Schiff argues Rudy was always under Trump's direction: 'Not some Svengali'
Schiff, the first manager to speak after the first break ended, is now making the point that while Giuliani was busy maneuvering in Ukraine last year — a picture painted by managers yesterday — he wasn’t doing so on his own motives. Rather, Schiff argued, he was doing so because Trump had directed him to.
"It's important to emphasize that Rudy Giuliani is not some Svengali here who has the president under his control," Schiff said. "There may be an effort to say, OK, 'the human hand grenade here, Rudy Giuliani, it's all his fault. He had the president in his grip and even though the U.S. intelligence agencies and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and everyone else told the president time after time this is nonsense, the Russians interfered, not the Ukrainians, that he just couldn't shake himself of what he was hearing from Rudy Giuliani.'"
"You can say a lot of things about President Trump, but he is not led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani," Schiff said.
The point may be designed to preempt any effort by Trump's defense team to pin the whole Ukraine affair on Giuliani, and only Giuliani.
Democratic takeaways on Thursday's presentations so far
The House managers came prepared again, a Democratic leadership aide said. They’re making their case to both senators and the American people: An abuse of power is when the president uses his official power to help himself while hurting the national interest. Even the president’s own lawyers agree that an abuse of power is impeachable, the aide said, adding that the House did a good job explaining the law to the Senate and the American people. From the presentation yesterday, we know the facts. The facts and evidence fit the law. They show an abuse of power, the aide said.
Where are they now? Key players in the impeachment saga
Given we’re hearing so many of these names again on the Senate floor during this impeachment trial, here's a primer on where key players in the saga are now:
Rudy Giuliani: While not a formal part of the president’s impeachment defense team, he’s still part of the broader outside team and appeared on Fox this week to defend the president and discuss the Parnas situation.
Fiona Hill: Her representative says she has returned to the Brookings Institution, where she was a senior fellow on Europe prior to joining the Trump administration.
Yuri Lutsenko: He’s no longer a Ukrainian government official and as of October, had relocated to London, saying he wanted to study English there. In October, Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations opened a criminal investigation into Lutsenko on allegations of abuse of power. Like Viktor Shokin (see below), he’s continued to cooperate with Giuliani, giving him a new interview in December while Giuliani was in Europe.
Tim Morrison: He is now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute after leaving his National Security Council position this fall.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: We believe Vindman remains detailed to the National Security Council from the Department of Defense, although Ambassador Robert O’Brien suggested in November he would be rotated out at some point. Vindman’s attorney previously has said publicly that he is on that detail until July.
Lev Parnas: He’s under federal indictment in the Southern District of New York on campaign finance charges and on house arrest in Miami (but has received special dispensation to travel for those media interviews he’s been conducting and to meet with his attorneys in New York).
Viktor Shokin: He retired as a prosecutor and is living in Ukraine. Giuliani said in December that Shokin was “not healthy” and had difficulty traveling. He has also been cooperating with Giuliani, giving him an interview in December in Europe.
Gordon Sondland: He remains U.S. ambassador to the E.U., where — per The Washington Post — he's trying to lay low and go about his usual business in Brussels.
Bill Taylor: He left his position as the top diplomat in Ukraine on Jan. 1 as well as the State Department.
Kurt Volker: He resigned under pressure during the impeachment saga from his post running the McCain Institute, but he’s remained as senior international advisor at BGR Group, a D.C. public affairs and lobbying shop.
Jennifer Williams: We believe Williams remains on that detail to the vice president’s office from the State Department, a rotation that began April 1. The vice president’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on her current status.
Marie Yovanovitch: The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is a senior State Department fellow at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, but is not teaching classes this semester.
ANALYSIS: What a witness vote would tell the Senate about Trump’s use — or abuse — of power
The lesson of this impeachment so far for President Donald Trump and his successors is that there are major strategic and tactical advantages in simply refusing to send witnesses and documents to Congress.
Not only has the president benefited from blocking the evidence itself, but his defenders have argued — compellingly in the minds of some observers — that the House Democrats’ case against him on both articles of impeachment is weaker because they did not wait to see if courts would compel testimony and the production of documents at issue.
But it’s not clear that the president, who has said repeatedly that Article II of the Constitution gives him the authority to do "whatever I want," would abide by either a Senate vote to subpoena witnesses (from another Article I branch) or a Supreme Court ruling requiring their participation (from the Article III branch).
The Senate could find out quickly with a vote to compel testimony from a single witness — or the production of a single document — whether Trump is so convinced of the supremacy of his own office that he would defy Congress in the midst of a trial over whether his use of power is so abusive that it represents a threat to the checks and balances fundamental to the functioning of the republic.
Read the full analysis.
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.