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

Throwback Thursday? Trump posts Obama photoshop during trial

As his Senate impeachment trial ran late into the night, Trump appeared to be fantasizing about simpler times — his years of complaining (without evidence) that then-President Barack Obama spied on him in 2016. 

He posted a photoshopped image of Obama using a suction cup to scale the outside of Trump Tower — Mission Impossible-style — to spy on a younger-looking version of Trump. 

It's possible, however, he's reading this story from earlier today about the FBI's secret surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

'A testament to cowardice': Vindman's attorney responds to Blackburn tweet

Vindman's attorney responded to Blackburn's criticizing him on Twitter:

"Senator Blackburn’s renewed attack on Lt. Col. Vindman reveals her true character — she has failed to follow her oath of impartiality while serving as a juror and she continues to attack Lt. Col. Vindman, a decorated war veteran, by smearing his service to our country and his courageous act of reporting President Trump's misconduct."

The attorney later added, "That a member of the Senate — at a moment when the Senate is undertaking its most solemn responsibility — would choose to take to Twitter to spread slander about a member of the military is a testament to cowardice. While Senator Blackburn fires off defamatory tweets, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman will continue to do what he has always done: serve our country dutifully and with honor.”

Crow's simple argument: There's no alternative explanation

Rep. Crow said Democrats' arguments that Trump committed impeachable offenses boil down to one simple question: how else do you explain it?

"You've heard a lot the last few days about what happened. How do we know that the president ordered the hold to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help his personal political campaign? In other words, how do we know why it happened? We know it because to this day there is no other explanation.”

Crow then began to make his case: “We know it because the senior administration officials including the president's own senior political appointees have confirmed it. And we know it because the presidents own chief of staff said it at a national press conference. And we know because the president himself directed it."


Graham says he'll 'resist' pressure to call witnesses Trump wants

Graham reiterated Thursday evening that he would "resist" pressure to call the Bidens, Schiff, and the whistleblower — the anonymous CIA staffer who in August filed a complaint about Trump's phone call in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — as witnesses in Trump's trial when the issue comes up for a vote. 

Trump told reporters earlier this month that those were among the people he would like to see testify before the Senate. And on Thursday, the president tweeted that Democrats has nixed a so-called "witness trade" because calling the Bidens and the whistleblower, among others, "would be a BIG problem for them!"

Graham said he remained opposed.

"I am not going to give into that pressure. Because I don’t think it will serve the Senate and the country well, there's ways to do this outside of the trial," he told reporters. 

In the past, Graham has suggested that in the interest of keeping Trump's impeachment trial short, the Bidens could be investigated by Senate committees. The former vice president, Trump has alleged, wielded his influence to benefit his son Hunter Bidens’s private-sector work in Ukraine. But despite Trump's continued claims, there's no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

Trump refers to trial as 'impeachment lite' during RNC dinner

Trump on Thursday evening addressed attendees of the RNC's annual winter meeting, which is taking place at his Doral golf resort.

The president didn’t spend too much time talking about his impeachment trial, but he did refer to the entire process as “impeachment lite,” according to two sources in the ballroom. This is a phrase the president has used at recent campaign rallies and he also argued that what he is experiencing now is nothing compared to the “dark days” of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

Apart from that, the president spent most of his lengthy remarks (80+ mins) on all things 2016, reminiscing about his victory and calling up White House counselor and former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to the stage for a standing ovation.

Images show senators playing with fidget spinners during trial

Courtroom sketch artist Bill Hennessy depicted Sens. Tom Cotton and Richard Burr with their fidget spinners.

Detail of a fidget spinner on the desk of Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ariz.Bill Hennessy
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC., spins a fidget spinner during the impeachment hearing on Jan 23, 2020.Bill Hennessy
Sen. Richard Burr R-NC., spins a fidget spinner during the impeachment hearing on Jan 23, 2020.Bill Hennessy

Just catching up on impeachment news? Here's what you missed today

Democrats on Thursday honed in on their charge that President Donald Trump abused his power, turning to past statements from some of the president's top allies to help make their case on the third day of his Senate impeachment trial.

House prosecutors used old comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Attorney General William Barr and Trump impeachment defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz to bolster their argument that abuse of power is grounds to remove a president — and pointed to Trump's own statements to illustrate his guilt.

If you're just catching up on the news of the day, here's what you missed.

Garcia: 'Inescapable documentary proof' of quid pro quo

“There was a corrupt deal, an Oval Office meeting for investigations. Quid pro quo, this for that. You also saw inescapable documentary proof that completely proves a corrupt quid pro quo,” Rep. Garcia said in remarks after the Senate trial dinner break. 

She argued that the House inquiry depositions offered overwhelming evidence of the president’s wrongdoing and pointed particularly to Ukrainians’ reaction to Trump’s team’s requests.

“Even Ukraine, a struggling new country, knew this was wrong,” she said.

Sen. Blackburn slams Vindman, suggests he's unpatriotic

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., criticized Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Thursday, suggesting he was unpatriotic for testifying in the House impeachment inquiry. Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran, listened in on the Trump-Zelenskiy call in July. 

He told impeachment investigators that "there was no doubt" what Trump was asking Zelenskiy for.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent," Vindman said during his closed-door deposition last year.

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.