Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Democrats make case for obstruction

In their final day of arguments, House Democrats presented their case alleging Trump obstructed Congress.
Image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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The Democratic House managers used their final day of arguments on Friday — the fourth full day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — to make their case that President Donald Trump obstructed Congress in denying them witness testimony and documents.

Follow us here for all of the latest breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Highlights from the Senate trial

  • Democrats finished hours of arguments in which managers called Trump a "dictator" and a danger to the nation with a plea to the Senate: "Give America a fair trial, she's worth it," lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff said.
  • The White House is set to begin laying out Trump's defense Saturday morning.
  • "Get rid of her": A voice appearing to be Trump's is heard on tape demanding Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's ouster.
  • Schiff warned his fellow lawmakers that "the next time, it just may be you" who Trump targets.
  • Democratic House manager Rep. Val Demings says the evidence is "pretty painful" for senators.

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry.

Live Blog

Nadler highlights Dershowitz's, Barr's and Graham's past comments on impeachment

Nadler used past comments by Alan Dershowitz, Attorney General Bill Barr and Sen. Lindsey Graham to back the premise that abusing power is an impeachable offense and that a specific crime is not required.

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and a member of Trump's legal team, said in a 1998 interview with CNN's Larry King regarding then-President Bill Clinton's impeachment that an impeachable offense "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."

Dershowitz disavowed those comments this week, tweeting: "To the extent therefore that my 1998 off-the-cuff interview statement suggested the opposite, I retract it. Scholars learn to adapt and even change old views as they do more research."

Barr wrote in a June 2018 letter to then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with regard to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation: "The fact that president is answerable for any abuses of discretion and is ultimately subject to the judgment of Congress through the impeachment process means that the president is not the judge in his own cause. ... The remedy of impeachment demonstrates that the president remains accountable under law for his misdeeds in office."

Nadler also played a clip of Graham, R-S.C., a House manager himself in 1999, saying that "high crimes" didn't have "to be a crime."

"I think it's the truth," Graham said. "I think that's what they meant by high crimes. Doesn't have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you committed a high crime."

When Nadler played that clip to the packed Senate chamber, Graham was absent.

Dems to argue each impeachment charge on consecutive days

A Democratic official working on the impeachment trial said the House managers on Thursday will go through the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, arguing for the constitutional underpinnings of the charge and applying the facts and evidence of the president’s actions to the law and Constitution. On Friday, Democrats will do the same on the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress. 

Nadler: 'No president has abused his power' like Trump has

Opening up Thursday's arguments, Nadler said "no president has abused his power in this way," calling Trump's push for Ukraine to probe the Bidens as he withheld military aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy "dangerous" and saying it captured "the worst fears of our founders and our Constitution."

Nadler added that Trump is arguing he cannot be removed from office no matter what.

"This president sees no limits on his power or his ability to use his public office for a private gain," the New York lawmaker said, alleging that Trump believes "he can use his power to cover up his crimes," which he claimed put former President Richard Nixon "to shame."

Nadler followed a brief statement from Schiff outlining what the House managers' second day of arguments will encompass.

Schiff said that although some of the information will be repetitive, it will be shown in "new context" and "new light" because of "what else we know."

"So there is some method to our madness," he said.

Executive privilege can't stop John Bolton from testifying, House manager says

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the House managers presenting arguments in the impeachment trial, said Thursday that the president would not be able to block former national security adviser Bolton from testifying before the Senate. 

"Executive privilege cannot be used to prevent a witness who is willing to testify from appearing, and certainly not one who no longer works in government. It’s not a gag order," the California Democrat tweeted along with a link to an NBC News story on Republicans predicting a fight over the issue.

Trump has repeatedly suggested he might assert executive privilege if Bolton is called to testify.

"There are things that you can't do from the standpoint of executive privilege. You have to maintain that,” Trump said earlier this month. "You can't have him explaining all of your statements about national security concerning Russia, China, and North Korea — everything — we just can't do that."

Bolton's lawyer has said his client has relevant information about Trump's dealings with Ukraine, and Bolton has said he'd be willing to testify if subpoenaed by the Senate.

A senior administration official told NBC News this week that it would be "extraordinary to have the national security adviser testifying about his communications directly with the president," and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Bolton's testimony could lead to a legal fight that would temporarily pause the trial. 

Lofgren maintained there is no legal rationale that would block Bolton from being able to take the witness stand. 

"Bolton has a right to testify if he wants to," she wrote.

Graham: I won't be voting for any witnesses

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Thursday that he's not voting for calling witnesses in the impeachment trial.

"The country needs a break from this," he told reporters. "We're going to listen to the case. And then we're going to vote."

Of the witnesses that some Republicans want to hear from, Graham said that can be dealt with "outside impeachment."

Key moderate Republicans 'offended,' 'stunned' after Nadler accuses senators of 'cover-up'

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she was "offended" by House manager Jerry Nadler's comments this week that Republican senators would be involved in a cover-up if they did not agree to call former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial, one of her aides said Thursday.

Murkowski is one of a handful of moderate GOP senators who have expressed openness to calling witnesses, including top Trump administration officials. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican who has been open to witnesses, wrote a note to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts which took issue with Nadler's remark, according to a spokesperson.

For Democrats in need of four Republican senators to support them on the issue, Murkowski and Collins are critical votes.

Other moderate senators also weighed in Thursday on Nadler's late-night remark on the Senate floor, which drew a pointed response from White House counsel Pat Cipollone, prompting Chief Justice John Roberts to admonish the two.

“I appreciated the chief justice admonishing the House managers and White House counsels," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said. "Senators do their best to conduct their debates in a civil manner and have rules to encourage it.” 

Another Republican senator who has expressed willingness to call witnesses, Mitt Romney of Utah, said, “I won’t speak to the process until the entire thing is done.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also chimed in on the issue, saying, “It was late at night, I think, when Nadler spoke, and it came off pretty hard and strong, which I thought was Ill-advised.”

Read the full story.

Trump and team feeling 'huge frustration' over wait for floor rebuttal

Here's the latest on what's happening inside Trump's defense team.

So what's the president's status this morning?

A source familiar with the president's thinking said there’s “huge frustration” on the part of the president and his allies that the House managers still have Thursday and Friday to present arguments without any Senate floor rebuttal, so it puts a big emphasis on messaging. (For example, we’re told the defense team on Wednesday counted what they considered some dozen false or misleading arguments that Schiff and company made, and they’re eager to push back on those sooner rather than later.) It’s why you should expect to see another full-court press from the president’s defense team during breaks, and from his allies in Congress on the TV today. The strategic teams have been huddling twice daily ahead of arguments as well, and the president has been working the phones with his allies. Overall, though, multiple sources say the president has generally been pleased with his defense team’s presentations, although there’s really only a been a day of it. 

What does the defense expect to see from Democrats today? 

The spin from sources close to the team: a theatrical yawn, basically. Expecting what they describe as more repetition from Wednesday, with Democrats taking the facts they laid out in their timeline and applying that to the law and Constitution, as Rep. Schiff previewed last night.

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.

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

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."