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.
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.
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.
'Do you want to know the full truth now?': House managers continue push for more evidence
For roughly eight hours Wednesday, House impeachment managers outlined their case against Trump, repeatedly hammering him for calling on foreign nations to investigate the Bidens, detailing what they said was a quid pro quo with Ukraine and never missing a chance to highlight why additional documents and witnesses were necessary for the Senate trial.
"Do you want to know the full truth now?" Schiff said as he neared the end of Wednesday arguments, adding, "Want to know how broad this scheme was?"
"We can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the conduct," he added. "You should want the whole truth to come out" and "want to know about every player in this sordid business."
House managers pointed to Trump's defenses throughout the day, seeking to poke holes in claims such as "no quid pro quo" and that his July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy was "perfect."
"The president claims that his call was perfect," Jeffries said. "Nothing can be further from the truth. The call is direct evidence of President Trump's solicitation of foreign interference in the 2020 election as part of a corrupt scheme."
The House managers pleaded for the Senate to allow for additional witnesses and documents after Republicans voted Tuesday into Wednesday morning to table motions made by Schumer to allow for them. At the end of Wednesday's proceedings, Roberts entered classified testimony from a Pence aide into the official record — evidence that was not yet available during the House investigation.
Fireworks were few and far between throughout the day, a far cry from the prior day's proceedings where the House managers and Trump's legal team traded turns arguing for and against amendments to the process resolution.
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37d ago / 2:49 AM UTC
Schiff: 'You should want to know about every player in this sordid business'
As Wednesday's session approached its conclusion, Schiff said that the articles on impeachment implicate more than just Trump.
"We can and will prove President Trump guilty of this conduct and of obstructing the investigation into his misconduct,” said Schiff, the lead House manager in the Senate trial. "But you and the American people should know who else was involved in this scheme ... You should want to know about every player in this sordid business."
Throughout the House impeachment inquiry, witnesses testified in public about how people close to the president, including Giuliani, Sondland, then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, played key roles in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and a debunked 2016 conspiracy theory.
Schiff quoted Sondland’s testimony from the inquiry in which he stated that “everyone was in the loop” about the president’s efforts.
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37d ago / 3:13 AM UTC
A moment of levity: applause for the outgoing Senate pages
The Senate chamber burst into applause when, just before the chief justice adjourned, McConnell thanked the outgoing class of Senate pages.
The last day of their term is January 23.
"In addition to witnessing this unusual event that we're all experiencing, they're studying for their final exams as well, and we wish them well, as they head off back to boring normal high school," McConnell said.
Schumer also thanked the pages, all high school juniors, according to the Senate, for their work. Pages largely serve as messengers and prepare the Senate chamber for each day's business. Schumer also noted that the standing ovation the pages inspired was a "rare" moment of bipartisanship.
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37d ago / 2:41 AM UTC
Lofgren suggests Pence hiding testimony of key aide
Important to remember that this testimony about Pence and Ukraine *has* been viewed by Members, but the public hasn't seen it, because it's classified.
Lofgren suggests here (and Schiff has said previously) that the testimony was improperly classified to protect Pence. https://t.co/gmcrssGqRO
That basic math is all it takes, he argued, to conclude that Trump prioritized his own interests over American national security by using U.S. foreign aid as leverage to force Ukraine into helping his re-election effort. The Ukrainians knew the score — "they're not stupid," Schiff said — and he left unspoken his thoughts on the intellectual capacity of senators who couldn't or wouldn't perform the same addition with the facts in front of them.
Of course, the arithmetic of the eventual Senate vote is nothing like the formula for determining whether the president abused the powers of his office in the very ways the founding fathers envisioned a chief executive might when they vested Congress with removal authority.
House managers hammer hard on Trump's call for China to probe Bidens
Schiff just highlighted Trump's public call in October for China — in addition to Ukraine — to probe the Bidens.
It's a moment that's been highlighted repeatedly in the first two days of Trump's impeachment trial.
At the time, a handful of Republicans criticized Trump for calling on China to probe the private U.S. citizens. Romney called it "wrong and appalling." Collins said she was "stunned" to hear Trump call on China to to launch an investigation into the former vice president and his son. And Sasse said "Hold up: Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth."
Others said Trump was just joking.
Rubio said Trump was "needling the press, knowing that you guys were going to get outraged by it." And Blunt expressed "doubt" that Trump "was serious."
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37d ago / 2:35 AM UTC
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.
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37d ago / 1:44 AM UTC
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."
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37d ago / 1:28 AM UTC
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.
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37d ago / 1:11 AM UTC
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.
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37d ago / 1:24 AM UTC
Schiff uses text messages to paint picture of shadow Ukraine policy
"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.