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.
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Weekend impeachment trial to start early, GOP senator says
Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., offered more definitive guidance to the trial schedule for Saturday, when Trump's team is set to begin arguments in his defense.
Thune said proceedings are likely to begin around 9 a.m. ET, though it could be "closer to 8 than 9" or "closer to 9 than 10."
Thune said he expects arguments to wrap by early afternoon.
"I’d say noon-ish," he said, noting that giving people time to catch flights was a consideration.
Break for dinner (and cake)
The trial recessed for a "30-minute" dinner break shortly before 6:30 p.m. There is also cake for Sen. Tom Carper's birthday.
Sen. Brown says 'puppy dog' McConnell, moderate Republicans are 'in lockstep' with Trump
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, excoriated McConnell and moderate Republican senators on Thursday, saying they are doing "Trump's bidding" by excluding key witnesses from the impeachment trial.
"This is not a real trial, it’s a sham trial, if Senate Republicans — including the moderates — that they’re unwilling to have witnesses," he said. "They can blame Jerry Nadler, they can blame anyone they want, but the Republican rules, McConnell is doing Trump’s bidding."
He added: "I’m sure Trump told him to do this. McConnell is sort of like a puppy dog, follows along, and they refused to have any witnesses. How do you have a real trial without witnesses?"
Brown said he did not think any moderate Republicans would end up supporting Democrats' calls for witnesses.
"All of them are in lockstep sort of following whatever Mitch McConnell tells them, who does whatever Donald Trump tells them and we don’t have witnesses," he said. "I think that speaks for itself."
Brown said he wants to see people who were in the room with the president who can testify first-hand about what they saw. Nadler, the House Judiciary chair and one of the seven impeachment managers, has called the trial a cover-up for not having key witnesses testify.
What they're reading and other ways senators are coping with Thursday
As the trial arguments stretched through the day, so did some of the senators, while others busied themselves by catching up on their reading lists.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., read a hardcover book — “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America” by Kimberley Strassel (whom Trump recommended for the Pulitzer Prize), according to her press secretary — and earlier in the day was underlining passages. A copy of Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Case for Trump” was visible beneath it.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had several books piled up on his desk, though he was busy taking pages of notes. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sat with a blanket on her lap.
Elsewhere in the chamber, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., stood behind his chair for about 20 minutes, while Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., rose for just a quick minute to stretch his legs. Bill Cassidy, R-La. — who had a fascinating explanation for why milk is one of two beverages allowed on the chamber floor — paced in the back of the room as he listened to Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, make the House managers’ case.
Sekulow says White House could use documents it withheld from the House last year
Sekulow, during the first break Thursday, was asked if the White House would use any of the documents the administration refused to turn over to House impeachment investigators last year in its defense.
"Look, the White House will use, and we will use, appropriate documents that will be admissible to what this record is," he said.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.”
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."
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.
Trump tweets against the trial and 'Shifty Schiff'
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."
After trial adjourns, Graham and Schiff spotted shaking hands
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
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
Lofgren suggests Pence hiding testimony of key aide
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
And they're back!
The dinner break is over, the proceedings have resumed, and Schiff is back at the lectern.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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."
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.
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."
Senate GOP whip: 'It's certainly not a cover-up'
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
And the first senator who appears to have dozed off on Wednesday is ...
'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.
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.”
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
'It was like sitting on a tractor': Senators' impressions of the impeachment trial so far
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.”
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).
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.)
Trump travels from sunny Swiss retreat back to impeachment storm
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.
Sen. Chris Murphy reveals behind the scenes at the Senate trial
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.
What does Trump think?
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.
Trump says he wants to attend his own trial and 'stare into their corrupt faces'
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.
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.
Senate passes McConnell impeachment rules after nearly 13 hours of debate
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.
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.
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.
First GOP defection: Collins breaks with party to vote for a Schumer amendment
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.
Watch: Sekulow, Nadler trade blows over executive privilege
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
'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.
Highly anticipated Bolton amendment arrives
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amendment 5 fails; Schumer introduces another to subpoena two White House officials
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.
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.
We're back and debating Schumer's amendment to subpoena Pentagon records
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.
McConnell asks Schumer to speed things along after another amendment gets killed
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.
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.
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.
So what does Trump think about the trial today?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Schiff argues House is ready to present case — if Senate will allow witnesses
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.
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.
GOP senators take notes. McConnell appears to take a nap.
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.
Ex-GOP rep. calls for allowing docs, witnesses
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."
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:
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."
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.
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.
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.