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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

Nadler: Trump 'is a dictator'

Nadler had harsh words for the president during his Friday remarks: He's a dictator.

"He's the first and only president ever to declare himself unaccountable and to ignore subpoenas backed by the Constitution's impeachment power. If he is not removed from office, if he is permitted to defy the Congress entirely, categorically, to say that subpoenas from Congress in the impeachment inquiry are nonsense, then we will have lost — the House will have lost, the Senate will certainly have lost — all power to hold any president accountable," Nadler said. "This is a determination by President Trump that he wants to be all-powerful; he does not have to respect the Congress, he does not have to respect the representatives of the people. Only his will goes. He is a dictator. This must not stand and that is why — another reason he must be removed from office."

Trump isn’t the first president to fight subpoenas, but he has made unprecedented comments about the reach of his own executive authority.

Engel blasts State Dept. over Yovanovitch threats

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said in a statement Friday that the State Department has failed to meet a deadline to turn over documents related to a potential threat to the security of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch last year.

"I have serious concerns that the security of an American ambassador and an American embassy were compromised. When she was called in the middle of the night and told to get on the next plane out of Ukraine, Ambassador Yovanovitch was warned, 'this is about your security'," he said. 

Engel said that he would use certain tools to obtain the answers, which could include a congressional subpoena. 

"I want to know what the State Department knew about it then and what actions have been taken. I’ll use all the tools at my disposal to get the answers I’m seeking from the department," he said. 

There has been renewed attention about Yovanovitch's security after House Democrats released text messages showing Giuliani associate Lev Parnas appearing to discuss the whereabouts of the then-Ukraine ambassador with a Republican congressional candidate, Robert Hyde. It's unclear whether they were actually surveilling Yovanovitch, though.

Democrats hope they persuaded these Republicans to back impeachment witnesses

The House managers are finishing up their opening arguments in their case against President Donald Trump — but it's still unclear whether they'll be able to present any new evidence.

"Every day more and more of the public is watching," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday. "I am more hopeful than ever that four conscientious brave Republicans will come forward and tell Mitch McConnell you can't shut this down without witnesses, you can't shut this down without documents."

With the GOP holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Democrats would need at least four Republicans to cross party lines to be able to call witnesses or subpoena documents in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

Here's who could cross party lines.

Sanders says impeachment puts Biden at political advantage

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says he believes Trump's impeachment places former Vice President Joe Biden at a political advantage over him.

“Politically, in the last week or so of the campaign, yeah, I think it does," Sanders said in an excerpt of an interview with "CBS Evening News" released Friday. "I mean, he and others, not just Biden, are able to go out, talk to people. That's really important.”

Sanders is one of four senators running for the Democratic presidential nomination who have to be Washington for duration of the trial.

“Obviously, when we had planned out our schedule, trust me, we were not planning to be in Washington this week," Sanders said in the interview. "We had set up a number of town meetings all over the state. We usually bring out good crowds. So it is disappointing to me not to be in Iowa talking to the people there."

When asked, Sanders added he does think the trial is important business "and I am accepting my constitutional responsibility. But what I'm saying, obviously, it's — at a disadvantage."

Giuliani launches 'common sense' podcast, urges impeachment case be dismissed

As Democrats argued in the Senate on Friday that President Donald Trump should be removed from office, the president's personal lawyer launched a podcast to push back against the allegations.

Rudy Giuliani, who wasn't tapped as a member of the legal team representing the president, used his inaugural episode of his show, "Rudy Giuliani Common Sense," to deliver a presentation that sounded like what he would have said at the Senate trial.

"Look at these charges. Neither one of them is a crime," a restrained Giuliani said of the two articles of impeachment against the president, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Read the full story.

Behind the scenes: How the Democratic House managers prepped their trial presentation

Standing in the well of the Senate chamber on the second day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., played a video clip of a senator reinforcing a key Democratic argument: that a president doesn’t need to commit a crime in order to commit an impeachable offense.

The star of the 21-year-old footage: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of Trump's most vocal Senate supporters, who during the 1999 trial of President Bill Clinton made the exact opposite point of Trump's current defense team.

Two decades after Graham's stint in that role, the carefully polished multimedia presentation by Democratic House managers has born little resemblance to the analog case Graham labored over. Which isn't surprising, since it's the first presidential impeachment of the social media age.

Read more here.

Sekulow says Saturday will be 'kind of a coming attractions' for defense's case

White House counsel Jay Sekulow, during the break, said the defense team will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. ET and speak for three hours.

"I guess I would call it a trailer, kind of a coming attractions, would be the best way to say it," he said.

Graham says he doesn't want to investigate Joe Biden, but he will if he has to

Graham on Friday said that he doesn’t want to investigate Biden, but he will if he has to. 

“You know why I don’t want to do it? Because I love Joe Biden,” Graham, a former colleague of Biden’s in the Senate, told reporters during an afternoon break in the trial. 

Graham said it was a conflict of interest to have Biden put in charge of Ukraine corruption efforts as vice president at the same time that his son Hunter was on the board of Burisma. 

“Here’s what I can say: if this was Liz Cheney or Pence’s son doing this in the Ukraine, Adam Schiff would be leading the charge for an investigation of what happened,” Graham said. 

Graham said that no one has investigated the Bidens and said, “I think they should.”

“The Congress will do it if we can’t have an outside entity do it,” he said. “We’re not going to live in a country where only Republicans get looked at.”

He also said that he doesn’t believe either side — the Democratic House managers or the president’s legal team — should be able to call witnesses in the Senate trial.