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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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

GOP senators turn to 'fidget spinner' toys during trial

Restless senators, sitting through endless hours of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, now have an outlet: Fidget spinners.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., handed out the toys to several of his fellow senators in the chamber before Thursday's trial proceedings got underway.

A fidget spinner is a small toy with a ball bearing at its center that can be used to play with between the fingers. They have become especially popular in recent years and have prompted a collection of YouTube videos on how to perform tricks with them. The fidget spinners, which are sold for a couple of dollars each, have been promoted as toys that can reduce anxiety and help users focus.

Take a spin with the full story.

Saturday shaping up to be a shorter day

Expect a trial day Saturday, not for senators to be there all day, as source familiar with the plans said.

It will be the first day of Trump's defense team's arguments, and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told reporters earlier, “There’s been some talk of maybe a little earlier start, a little shorter.”

McConnell’s office says we likely won’t see an announcement on timing until the end of Friday’s session (which is how the scheduling announcements have been going).

Each day of the trial so far has started at 1 p.m., and ended later in the night.

Trump wasn't bragging about obstructing Congress, White House spokesman says

President Donald Trump wasn't "bragging" about obstructing Congress when he told reporters "we have all the material" in the impeachment case, a White House spokesman said Thursday.    

"That's a ridiculous allegation," Hogan Gidley told NBC News' Hallie Jackson.

Trump made the remark while commenting on his impeachment trial after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We're doing very well," he said. "I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material."

Some Democrats, including Rep. Val Demings of Florida, said the comment proved the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress. Demings, one of the House managers prosecuting the case against Trump, described the charge as "covering up witnesses and documents from the American people."

"This morning the president not only confessed to it, he bragged about it," Demings tweeted Wednesday.

Gidley maintained that Trump wasn't bragging about withholding materials, and was saying that the facts favored the White House's side. 

"What the president was clearly saying was that the evidence is all on our side. We'll get a chance to present our case in the days ahead, and you'll all see it," Gidley said.

When Jackson noted that Trump said "we have the materials," Gidley responded, "All the evidence, all the material, the evidence to prove the president has done nothing wrong and get a complete and total exoneration."

First 3 women to be impeachment managers say public will see trial as 'rigged' if Trump is acquitted

The first three women to be House presidential impeachment managers in U.S. history told NBC News in an exclusive interview Thursday that if the Senate votes to acquit President Donald Trump, the American public will view it as a "rigged trial."

In an interview with NBC News correspondent Kasie Hunt, Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and Val Demings, D-Fla., also spoke about the need for witnesses in the trial, and added that even an acquittal won't amount to an exoneration of the president.

"It seems to me, if there's not a full, fair trial with witnesses, he may get an acquittal, but he's not going to get an exoneration," Lofgren told Hunt, in response to a question about whether an acquittal would be promoted by the administration as a victory. "It's going to be seen for what it is, just a rubber stamp to get him off the hook."

Read the full story.

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.