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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

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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

Democrats' top lines

A Democratic staffer working on the impeachment trial lays their case out as follows:

  • Democrats made an overwhelming, compelling and airtight case — the evidence is absolutely incriminating, the facts are uncontested.
  • It’s clear that the President is an ongoing threat to our national security and the upcoming elections. That’s why he must be removed.
  • House Managers made a direct appeal to the Senators to consider the lasting impact of the President’s actions on our democracy, constitutional framework and Congress’ ability to exercise oversight of the executive branch. 
  • Americans overwhelmingly want a fair trial. All trials include documents and witnesses – in this case, the hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents and dozen witnesses the President has blocked.

 

It's baaaack: Tom Cotton's purple fidget spinner makes a reappearance

Milk is out. Fidget spinners, still in!

Just when you thought the demise of another recent quirk of the Senate — fidget spinners — was imminent, Tom Cotton has breathed new life into the use of the toy on the Senate floor.

The Arkansas Republic was spotted Friday evening with his purple fidget spinner, which he had put into use Thursday during arguments but which disappeared along with the other senators' fidget spinners for most of Friday.

Rather than the packets of paper and binders that occupy most senators’ desks, Cotton just had a few sheets in a manila folder. Arriving a little late after the afternoon recess, he kept checking something in his inner jacket pocket, and later brought out the fidget spinner.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. — who also started playing with a blue fidget spinner as he sat behind his desk — had handed out the popular toys to several of his fellow senators in the chamber on Thursday. He said Friday he'd passed them out because they "are just an obvious way to keep people awake.”

Also of note: Water seems to be the beverage of choice (that is, of the two possible choices) on the floor on Friday, with nary a glass of milk to be found. That's in stark contrast to a couple of days earlier, when some senators were spotted downing the dairy product (Cotton drank at least two glassfuls).

ANALYSIS: Impeachment managers have trigger man and motive. GOP has the votes.

Democrats believe they have more than a smoking gun in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. They have a trigger man, they have a motive and they have a record of the key moment.

What they would like more of — but do not believe would be necessary in a jury trial — is access to documents they know exist and witnesses close to Trump that they believe would further support the case for removing him from office.

"This is airtight," said a person familiar with the prosecution, who noted that all of the witness testimony obtained during the House investigation corroborated a long campaign by top Trump lieutenants to effect the president's Ukraine plan. "What [we] don't have is someone saying, 'I helped orchestrate that months-long effort.'"

Read the full analysis.

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.