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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.

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Democratic House manager says the evidence is 'pretty painful' for senators

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., told MSNBC on Friday that the evidence she and the other House managers are presenting is "overwhelming" for many of the Republican senators and is "pretty painful for them."

"I know that some of them are walking out of the room, but, you know, I kind of see it differently. I think when they are presented with either testimony — and we know we've seen one foreign service officer after another, testimony from those career, very dedicated foreign service officers, many of whom have direct knowledge, they were on the call — I think sometimes when the senators walk out of the room, I see it many times as an indication that the evidence is overwhelming for them, that sitting there listening to things being presented in a chronological way, in order, I think it can be pretty painful for them, and I don't necessarily see them walking out of the room to maybe get a little fresh air as necessarily a bad thing.

Demings also said she thought Schiff's closing remarks Thursday night moved those who were listening and that she was "prayerful" that the Senate would call the witnesses the Democrats are seeking. But, she added, Trump himself is the "best" witness to the events that led to his impeachment.

"I just believe, if there are patriots out there, there are people who love and care about this country, there is no way they were not moved  or touched by Adam's remarks," Demings said. "We certainly were, the impeachment managers were."

If the Senate doesn't call witnesses, "and I'm prayerful that we will, the greatest witness that we have in this case, the best witness is the president himself," she added. "The best witness is the president  himself, and listening to his own words, not only in the call record, but even after the call, where he has publicly invited other foreign powers to interfere in our election, that's hard to ignore. The information, again, the evidence that we have in this  case is overwhelming."


What's up with Trump's 'Death Valley' tweet and Saturday's trial plans?

The president is cognizant of the generally lower ratings on weekends, particularly Saturday, when his defense team is set to begin their much-anticipated (for him) rebuttal. That’s created some speculation on whether the defense team will even begin presenting at all tomorrow. A spokesperson for Sen. McConnell’s office told NBC News: “TBD. Will know more as the day goes on. Cautioning everyone to be patient.”

Sources familiar with the legal team say the current thinking is that there will be arguments tomorrow, although truncated. One of those sources suggests the president was mostly venting in his “Death Valley” TV rating tweet this morning, rather than staking out a red line (although if he gets upset enough, you could see the dynamics start to shift).

Still, there is a real awareness of getting something out there in time for Sunday shows and the Sunday papers, especially after Democrats had days to make their case on the floor uninterrupted. In the words of one source, “After three days of lies and mischaracterizations by the Democrats, the president’s legal team is ready to come out swinging.”

On the mechanics: The defense team itself has no authority to unilaterally “cancel” a trial day, although they could certainly just keep it short. Instead, the move would have to come from 51 senators voting to skip Saturday and return Monday.

'Death Valley in T.V.': Trump complains about his trial defense team starting Saturday

President Donald Trump on Friday slammed Democratic House impeachment managers for perpetrating "lies, fraud and deception" and complained that his own legal defense team would have to start their arguments on Saturday — what the president said is called "Death Valley in T.V."

"After having been treated unbelievably unfairly in the House, and then having to endure hour after hour of lies, fraud & deception by Shifty Schiff, Cryin' Chuck Schumer & their crew, looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.," tweeted Trump, a former reality television star known widely for being especially cognizant of how things play on television.

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Trump complains about Saturday impeachment trial: 'Death Valley in T.V.'

Schumer: We have a 'reasonable chance' at witnesses, documents

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Friday and said he is hopeful that the House managers’ case will persuade Republicans on the issue of witnesses and documents.

"Am I certain we’re going to get them? Absolutely not," Schumer said. "But do we have a chance, a reasonable chance, particularly if we keep fighting the case, and they don’t have any good argument against it, which they don’t? Yes, I’m hopeful we can.

"And once you get witnesses and documents, once these eyewitnesses — I mean there was another telling moment there — just excuse me a minute — and that was the graphic and granular discussion of the meeting with John Bolton on the 10th. And it was so  clear that the chief, cook, and bottle washer who knew everything, was the [acting] chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. It just cried out, why aren’t we listening to him? Why aren’t we hearing what he has to say? So there were some powerful moments that — and you know, when our Republican friends go to sleep and think of the weight of the Constitution on their shoulders, and think history will record them, yeah, I think we got a shot. I do."

What about a trade?

Schumer also said a potential trade between Democrats and Republicans on witnesses has "never really been seriously considered," adding that Republicans have a majority and could call for the testimony of witnesses they're seeking, like Hunter Biden, if they wanted to do so. 

"They have 53 votes. You know why they don’t? Because they know that will just confirm to every American that everything the president is doing, has done in this whole sad saga, everything the president’s lawyers are doing, everything the Republican senators are doing, is just political. They call in Hunter Biden, someone totally unrelated to the charges against the president."

Jeffries: Trump lawyers will try to 'distract' and 'obfuscate'

Jeffries is ready for the next step of the impeachment trial: Trump's defense.

"His lawyers will get up and they will try to distract, they will try to obfuscate, they may even misrepresent things — consistent with what they see from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Jeffries told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday night. 

He said the managers intend to use the 16 hours of scheduled questioning to poke holes in the president’s attorney’s defense.

What can we expect from the defense team on Friday?

Like the last couple of days, watch for the media blitz during breaks, the aggressive pushback on the impeachment managers’ arguments, and so on. But we’ll also start to tee up to the defense’s opening arguments, which will start (in some form) on Saturday. The president’s allies believe that’ll be a short day with the team getting to the heart of their argument on Monday.

Conversations with sources and public statements by the defense team suggest the president’s attorneys will split the arguments into several buckets, touching on the substance of the articles as well as what they see as the insufficient threshold for impeachment based on the Constitution. That point is essentially the heart of Schiff's closing statement Thursday night where he made the case that the president’s conduct meets the bar for removal because he’s putting his own personal interests above the country’s.

Schiff's closing: 'You can’t trust this president will do what’s right for this country'

Schiff gave an impassioned closing argument on Thursday of the Democrats' case against Trump’s alleged abuse of power. 

In his final speech of the day, Schiff gave a detailed recitation of the facts, arguing that the evidence shows how Trump pressured Ukraine, a vulnerable U.S. ally, by withholding military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Schiff then said that senators should consider the consequences of not holding Trump accountable and the dangers it could pose to American democracy. 

"How much damage can he do between now and the next election? A lot. A lot of damage,” Schiff said. 

He said that if Trump is not found guilty and removed, Russia or other foreign governments could interfere in the 2020 election. 

"Let's say they start to blatantly interfere in our election again to help Donald Trump," Schiff said. "Can you have the least bit of confidence that Donald Trump will stand up to them and protect our national interest over his own personal interest? You know you can't, which makes him dangerous to this country. You know you can't. You know you can't count on him, none of us can."

Schiff, speaking directly to a packed and attentive Senate floor with every senator at his or her desk or standing in the back, repeatedly stated that Trump cannot be trusted and is inherently self-interested. 

"If right doesn't matter, we’re lost; if the truth doesn't matter, we’re lost," he said. 

Schiff argued that the Ukraine scandal is a part of the president’s pattern of corrupt behavior and not a one-off issue. 

“You can’t trust this president will do what’s right for this country. He will do what's right for Donald Trump,” Schiff said. “The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first.”

He added, "If you find him guilty you must find that he must be removed because right matters, the truth matters, otherwise we are lost."