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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.

937d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

Schumer: If Republicans want to hear 'new stuff, there's plenty of it'

Schumer hit Republicans on Wednesday for saying they hadn't heard anything "new" during opening arguments, adding, "If they want new stuff, there's plenty of it."

"What are the Republicans saying after yesterday? Well, the same Republicans are saying that they heard nothing new," Schumer said at a press conference. "But these Republicans voted nine times on Tuesday against amendments to ensure new witnesses and new documents to come before the Senate."

"This argument that they've heard nothing new when they vote repeatedly against witnesses and documents rings very, very hollow," he added.

A number of Republicans said Wednesday and Thursday that they were just hearing the same things being repeated over and over by Democrats, though they mostly avoided discussing the substance of that evidence.

Barrasso told CNN Thursday that he's "expecting to hear a repetition of what they said yesterday (Wednesday)" during Thursday's proceedings.

Speaking with Fox News on Wednesday, Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow said of the case presented by House impeachment managers: "We're hearing the same things each time."

Democrats have been pleading for the Senate to allow for additional witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney, who they say have first-hand knowledge of the president's actions toward Ukraine, as well as documents the Trump administration has withheld.

937d ago / 4:29 PM UTC

Sen. Murphy: 'I don't support bringing in Joe Biden or Hunter Biden'

938d ago / 2:45 PM UTC

House impeachment manager: More details of Trump's Ukraine efforts are 'going to come out'

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday that more details will come out regarding Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens and Democrats "whether it's now or down the road.

Crow, one of the House impeachment managers, has focused his presentation on the national security implications of Trump withholding military aid to Ukraine as he was asking Zelenskiy to announce the sought-after investigations.

"If the president of the United States wants to use national security funds and jeopardize our national security and put our men and women in uniform at risk as a result of it, and our allies at risk for his own political campaign, the American people are going to know about it," Crow said. "And they’re going to know about it whether it’s now or down the road."

"This stuff is going to come out, whether it's in books, whether it's in movies, whether it's in some future administration that releases these records, it's going to come out," Crow added. "So the question right now in front of everybody is whether or not they want it to come out now when it matters the most, during this trial, and what side of history they want to be on."

938d ago / 2:43 PM UTC

Trump rages against impeachment in tweetstorm

Trump opened up Thursday posting a series of tweets lamenting the ongoing impeachment trial, which he called "unfair" and "corrupt."

The president also made a series of misleading assertions or outright false claims as he tweeted.

Read more here

938d ago / 1:03 PM UTC

Trump tweets against the trial and 'Shifty Schiff'

938d ago / 1:01 PM UTC
938d ago / 3:33 AM UTC

Here's what Trump's defense team has been up to

Here's how things look from where Trump and his legal team sit:

How's the president dealing with Democrats' monopoly on floor time?

House managers have the stage all to themselves for the next couple days but the president and his defense team are doing everything they can to try to pull the spotlight their way because that’s what the president wants. He’s anxious to get his arguments out there. His surrogate team, including lawmakers he’s been on the phone with, is out in full force. And during two breaks today and immediately after the day ended, one of his lead attorneys, Jay Sekulow, beelined to television cameras to get the defense’s messaging out there, and squeezed in a Fox hit to boot.

How does the president's team think this is playing out politically?

Generally, allies think the Democrats' arguments are repetitive and unlikely to change minds. And the Trump campaign is trying to capitalize: the campaign is highlighting continued financial gain from the impeachment trial overall. Some of the highest-ever fundraising days occurred around the release of the Mueller report in April and initial impeachment inquiry news in September.   

Tell us more about the president's opening arguments!

Sure thing, especially since we’re learning more about how it’ll play out. In one of the clearest indications yet of how the defense is looking directly rebut managers, Sekulow hinted that the defense team would reference the same career diplomats Democrat did but cite different comments where these staffers praised the president and his policies. He also signaled the team may wrap arguments Monday, but left the door open to continuing Tuesday as well. Earlier, Sekulow told NBC News that the defense's arguments could take "10 hours, 14 hours, 24 hours, or six hours," emphasizing they want to be flexible and fluid.

Per multiple sources close to the team, Cipollone will do the initial opening, where he will address “substantive and constitutional and procedural” positions. Sekulow will likely go next with an overview from beginning to end on how they got here. Then, it sounds like Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr will make the Constitutional argument that the articles of impeachment don’t meet the threshold for impeachment. There will then be what the team refers to as fact presentations and that’s when you’ll see other team members make their oral arguments. 

Do you think the president will actually show up at the Senate trial?

Almost certainly not. Sekulow made it clear when he said, "presidents don’t do that."

938d ago / 3:31 AM UTC

After trial adjourns, Graham and Schiff spotted shaking hands

938d ago / 3:14 AM UTC

Podcast: NBC News' Frank Thorp breaks down the first day of arguments

On today’s bonus episode of NBC News' Article II impeachment podcast, Steve Kornacki talks to Frank Thorp, an NBC News producer covering the Senate, about the first day of opening arguments and the case House managers are making to a few select senators they hope to bring to their side.

The two discuss:

  • How House managers presented their case to the Senate
  • The three Republican senators Democrats hope they can persuade to join them in a vote for witnesses
  • Whether there’s any likelihood that Democrats will get the four votes they need in total to subpoena witnesses and change the trajectory of the trial
938d ago / 3:10 AM UTC

Trial ends for the day

The first day of the House managers' arguments ended around 9:45 p.m. eastern.

McConnell said everyone will return on Thursday at 1 p.m. for the second day of the House managers' arguments.

“We’ve introduced the case, we’ve gone through the chronology, and tomorrow we will apply the facts to the law as it pertains to the President’s abuse of power,” Schiff said.

All seven of the impeachment managers spoke during today’s session.

938d ago / 3:06 AM UTC

Sekulow says he's confident Trump will be acquitted by Senate

Trump counsel Jay Sekulow declared Wednesday after the first day of opening arguments by Democrats that "the president will be acquitted."

“Without a question, the president will be acquitted,” he told reporters after the trial adjourned for the night. 

“The whole fact that we are here is ridiculous,” he said, suggesting that the president’s impeachment may not be just over the July 25 phone call but a “three-year attempt” by the Democrats to reverse the 2016 election. 

938d ago / 2:59 AM UTC

'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.

938d 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.

938d ago / 2:48 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.

938d ago / 2:41 AM UTC

Lofgren suggests Pence hiding testimony of key aide

938d ago / 2:39 AM UTC

Democrats' impeachment formula is easy math

WASHINGTON — The plot is intricate, but the math is simple.

The latter requires senators and the American public to understand only that "two plus two equals four," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead House manager in President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial, said Wednesday.

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.

Read more here.

938d ago / 2:33 AM UTC

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."

938d ago / 2:25 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.

938d 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."

938d ago / 1:25 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.

938d 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.

Image: Sketch, impeachment trial
Man tackled as he shouts at chamber door during Senate Impeachment Trial on Jan. 22, 2020.Bill Hennessy
938d ago / 12:49 AM UTC

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.

938d ago / 12:31 AM UTC

And they're back!

The dinner break is over, the proceedings have resumed, and Schiff is back at the lectern.

938d ago / 12:27 AM UTC
938d ago / 12:18 AM UTC

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.

938d ago / 11:56 PM UTC

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.

938d ago / 11:45 PM UTC

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.

NBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC.

938d ago / 11:42 PM UTC
938d ago / 11:35 PM UTC

Fact-checking Trump's defense: 'They got their money'

President Donald Trump repeatedly made false claims Wednesday about his handling of Ukraine foreign aid, seeking to publicly defend himself as Democrats began opening statements in the Senate trial on whether to remove him from office.

Trump — who has sought to block White House documents and aides from offering evidence in the trial and insists there is no basis to Democrats' claims — repeatedly said that Ukraine got their foreign aid early and that Ukrainian officials have said he did nothing wrong.

Neither claim is completely true, but the president's remarks — made from Davos, Switzerland — suggest that his defense against the impeachment charges will be rooted in his own reading of the facts.

Read NBC News' fact check of his claims.

938d ago / 11:28 PM UTC

Jeffries interrupted by protester

Jeffries was briefly interrupted by a protester yelling loudly. 

The protester was escorted out of the chamber within seconds, and Jeffries resumed his remarks, but the man continued to scream loudly just outside the chamber, on the third floor near the press gallery.

He could be heard yelling, "Schumer is the devil," "Dismiss the trial of impeachment," and he repeatedly mentioned abortion, as he was arrested and led away by Capitol Police. He was charged with unlawful conduct, police said.

938d ago / 11:21 PM UTC

Jeffries zeroes in on Trump's request for 'a favor' on July 25 call

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., who took over after Demings, is using his time at the lectern to revisit and re-emphasize the significance of what occurred on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

"The president claims that his call was perfect. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Jeffries said. “The call is direct evidence of President Trump's solicitation of foreign interference in the 2020 election as part of a corrupt scheme."

Jeffries went on to read selections from the transcript of the call, offering analysis along the way.

Seizing on Trump’s saying that “I would like you to do us a favor, though,”and Trump’s mentions of Crowdstrike and the Bidens that followed — Jeffries slammed the president for trying to net a “personal favor.”

"On the July 25th call, Mr. Trump could have endeavored to strengthen the relationship with this new Ukrainian leader. Instead, President Trump focused on securing a personal favor,” Jeffries said. 

“He wanted Ukraine to conduct phony investigations designed to enhance his political standing and solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election,” he added.

938d ago / 11:02 PM UTC

Demings argues Oval Office meeting was part of pressure campaign on Ukraine

The House impeachment managers are clearly taking turns tackling specific elements of the case they're building against Trump.

After Crow wrapped up more than 45 minutes of remarks focused exclusively on the hold on military aid to Ukraine, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., took over and announced, “Now I want to talk to you about the White House meeting that President Trump offered to President Zelenskiy during their first phone call in April.”

Citing the November testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Demings said, “It became clear that President Zelenskiy would not be invited to the Oval Office until he announced the opening of investigations that would benefit President Trump's re-election.”

“During his testimony, Ambassador Sondland stressed that it was a clear quid pro quo,” she said.

Sondland, in fact, was unambiguous in saying that Trump, through Giuliani, attempted a quid pro quo under which a White House meeting for Zelenskiy was conditioned on him making a public statement announcing investigations into Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined as a board member in 2014 — and a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

938d ago / 10:11 PM UTC

'Where were you on July 25?': Crow focuses on Ukraine military aid freeze

After roughly 20 minutes, Garcia stepped away from the microphone and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., took over.

Focusing almost entirely the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that prompted House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Crow asked the chamber: “Where were you on July 25, 2019? It was a Thursday. Members of the U.S. Senate were here in this chamber. On July 25, across the Atlantic, our 68,000 troops stationed throughout Europe were doing what they do every day, training and preparing to support our allies and defend against Russia.”

In stark terms, he went on to outline the importance of the military aid to Ukraine — and the significance of the argument (at the center of Democrats’ case) about why the White House withheld it.

“While our friends were at war with Russia wearing sneakers, some without helmets, something else was happening. On July 25, President Trump made a phone call. He spoke with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy and asked for a favor.”

“And on that same day,” Crow continued, “just hours after his call, his administration was quietly placing an illegal hold on critical military aid to support our friends."

938d ago / 10:08 PM UTC

The view from Trump's legal team

Here's how things look from where Trump and his legal team sit:

What does Trump's defense team think about the opening arguments from the House managers?

Get to it, basically. The defense team is trying to frame the Democrats' arguments as repetitive and drawn out. But here's something to watch: Jay Sekulow, in response to a question from NBC News, dodged when asked about something Democrats have seized on — the president's comments in Davos this morning that "we have all the material. They don't have the material." Democrats say that is basically the "obstruction of Congress" quiet part out loud. 

What's Trump doing?

The president is still en route back from Zurich, and has tweeted or retweeted well over a dozen times since he went wheels up. Allies who have spoken to him say he is "resolved," with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., saying "he wants to get this over with," like most Americans. We're expecting Trump to return to the White House later tonight.

What do we know about the defense team's opening arguments?

Confirming our reporting about the need for responsiveness to House arguments, Sekulow told reporters that the defense argument will be a "combination" of "aggressively" challenging the case House Democrats are putting forward while also making the affirmative case as well. It's partly why Sekulow says he "can’t make any determinations to how long our proceedings will go." The signals have been that a full 24 hours may not be needed, with attorney Robert Ray signaling that's “more than sufficient time” to make the case. But 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.

Where does any Bolton testimony stand?

The White House would most likely move to invoke executive privilege if senators were to vote to call witnesses like John Bolton. And Schumer declared any talk of a reported Biden-for-Bolton witness trade "off the table." The president’s stated desire to have Bolton testify should be treated with caution, as he’s talked about having officials do this before only to have testimony fail to materialize. And even when the president says he wants to see these officials (like Bolton, Mulvaney, Perry) speak, he follows it up immediately by explaining why that might not be a good idea because of concerns over privileged or sensitive conversations. If executive privilege is, in fact, invoked, it would almost certainly put a pause on the impeachment trial for an as-yet-undetermined period of time.

938d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Schumer says impeachment witness trade is 'off the table'

Schumer told reporters Wednesday during a brief recess from the trial that he wouldn’t entertain a deal with Republicans in which Democrats secure witness testimony from someone like former national security adviser John Bolton in exchange for someone like Hunter Biden. 

Asked whether he would be open to a witness trade, Schumer said: "No. I think that’s off the table." 

In recent weeks, there’s been a debate over whether both parties could negotiate witness testimony like a trade.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was asked about such a proposition while campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday.

As part of an extended answer in which he defended his son but noted he’s acknowledged poor judgment, Biden said, "We're not going to turn it into a farce, into some kind of political theater."

938d ago / 9:41 PM UTC

Senate GOP whip: 'It's certainly not a cover-up'

and

Sen. John Thune, the chamber's majority whip, said Wednesday '[i]t's certainly not a cover-up" in response to Rep. Jerry Nadler's late-night suggestion that Republican senators are doing just that for Trump by refusing to call former national security adviser John Bolton to testify — comments that in part drew the admonishment of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Thune, R-S.D., said when asked about Nadler's accusation, "that's the language [they] are using, I think that's very poll-tested language, but that's a political argument that the Democrats are making. It's certainly not a cover-up. We've got a full impeachment hearing going on."

Thune said the Senate would probably get to a decision on whether to call witnesses after the arguments are finished sometime next week. He added that he thought Nadler's comments were "not helpful to their cause, frankly, because a lot of our members believe it was a partisan process coming out of the House, and I think that the tone yesterday in many respects reinforced that."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters that if he were Trump, he wouldn't cooperate with Democrats "at all" because they are "on a crusade to destroy this man" and, he said, have run an unfair, partisan process.

"So to my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you  want about me, but I'm covering up nothing!" Graham said. "I'm exposing your hatred of this president to the point that you would destroy the institution."

"[W]hen it comes to replacing this president, nine months-plus from the election, you've got an uphill battle with me," Graham added, "because I really do believe that the best person, group of people to  pick a president are voters, not a bunch of partisan politicians."

938d ago / 9:40 PM UTC

Garcia continues argument centered on Rudy's involvement in Ukraine

After speaking for just over 20 minutes, Nadler ceded the lectern to Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, who continued the focus on Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine — and Trump’s interest in it.

"For this campaign to be truly beneficial to his boss, President Trump, Giuliani needed access to the new government in Ukraine. He dispatched associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to try to make inroads with the Zelenskiy team,” Garcia said.

"As Giuliani and his associates worked behind the scenes to get access to the new leadership in Ukraine, President Trump was publicly signaling his interest in the investigations," she added, citing (and then playing a clip of) a May 2 interview with Trump on Fox News.

Moments later, she quoted from a May 9 New York Times interview with Giuliani in which he admitted to planning trips to Ukraine to push for investigations that would benefit Trump.

"That's it, right there," Garcia said after reading from the story. "Giuliani admitting he was asking Ukraine to work on investigations that would be very, very helpful to the president."

"He was not doing foreign policy. He was not doing this on behalf of the government. He was doing this for personal interest of his client, Donald J. Trump," Garcia said.

938d ago / 9:24 PM UTC
938d ago / 9:22 PM UTC

Jumping right in, Nadler begins testimony with Yovanovitch details

Nadler wasted no time in jumping into a central argument behind the impeachment articles: that Trump’s dealings in Ukraine were aimed primarily at cheating in the 2020 election.

“Please remember that the object of the president's Ukraine scheme was to obtain a corrupt advantage for his re-election campaign,” Nadler said. “As we will show, the president went to extraordinary lengths to cheat in the next election. That scheme begins with the attempt to get Ambassador Yovanovitch, quote, 'out of the way,' unquote.”

Nadler peppered his remarks with clips from the House testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and several other countries, that focused largely on Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine affair.

According to Yovanovitch, whose account is backed up by many witnesses in the inquiry, Giuliani seized on Ukrainian disinformation that she'd been badmouthing the president and was blocking corruption investigations to orchestrate a broad smear campaign against her that culminated in her being fired.

938d 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.

938d ago / 9:09 PM UTC
938d 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.

938d 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?

938d 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.

938d ago / 7:59 PM UTC

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

938d ago / 7:57 PM UTC
938d 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
938d 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.”

938d 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.

938d 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."

 

938d 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.

938d 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."

938d 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.

938d ago / 6:20 PM UTC
938d 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.

938d 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.”

938d 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).

938d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

938d 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
939d 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.

939d ago / 3:50 PM UTC
939d ago / 2:24 PM UTC

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

939d 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. 

939d 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.

939d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

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

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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.

939d ago / 12:57 PM UTC

939d 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.

939d ago / 10:31 AM UTC

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d ago / 6:25 AM UTC

Watch: Sekulow, Nadler trade blows over executive privilege

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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."

 

939d 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. 

939d 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." 

939d ago / 5:24 AM UTC
939d 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

939d 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.

939d 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. 

939d 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.

939d 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."

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d 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.

939d ago / 3:32 AM UTC

Crow argues Pentagon documents will further prove Trump-Ukraine scheme

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., argued on behalf the impeachment managers in favor of Schumer's amendment to subpoena the Defense Department for certain records related to the freeze on military aid to Ukraine. 

He cited the testimony of Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine, as one reason those documents would shed additional light on whether Trump improperly withheld military aid for Ukraine as leverage to compel Ukraine to launch politically advantageous investigations. 

In a public hearing in November, Cooper explained how and when she became aware of the hold on the aid and said she had recently learned of the existence of multiple emails that had been sent to her office (but that she hadn't received). The emails pertained to questions she had been asked during her deposition in October about whether she knew if the Ukrainians had known about the hold or had asked any questions about it. 

Cooper said her staff later showed her two unclassified emails from the State Department. They were sent two hours apart on the afternoon of July 25. The first, Cooper said, showed that Ukraine's embassy was "asking about the security assistance," and the second suggested that "Hill knows about the [aid freeze] situation." Fiona Hill is Trump's former top Russia adviser.

The Pentagon had previously defied a subpoena from House impeachment investigators for information and documents related to the aid freeze.

Trump's defense team argued that Democrats were jumping the gun by pushing for additional documents and witnesses at this stage, saying McConnell's rules allow for the issue to be decided later, after both sides have presented their arguments. 

"We're not here to make it easy for you," Schiff responded.

939d ago / 2:58 AM UTC

We're back and debating Schumer's amendment to subpoena Pentagon records

and

If that short break was used to try to reach a deal to move the proceedings along, it appears it didn't work.

McConnell resumed the trial, and then Schumer immediately introduced his fifth amendment, which seeks to subpoena certain Defense Department documents and records. 

They will go into up to two hours of debate on the amendment. Several senators looked tired an hour ago, as Jeffries made the case for why Mulvaney should be called as a witness.

As Jeffries spoke, some senators appeared to be eating snacks. A few chatted quietly. Most watched the screens as the videos were played, although a few looked around the room and up at the galleries. 

As the clock approached 9 p.m., a few senators rested their heads against their hands as they sat listening, and Senate pages walked through the room refilling water glasses.

939d ago / 2:37 AM UTC

McConnell asks Schumer to speed things along after another amendment gets killed

and

The fourth Schumer amendment, to call Mulvaney as a witness, was defeated along party lines, 53-47 — just like the previous three. 

McConnell, after remarking that he had observed a "certain similarity of all of these amendments," asked Schumer whether he would be willing to stack the votes on the remaining Democratic amendments into one to speed the evening along. Schumer did not agree and told him he would be willing to hold amendment votes Wednesday if senators wanted to go home now. 

"The bottom line is very simple," Schumer said. "As has been clear to every senator in the country: We believe witnesses and documents are extremely important and a compelling case has been made for them. We will have votes on all of those. We will also — the leader, without consulting us made changes, a number of significant changes that significantly deviated from the 1999 Clinton resolution. We want to change those. So there will be a good number of votes."

McConnell put the trial into a quorum call, or a break — but moments later, the trial resumed with the reading of Schumer amendment No. 5 into the record. 

939d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

Mulvaney was 'crucial' in planning the Ukraine scheme, Jeffries says

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., one of the seven House managers and the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, argued in favor of the Democratic amendment that calls for a subpoena of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Mulvaney, who also leads the Office of Management and Budget, played a key role in the president's efforts to freeze nearly $400 million in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and withhold a White House meeting.

"Based on the extensive evidence that the House did obtain, it is clear that Mulvaney was crucial in planning the scheme, executing its implementation and carrying out the cover-up," said Jeffries. 

"Emails and witness testimony show that Mr. Mulvaney was 'in the loop' on the president's decision to explicitly condition a White House meeting on Ukraine's announcement of investigations beneficial to the president's re-election prospects," he added. "He was closely involved in implementing the president's hold on a security assistance, and subsequently admitted that the funds were being withheld to put pressure on Ukraine."

Mulvaney is one of four witnesses that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would like the Senate to subpoena. The House issued a subpoena compelling Mulvaney's testimony during the impeachment inquiry last year but he defied it at the direction of the White House. 

939d ago / 2:10 AM UTC

ANALYSIS: Why Trump's defense was looking shaky on Day 1

President Donald Trump's defense failed him at the opening of his Senate impeachment trial Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had one job. He just had to collect 51 votes for the trial rules he had written, in close consultation with White House officials, to deliver Trump an acquittal quickly, quietly and with as few surprises as possible.

He couldn't do it.

The other half of Trump's squad, his legal team, chose not to defend his actions with a cogent explanation for them. Rather than rebutting hours of evidence presented by House Democratic impeachment managers, White House lawyers opted to repeat Trump's attacks on the process and the disjointed set of rejoinders he's delivered to Democrats in public.

Read more of the analysis here.

939d ago / 1:47 AM UTC

So what does Trump think about the trial today?

and

SO WHAT DID PRESIDENT TRUMP THINK OF TODAY? He was absolutely engaged in the impeachment proceedings today, getting "minute-by-minute" updates on the process, according to Rep. Mark Meadows, one of the president’s closest allies and an impeachment team member. Legislative Affairs head Eric Ueland backed that up, telling reporters that the president is "very impressed" with what’s been happening on the Hill. But take all that with a grain of salt: the president 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. And the president is also someone who likes to gauge the reviews so his opinion may end up shaped by the tone from his preferred cable news shows. (An early guide: Sean Hannity, in his opener, is adopting a bored affect and introducing the network’s Congressional correspondent as someone who’s been "suffering through a lot of this tediousness.")

WILL THE PRESIDENT’S DEFENSE TEAM FILE A MOTION TO DISMISS BY 9AM WEDNESDAY? It’s possible, but the chances seem less-than-likely. Ueland didn’t shut the door on it tonight, but Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas sounded more definitive, telling reporters he believes a motion to dismiss is unlikely: it’s "not nearly as good an outcome for the president and for the country as will be a final judgment on the merits." Again, it’s kind of a moot point regardless since Senate Republicans don’t think there are the votes to support such a motion.  

IS THE DEFENSE GOING TO PUSH BACK ON THE APPARENT SATURDAY START FOR THEIR OPENING? Seems doubtful. Two sources familiar with the thinking suggest it’s not likely the White House team will put up much of a fight on the expected Saturday start to opening arguments (that’s if House managers take up their allotted three days.) That’s subject to change, as always. But weekend arguments would, in theory, let the president’s defenders get in their first word before the Sunday political talk shows, and then have a weekday audience for the rest of their arguments Monday and, if needed, Tuesday. 

939d ago / 1:09 AM UTC
939d ago / 1:01 AM UTC

Schumer and McConnell a study in contrasts

As Rep. Adam Schiff spoke on the floor, Sen. Chuck Schumer smiled and laughed while talking to the aides seated next to him — a strikingly different demeanor from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stoic posture across the aisle. 

In a brief moment of bipartisanship, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., walked over to the Republican side behind the last row of senators. As he was passing by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., he crouched down and the two chatted and laughed briefly. A packet of gum was being passed around that back row between Sasse, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others. 

While the table on the prosecution side with the managers was full of open binders, notebooks and laptops the Trump defense team's table looked neat. Their binders were not open while Schiff and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., spoke, and their laptops also remained closed. 

During the arguments, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren took notes on occasion, and Republican Sens. Amy Murkowski and Susan Collins watched Schiff intently for the duration of his remarks. In the final few minutes of Schiff's comments, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, tapped on his watch to indicate the California Democrat was nearing the end of his time. Schiff seemed to look in his direction but did not pause or stop.

When Crow was speaking, the other House managers watched him intently, turning in their chairs to face him. Rep Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was the one exception; he took notes throughout and referred back to binders and notes. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., read during most of the proceedings, while Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., yawned several times. Cruz slumped back in his chair, scowling, while Schiff and Crow spoke. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., had a similar posture and didn’t take notes or read. 

939d ago / 12:45 AM UTC
939d ago / 12:36 AM UTC

One amendment out, one amendment in

McConnell moved to table the third Democratic amendment, which would have subpoenaed OMB documents related to the charges against the president and regarding the suspension of assistance to Ukraine.

Schumer introduced a fourth amendment to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. 

Senators will now take a 30-minute recess to eat dinner. It'll be pizza for both sides, Republicans will eat Ledo's in the Mansfield room, where they usually hold their policy luncheons, and Democrats will eat Ledo's in the cloakroom.

During dinner, they will discuss what happens next. When they return from this recess they will debate, for up to two hours, the Mulvaney amendment. Then there will be another vote to kill the amendment.

939d ago / 12:26 AM UTC

Article II: Inside impeachment — Rewriting the rules

On Tuesday’s bonus episode of Article II, host Steve Kornacki explains the last-minute changes that Mitch McConnell made to the impeachment trial rules in response to pressure from moderate Republican senators.

Download the podcast.

939d ago / 12:13 AM UTC

Yawning, note-taking, sharing breath mints: What senators are doing during arguments

Some senators appear to be losing steam as the trial headed into the night.

There were many yawns, including from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, was most definitely sound asleep for the majority of Rep. Val Demings' presentation. When Jay Sekulow took the stand, speaking audibly louder, Risch was jolted awake.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa took copious notes throughout Demings’ presentation. Grassley and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., were noting each piece of evidence presented on the screens. New Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., also took notes throughout.

When Lev Parnas' interview with Rachel Maddow was shown, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., began laughing and writing something down. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was smiling from ear to ear, sitting up in his chair and looking at Republicans. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., remained still and serious throughout. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., passed a note to Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and the two laughed and nodded.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., passed breath mints from his desk to senators sitting nearby, including Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., sat with a blanket over her lap. Schumer appeared to be quite thirsty, with pages refilling his water glass every 10 minutes. Grassley had a sheet of paper on his desk with photo identifiers.

939d ago / 12:10 AM UTC
939d ago / 11:52 PM UTC

2020 split screen: Stuck in D.C. for Trump's trial while rival candidates crisscross Iowa

AMES, Iowa — The campaign trail and impeachment trial were on dual tracks Tuesday, showing that no matter how hard Democrats try, the 2020 election is very much about one thing: President Donald Trump.

The primary campaign rolled on in Iowa, where campaign organizers are preparing for the final push before the state's critical first-in-the-nation caucuses just two weeks away on Feb. 3, but the bigger political story — and a handful of the leading candidates — were pinned down in Washington for the president's impeachment trial in the Senate.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota had to abandon the campaign trail to report for "jury duty" in Washington, trading the frigid plains of Iowa for the stately and climate-controlled halls of Congress. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who is running a long-shot campaign focused mostly on New Hampshire, was also confined to the Senate.

939d ago / 11:36 PM UTC

Senate GOP votes down second Schumer amendment

McConnell moved to kill the Democrats 2nd amendment, which would subpoena State Department documents related to the charges against the president.

The amendment failed, with the motion to table passing 53-47.

939d ago / 11:22 PM UTC

How the Senate entered Trump impeachment trial mode

One senator wandered around the Senate floor doing mini-squats, as if to prepare for a long day ahead in his seat. Another senator who normally travels home from Washington daily told his wife he might not be home for two weeks. Still another filled his desk on the floor with a candy smorgasbord, to keep fellow lawmakers from going hungry.

The Senate was deep in prep mode as the trial began in earnest Tuesday, as House impeachment managers argued in favor of removing the president from office and the president’s legal team debated the trial’s rules, introduced by McConnell in an organizing resolution Monday evening that outlined the proceeding's initial parameters.

Read more about how senators prepared for the trial.

939d ago / 11:16 PM UTC

Schumer announces third amendment: to subpoena White House budget office

Schumer’s office released the text of their third amendment, this time to subpoena documents from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

This amendment will be considered after they vote on the second amendment, which is currently being debated.  

What it is: Schumer’s third amendment will be to have the Senate subpoena OMB documents related to the charges against the president and regarding the suspension of assistance to Ukraine.

Why it’s important: The OMB is in possession of highly relevant records and communications related to the charges against the president. These include communications involving or referring to acting chief of staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, senior adviser to the acting chief of staff Robert Blair, and OMB Associate Director Michael Duffey, all of whom defied lawful subpoenas for their testimony. A reminder, on Jan. 2, Just Security revealed emails from OMB in which Mr. Duffey wrote regarding aid to Ukraine that there was "Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold." More information about why these specific OMB documents are so important can be found in Schumer’s Dec. 23 letter to his colleagues. 

 

939d ago / 10:50 PM UTC
939d ago / 10:39 PM UTC

Trump's allies in the House take in Senate debate

As Schiff spoke on the floor, Trump's House allies Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., watched from the back row on the Republican side of the chamber.

Gohmert occasionally whispered something to the others that he appeared to find entertaining, while they sat silently.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., appeared to nod off during the presentation. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., seemed among the least impressed of the senators about the arguments being presented.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, passed a handwritten note to McConnell’s aide in the front row.

Upon the Senate’s vote to block the Democrats’ amendment calling for White House documents, Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., chatted at the back of the chamber. Murphy initially addressed Romney, who listened intently, before the two exchanged their thoughts, smiling.

939d ago / 10:31 PM UTC

Two impeachment managers make history

Rep. Zoe Lofgren on Tuesday became the first female manager of a presidential impeachment.

And just a few moments ago, Rep. Val Demings became the first African American to serve in the role.

Cheryl Mills was the first woman, and first African American to speak on the Senate floor during an impeachment trial. She was on Clinton's defense team.

939d ago / 10:12 PM UTC

Schiff argues House is ready to present case — if Senate will allow witnesses

939d ago / 9:50 PM UTC

Schumer introduces amendment to subpoena State Dept. records

Schumer introduced his second amendment, to subpoena State Department documents related to the charges against the president. They are reading the text of the amendment now.

Why it’s important: The State Department is in possession of highly relevant records and communications involving officials in the Office of the Secretary as well as officials covering Ukraine who have direct knowledge of the key events in question. These records were requested as part of the House impeachment inquiry, but the Trump administration refused to produce these and other key documents.

More information about why these specific State Department documents are so important can be found in Schumer’s Dec. 23 letter to his colleagues.

After hearing debate, McConnell will make a motion to table the amendment, which is expected to pass.

Still TBD how many amendments we will see today.

939d ago / 9:48 PM UTC

Senate kills first Schumer amendment on party lines

The Senate voted on party lines to kill the first Schumer amendment, which would have subpoenaed the White House for documents related to Ukraine.

"In keeping with the model used in President Clinton’s trial, prior to hearing the case and the answers to Senators’ questions, I will vote to table any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses before that stage in the trial," Collins said in a statement.

939d ago / 9:37 PM UTC

GOP senators take notes. McConnell appears to take a nap.

and

During Lofgren’s presentation, McConnell appeared to nod off in the front row.

Gardner, Romney and Lee all took a great deal of notes. Collins did so sporadically. 

Republicans Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska were passing notes between them and appeared to be laughing in the back of the chamber. 

939d ago / 9:34 PM UTC

Ex-GOP rep. calls for allowing docs, witnesses

939d ago / 9:19 PM UTC

Dershowitz says he was wrong during Clinton trial to say impeachment doesn't require 'technical' crime

Dershowitz on Tuesday said he was retracting comments he made in 1998 about then-President Bill Clinton's impeachment.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King that year, Dershowitz said impeachment "certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty. You don't need a technical crime."

939d ago / 9:09 PM UTC

Lofgren: 'A trial without all the relevant evidence is not a fair trial'

House impeachment manager Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., argued that evidence should be introduced into the impeachment so that the Senate could conduct a "fair trial."

Lofgren, the first woman to act as an impeachment manager, laid out the timeline of events surrounding Ukraine and argued that more evidence was needed so that senators can get a full picture of the president's conduct.

She also took the White House to task for stonewalling Congress' efforts to hear from eyewitnesses.

Watch her arguments below:

939d ago / 8:46 PM UTC

Schumer assails 'name calling' and 'finger pointing' by Trump defense team

Schumer, speaking to a group of reporters outside the Senate chamber during the recess, said that the "public realizes how unfair the McConnell proposal is" and that the pressure that Democrats put on Republicans forced the changes made earlier. 

On the president’s counsel, Schumer said they did "a lot of finger-pointing" but "not a single sentence as to why there shouldn't be witnesses and documents in this trial."

"I think they're weak. They duck," he said. "The arguments that we heard are not too different than the arguments we've been hearing all along, diversionary, nothing to do with the actual argument that we're making, documents and witnesses. We'll see if they can answer it in reference to my amendment, but so far zero, zero rebuttal."

Asked how many amendments would be offered, Schumer replied, "Stay tuned."

939d ago / 8:23 PM UTC

Fact check: White House lawyer omits whistleblower, flubs impeachment timeline

Cipollone falsely described the genesis of the president’s impeachment on Tuesday, with a confusing timeline that completely omitted the whistleblower complaint that led to the House inquiry and blames it all on Democrats. 

"Let's remember how we all got here: They made false allegations about a telephone call. The president of the United States declassified that telephone call and released it to the public. How's that for transparency? When Mr. Schiff found out that there was nothing to his allegations, he focused on the second telephone call,” Trump’s attorney began. 

Trump’s impeachment inquiry began when a whistleblower filed a complaint alleging the president was holding up foreign aid and had sought political favors in a July telephone call. It did not begin with Democratic complaints.

There were two calls — one in July, in which Trump asked for Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rival — and another in April, which was not substantive and has largely been irrelevant to the impeachment inquiry. Democrats did not seek the April call.

Cipollone continued: “When Mr. Schiff saw that his allegations were false, and he knew it anyway, what did he do? He went to the House and he manufactured a fraudulent version of that call. He manufactured a false version of that call, he read it to the American people and he didn't tell them it was a complete fake.”

We’ve been over this before: Schiff parodied — with disclosure — Trump’s words.

939d ago / 8:01 PM UTC

Analysis: Here's the problem with Trump's 'due process' claim

Is the presidency Donald Trump's property?

The president's lawyers have argued repeatedly that he was denied "due process" by the House. The Constitution, which gives full authority to the House and Senate to conduct impeachment proceedings under the rules that they choose rather than under any other legal framework, holds that no person will be denied life, liberty or property without "due process of law."

"Due process is designed to protect the person accused," Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s longtime attorneys, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

But the impeachment-and-removal provision of the Constitution is not built to punish an official. It exists, instead, to prevent an officeholder from doing damage to the public interest. Trump is at no risk of losing his life, being imprisoned or denied any right — other than that of holding future office — in this trial.

The idea of "due process" denial suggests that the White House lawyers are contending the president has the right to the presidency or that it is his personal property.

939d ago / 7:59 PM UTC

Fact check: Trump lawyers say GOP blocked from impeachment inquiry

Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone complained that Schiff barred his colleagues from attending witness depositions during the House impeachment inquiry.

This is false. Republicans whose committee assignments involved them in impeachment were welcome to, and did attend, the witness depositions held in a secure chamber, known as a SCIF.

House rules bar members who are not part of the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, and Republicans sought to use this rule to make a political stink: During one deposition, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., stormed the SCIF with 30 colleagues.

939d ago / 7:52 PM UTC

Schumer proposes first rule change: Allow the Senate to subpoena White House records

After the initial debate around McConnell's organizing resolution, Schumer is proposing his first amendment to those rules, which would have the Senate subpoena White House documents related to the charges against the president. 

Those documents, which pertain to the hold on military aid to Ukraine, among other things, were requested by the House as part of its impeachment inquiry, but the Trump administration refused to comply. (Obstruction of Congress was one of the articles of impeachment ultimately adopted by the House.)

939d ago / 7:47 PM UTC

Read: McConnell's revised rules for Trump's Senate impeachment trial

The new version of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's organizing resolution, read aloud on the Senate floor Tuesday, now gives both side 24 hours to make their case over three days, instead of the two initially proposed by McConnell on Monday.

The Kentucky Republican also tweaked another controversial provision that could have barred all the evidence against Trump gathered by the House Democrats' inquiry from being entered into the Senate record.

Under the resolution unveiled Tuesday, evidence now will be admitted automatically unless there's an objection, rather than requiring a pro-active vote to admit it.

939d ago / 7:42 PM UTC

Fact-checking Trump's lawyer's math

Trump’s lawyers keep saying Democrats held the articles of impeachment for 33 days, an inaccurate number.

Trump was impeached on Dec. 18; the articles of impeachment were delivered 28 days later, on Jan. 15.

939d ago / 7:31 PM UTC

McConnell makes last-minute, handwritten changes to Trump impeachment trial rules

and

McConnell changed a controversial provision in the rules for the impeachment trial that would have required House prosecutors and White House lawyers to make 24 hours of legal arguments in just two days and could have barred evidence gathered by the House.

The last-minute changes — which were written by hand on the resolution, with other lines crossed out — were revealed on Tuesday as the organizing resolution for President Donald Trump's Senate trial was being read into the record on the Senate floor. The new version gives both sides 24 hours to make their case over three days, instead of the two initially proposed by McConnell on Monday.

Democrats complained that the two-day limit would have meant that they would be making the arguments until 1:00 a.m. or later, depriving much of the public from being able to watch the proceedings.

It wasn't only Democrats who had issues with the timeline. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, raised "concerns" about the resolution, playing a role in the changes, their spokespersons said. 

The White House apparently got at least a little bit of a heads-up about the last-minute changes, according to a source familiar.

Read the full revised resolution here.

939d ago / 7:28 PM UTC

Trump as Senate trial gets underway: 'READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!'

As the Senate trial got underway on Tuesday, Trump weighed in on Twitter.

"READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!" he tweeted, pointing to the White House summaries of two phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

It's Trump's July 25 call with Zelenskiy that launched a series of events that led to his impeachment. In that call, Trump asked his counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Democrats.

939d ago / 7:22 PM UTC

Schiff gives overview of House case, says Trump should be removed

Schiff spoke from the Senate floor, giving an introduction of the case House managers will present against Trump.

Schiff said the House managers believe Trump should be convicted or else "the power of impeachment must be deemed a relic."

The evidence against Trump is "overwhelming," Schiff said, and that if the Senate does not expand on the House record the "full scale" of his conduct toward Ukraine may never be known.

Pointing to changes made to McConnell's process resolution just moments before speaking, Schiff criticized the idea that the Senate must conform to the process from the Clinton impeachment trial.

Schiff also called on the Senate to have a series of Trump administration officials testify in the trial.

939d ago / 7:22 PM UTC
939d ago / 7:20 PM UTC

Got Milk? Senate rules allow for only water, milk on the floor

If you’re lactose intolerant, stop reading here. 

FUN FACT: The only beverages allowed on the Senate floor is water and MILK. It’s an arcane Senate rule, per multiple Senate leadership aides.

  • The Senate historian’s office told NBC News that the "current practice in the Senate is to allow only water into the Senate Chamber. Technically, milk is also allowed, but in recent years the practice has been to allow only water (still or sparkling)."
  • We have not seen anyone with milk in the chamber.

As we’ve already noted:

  • Food is not allowed in the Chamber. The exception to that regulation is the candy desk, which is stocked with candy and available to senators.
939d ago / 7:13 PM UTC

White House may assert executive privilege to block Bolton testimony, Republicans say

, , and

If former national security adviser John Bolton is called to testify at the Senate impeachment trial, several Republicans told NBC News they believe that President Donald Trump will assert executive privilege.

A president claiming executive privilege during the trial would be unprecedented, and it's unclear how the Senate would handle the dispute. Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the proceedings and can rule on what evidence can be allowed — but his rulings can be overruled or sustained by a majority of the Senate.

Bolton testifying would touch off concern in the White House because of his proximity to presidential decision-making, according to a senior administration official.

"It would be extraordinary to have the national security adviser testifying about his communications directly with the president about foreign policy and national security matters," the official said.

Read more here.

939d ago / 7:03 PM UTC

Dems say they're pressuring GOP senators on impeachment in other ways

In First Read Tuesday morning, we observed how Democrats aren’t trying to pressure vulnerable GOP senators over the TV airwaves on impeachment.

Of the 11 impeachment-themed television ads airing across the country right now, according to the ad trackers at Advertising Analytics, all are from Republicans and GOP groups.

But Democrats at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tell us that they’ve been pressuring GOP senators — like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine — in other ways.

For Maine’s Senate contest, for instance, the DSCC has created a website – WhatChangedSusan.Com – highlighting how Collins called for more evidence and witnesses in Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, but hasn’t made the same explicit demands for President Trump’s impeachment trial.

And in Colorado, the DSCC has blasted out press releases noting that Gardner has refused "to answer basic questions on [the] president’s conduct” or on the demand for “a fair trial.”

939d ago / 6:51 PM UTC

Senators pour onto the chamber floor

As soon as Schumer finished speaking, senators poured onto the floor. Democrats have thick binders with blue cover pages. Republicans, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas, walked up to greet White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., one of the House managers, enthusiastically greeted home state Democratic colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, both erstwhile presidential candidates, chatted with Chaplain Barry Black in the back of the chamber for a while.

While most senators sat, Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., wandered around, randomly doing mini squats as if to prepare for the long, seated day ahead.

939d ago / 6:41 PM UTC

White House counsel Cipollone: McConnell's proposal a 'fair process'

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s trial resolution creates “a fair process.”

"We support this resolution. It is a fair way to proceed with this trial," Cipollone said.

"It requires House managers to stand up and make their opening statement and make their case," he continued, adding that, "it is time to start with this trial. It's a fair process."

"We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong," he said. 

939d ago / 6:40 PM UTC
939d ago / 6:27 PM UTC

Here's how we expect today to go

The Senate impeachment trial resumed shortly after 1 p.m. Here’s how we expect the rest of the day to go:

  1. Senators, House managers, and the WH counsel should be in their seats and ready to go. We do not expect the Sergeant at Arms to introduce them like he did when they came to the floor and read the articles on Thursday.
  2. Chief Justice Roberts will gavel the trial back in session, saying something like, “The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment…” (There may be a prayer here.)
  3. Chief Justice Roberts will say: “The Sergeant at Arms will make the proclamation…”
  4. The Sergeant at Arms, Michael Stenger, will say: “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, President of the United States.”
  5. At this point, McConnell may pass a number of housekeeping measures about various issues related to the trial, including possibly entering the trial briefs into the Senate record.
  6. Then we expect McConnell will formally introduce the organizing resolution, and any senator can ask that the entire resolution be read on the floor. (In 1999, Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, asked for that to happen. It was only four pages, so it didn’t take long. The clerk would then read the resolution).
  7. There will be up to two hours of arguments, equally divided, by the House managers and the WH defense team. They may or may not use the entire two hours.
  8. After that, we expect Schumer/Democrats to introduce an amendment to the organizing resolution, which we expect would take up the issue of witnesses and documents. That is also subject to up to two hours of arguments, equally divided, by the House managers and the WH defense team. Again, they may or may not use the entire two hours.
  • To reiterate, Senators cannot participate in this back and forth, only the House managers and WH defense team. This would mean that there would theoretically be up to 4 hours of back and forth before we see the first vote on Tuesday, and we expect all of this to be open. 
  • When they vote, each senator's name will be called, and the senator will stand and vote. There is a chance that the vote on that first Democratic amendment could be a vote on a motion to table, which would actually mean Republicans vote YES and Democrats vote NO to kill it (we'll alert everyone if this ends up being the case). 
  • What happens after that vote? Likely more amendments, but that's all TBD. We expect Tuesday to be a long day.
  • There is no limit on amendments, but we (obviously) don’t expect amendments to never end. We hope to have guidance early Wednesday on how many amendments Democrats will introduce. Again, it will largely depend on what’s in the organizing resolution.
  • We are in uncharted territory here. The reason why all of this isn't set in stone is simply because the Senate has never had a debate with amendments for the organizing resolution. In 1999, all 100 Senators agreed (after meeting in a closed session in the old Senate chamber) to pass unanimously this initial organizing resolution. Aides and senators who typically go back and look at precedent to determine how a session will go can’t do so here, so we’re all going to be riding this out together.
939d ago / 6:26 PM UTC
939d ago / 6:25 PM UTC

OPINION: The Senate impeachment trial is a minefield. Will Republicans repeat Democrats' mistakes?

Imagine an alternate timeline in which House Democrats declined to pass articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, 2019.

In that universe, the last four weeks would have been most eventful. It would have been a month that saw the release of emails from Office of Budget and Management officials obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests that indicate the order to withhold Ukrainian security aid came directly from the president. A federal appeals court would have continued to litigate the Democratic subpoena of former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was compelled to testify against the president’s wishes by a lower court on Nov. 25. The subpoena of former national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, would have also been under review (even though House Democrats withdrew that subpoena in November). January would have culminated in the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office’s finding that the delay Trump allegedly ordered was “not programmatic” and violated the law.

Back in our current timeline, though, Democrats have all but surrendered control of the impeachment process to Republicans. The OMB emails landed with a thud. The severity of the GAO’s finding will be left to Republicans to determine. The courts litigating Democratic subpoenas dismissed those cases when the venue in which Trump’s associates might have testified — the House impeachment inquiry — effectively closed. And the stunning accusations levied against the president by Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas have been made in forums like cable news, where his truthful testimony cannot be compelled.

Given the revelations that have emerged over the last month, however, the GOP risks repeating House Democrats’ mistakes if they fail to take their prerogatives seriously while they control the impeachment process.

Read the full opinion piece.

939d ago / 6:16 PM UTC

House managers say Trump 'exemplifies' why impeachment is in the Constitution

House managers, in response to Trump's trial brief, said Tuesday that the president "exemplifies why the framers included the impeachment mechanism in the Constitution."

"President Trump’s impeachment trial is an effort to safeguard our elections, not override them," the Democrats wrote. "His unsupported contentions to the contrary have it exactly backwards. President Trump has shown that he will use the immense powers of his office to manipulate the upcoming election to his own advantage. Respect for the integrity of this Nation’s democratic process requires that President Trump be removed before he can corrupt the very election that would hold him accountable to the American people."

The managers also said Trump's brief "is heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct. It is clear from his response that President Trump would rather discuss anything other than what he actually did."

The brief, they added, "does not explain why, even now, he has not offered any documents or witnesses in his defense or provided any information in response to the House’s repeated requests. This is not how an innocent person behaves."

Read the full response.

 

939d ago / 6:14 PM UTC

Fact check: Could Trump's trial be the first without witnesses and documents?

"If Sen. McConnell makes this the first impeachment trial in history without witnesses or documents, it will not prove the president innocent,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on Tuesday morning.

Is it true that this could be the first impeachment trial without witnesses or documents?

Let's review the history of presidential Senate trials. The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson took more than two months and included documents as well as testimony from 41 witnesses. The impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, which lasted 37 days, included both documents and videotaped footage of witness testimony played on the Senate floor.

Still, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has not shut the door on all witnesses and documents. He's giving his party — which enjoys majority control of the Senate — the chance to decide the issue with a vote. 

Schiff initially — and correctly — claimed that McConnell was departing from historic precedent: In the Clinton trial, House findings were admitted as evidence at the start of the Senate trial. This time, McConnell did not originally plan for that. However the text of the organizing resolution, read out by the clerk Tuesday afternoon, appears to have been changed to automatically include House evidence, unless there's an objection.

939d ago / 6:10 PM UTC

Schumer again hits McConnell, Trump for proposed impeachment trial rules

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., used his Senate floor speech to restate the points he made at his multiple press conferences earlier Tuesday and on Monday, blasting McConnell’s resolution on the impeachment trial rules.

"The McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial with little evidence, in the dark of night,” Schumer said. “If Leader McConnell is so confident the president did nothing wrong, why don't they want the case to be presented in broad daylight?" 

“This resolution will go down as one of the darker moments in Senate history,” Schumer added.

He also took direct aim at Trump himself, asking, “If the president believes his impeachment is so brazen and wrong, why won't he show us why?"

"If the president's case is so weak that none of the president's men can defend him under oath, shame on him.”

939d ago / 5:57 PM UTC

A celebrity sighting in the gallery

939d ago / 5:55 PM UTC

McConnell says his proposal is 'fair' and 'even-handed'

McConnell said his proposal for Trump's impeachment trial "sets up a structure that is fair, even-handed, and tracks closely with past precedents."

He called his proposal a "sharp contrast with the precedent-breaking inquiry in the House."

McConnell's proposal allots each side a total of 24 hours to present arguments over two working days. Additionally, it suggests that none of the House evidence will be automatically admitted into the trial. Instead, the Senate will vote later on whether to admit the documents.

Once both sides present their cases, 16 hours will be provided for senators to ask questions in writing. The Senate would then consider whether to subpoena witnesses and documents. If witnesses and documents are approved, McConnell's resolution makes clear that witnesses must first be deposed, a process that typically takes place behind closed doors, before a determination over testimony is made.

Democrats on Tuesday blasted the proposal as "appalling," a "national disgrace," and "deliberately designed to hide the truth."

Schumer pledged to offer amendments to change the "most egregious things" McConnell proposed. McConnell said he will move to table Schumer's pledged amendments during Tuesday's debate on the impeachment process resolution.

939d ago / 5:21 PM UTC

What Trump is doing today

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Trump is in Davos and is being “briefed by staff periodically” on Tuesday’s proceedings, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. But he's also got an eye on Fox News, interrupting his Wall Street Journal interview this morning to make various comments on segments.

The president told the Journal he did not currently have plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is also attending the summit. "I didn’t know he was here. I don’t think we had it planned," Trump said when the newspaper asked him about a potential meeting. But Trump said he'd be willing to meet with the Ukrainian president, adding, "I think he’s a really good guy."

Earlier in the morning, in quick on-camera questions and answers, Trump again railed against the impeachment as “a hoax. It's a witch hunt that's been going on for years. And it's frankly - it's disgraceful. But we look forward to being here. “

The president also said Tuesday that the trial “goes nowhere because nothing happened" and expressed confidence that “it's going to work out fine.”

Trump's meetings and events wrap up at 2 p.m. ET, so he will be able to tune in to afternoon impeachment coverage in the U.S. if so inclined. 

939d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

Schumer slams McConnell's proposal, outlines proposed amendments

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday again slammed the impeachment trial rules, calling them “completely partisan” and accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of letting the White House basically write them.

“The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump,” Schumer said at a press conference alongside other Senate Democrats. “It appears that leader McConnell decided to go along with the president's desire to cover up his wrongdoing, hook, line and sinker. It almost seems the resolution was written in the White House, not the Senate.”