Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Democrats make case for obstruction

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

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

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

Highlights from the Senate trial

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

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

Live Blog

Giuliani teases his podcast

It truly does seem like everyone has a podcast these days — including, apparently, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been teasing his for a little while now without a concrete launch date.

"Starting tomorrow we will begin cracking through the Swamp media’s cover-up of TOP level Democrats selling their public office, resulting in multi-millions, in Ukraine and the conspired attempt with foreign officials to 'destroy' the Trump candidacy," Giuliani claimed on Twitter Thursday evening.

House prosecutors have used Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine to underscore their point that if Trump had truly been concerned about corruption as a matter of U.S. policy, his personal lawyer wouldn't have been a central figure in running what impeachment witnesses have described as a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine.

Trial resumes with Jeffries' arguments on alleged Ukraine pressure campaign

The trial resumed at 7:14 p.m.

McConnell said after consulting with Schiff they will be going until around 10:30 p.m. tonight, so they will take a short break around the midpoint.

At 7:15 p.m., Jeffries resumed arguments. He ran through the series of events surrounding Trump's July call with Zelenskiy, reading text messages and call logs that took place on the alleged diplomatic backchannel in Ukraine.

Democrats had Taylor Gourmet sandwiches for dinner (Schumer says he actually had steak and potatoes homemade by his wife), and Republicans had Carmine's Italian food.

"I was a trial judge for 6 years so I made a point of never eating a heavy meal before you go back on the bench in the afternoon,” said Texas Sen. Cornyn. "It was a mix of pasta and meatballs. It’ll be a killer."

"They’re fattening us up," said South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds.

What's Trump up to today?

What's the latest from the defense team? 

Bubbling up tonight: what their opening arguments will look like starting Saturday. Behind the scenes, we continue to hear about the president’s desire to have his broader team aggressively rebut the impeachment managers’ arguments. And officials at the White House have blasted reporters with no fewer than 15 emails over the course of the day trying to make their case.

So where's the president now?

He’s on the ground in South Florida at his Doral resort, getting ready to speak with party bigwigs at the RNC winter retreat. It’d be shocking if he didn’t mention his impeachment trial tonight. Based on new reporting this morning, there’s "huge frustration" on the part of the president and his allies that the House managers still have today and tomorrow to present arguments before the defense can formally begin its rebuttal so it puts a big emphasis on messaging. 

You should expect to see another full-court press from the president’s defense team during breaks, and from his allies in Congress on 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 (though those only took place on Tuesday during the rules debates.)

Jeffries jokes that Congress should 'subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame' to see who voted against Jeter

There was a brief moment of levity in the chamber just before 6 p.m. as Jeffries told a short story about running into a fellow New Yorker in D.C. The man asked Jeffries if he had heard the “latest outrage.” Jeffries assumed he was speaking about something Trump had done so he asked the man to explain.

“Someone voted against Derek Jeter on his Hall of Fame ballot,” the man replied.

“Life is all about perspective,” Jeffries said. “Perhaps we can all agree to subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame.” This elicited a big round of laughter from senators on both sides of the aisle.

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.