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Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Democrats make case for obstruction

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

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

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

Highlights from the Senate trial

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

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

Live Blog

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.

Gordon Sondland: He remains U.S. ambassador to the E.U., where — per The Washington Post — he's trying to lay low and go about his usual business in Brussels. 

Bill Taylor: He left his position as the top diplomat in Ukraine on Jan. 1 as well as the State Department. 

Kurt Volker: He resigned under pressure during the impeachment saga from his post running the McCain Institute, but he’s remained as senior international advisor at BGR Group, a D.C. public affairs and lobbying shop.

Jennifer Williams: We believe Williams remains on that detail to the vice president’s office from the State Department, a rotation that began April 1. The vice president’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on her current status.

Marie Yovanovitch: The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine is a senior State Department fellow at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, but is not teaching classes this semester.