for about 13 hours, no new material presented."
Democrats have been pleading for the Senate to allow for additional witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney, who have first-hand knowledge of the president's actions toward Ukraine. Republicans voted Tuesday into Wednesday morning to table motions made by Schumer to allow for additional witnesses and documents.
Jeffries wraps up; Senate breaks for dinner
Jeffries has just wrapped up his remarks — all focused on the July 25 call — concluding them with a sharp rebuttal to Trump’s repeated claims that his phone conversation with Zelenskiy that day was “perfect.”
"This was not a perfect call,” Jeffries said in closing. “It is direct evidence that President Donald John Trump corruptly abused his power and solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election."
With that, Chief Justice John Roberts announced a 30-minute break for dinner.
Impeachment coverage draws 11 million TV viewers
The Senate impeachment trial is becoming must-see TV.
About 11 million people tuned in to at least part of the first day of the trial across the broadcast networks and cable news channels, according to Variety.
And Fox News viewers are showing particularly strong interest, outpacing even the broadcast channels in daytime viewership. The Trump-friendly cable news channel drew 2.7 million viewers from 12:30 p.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET, beating out CBS (1.9 million), ABC (1.6 million) and NBC and CNN (1.4 million). MSNBC drew 1.9 million.
Fox News also drew the biggest audience in primetime (from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET) with 3.5 million viewers. MSNBC drew 2.5 million, while CNN attracted 1.5 million.
NBC took the top spot in evening coverage from 5:18 p.m. ET to 7:40 p.m. ET with 2.8 million viewers, topping Fox News (2.6 million), MSNBC (2 million) and CNN (1.5 million). ABC and CBS did not cover the trial in the evening hours.
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