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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

Collins: 'Not true' GOP senators risked heads 'on a pike' if they vote against Trump

During Schiff's closing remarks the chamber was almost entirely full expect for three empty seats on the Republican side. The room was very engaged with Schiff's remarks— many never breaking their gaze. 

When Schiff mentioned the CBS report that said Republican senators were told their heads "will be on a pike" if they vote against Trump, Collins said "that’s not true" fairly loudly multiple times and shook her head vigorously. 

The floor was almost completely captivated by Schiff, especially during the emotional family stories, with no one taking notes or reading.

Later, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called the story "baloney."

"It's hard to keep an open mind when there's so much baloney being thrown at you," she said.

Schiff wraps: 'Give America a fair trial, she’s worth it.'

Schiff concluded Democrats' opening arguments on Friday night, appealing to the senators' faith in American ideals and urging them to consider this trial's place in history and the world.

Schiff said he believed this trial was "a moment when our democracy was gravely threatened and not from without from within. Russia too has a constitution. It’s not a bad constitution, it’s just a meaningless one."

He argued that America is a beacon of democracy and fairness around the world while suggesting the outcome of this trial could threaten it.

"From all over the world, they look to us — and increasingly, they don't recognize what they see," Schiff said. "Americans get a fair trial — and so I ask you, I implore you. Give America a fair trial. Give America a fair trial. She’s worth it."

Dem senator: GOP senators will 'be haunted' by the truth

A number of senators spoke to reporters during the dinner break about what they’ve witnessed so far today. Some Republican senators took aim at the House managers— in particular, Nadler's "dictator" comment seemed to strike a nerve.

"Nadler's disposition and tone throughout this entire process, I don't think, it doesn't reflect well on the House process," said John Thune, R-S.D. "I mean I think it's been very partisan and he's got a very partisan tone which is carried over into the, into the Senate, and so it's, you know, it probably doesn't matter to that many people in this room, because everybody kind of knows what they're dealing with there but I don't think it probably helps them with the American public."

"I feel like I'm, like, the prop in the longest political commercial that's ever been produced," said GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. "Did y'all get that?”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, said that his Republican colleagues will "be haunted" if they keep "refusing to see the facts."

He said they "have to understand the truth will come out sooner than they think, and they're gonna be haunted by it, because they'll have to justify refusing to see the facts that are fully available to them and witnesses and documents and that's going to be a pretty tough burden for them to carry into this election."

Schiff says Trump defense will be ‘Obama did it’

Schiff attempted to preview some of Trump’s potential defenses, seeking to debunk the various arguments as he went along. 

"I expect you’ll hear the argument Obama did it! Obama did it. Now that may take several different forms, but the form of Obama did it I’m referring to is Obama also held aid. I think that argument is an insult to our intelligence," Schiff said, pointing to how then-President Obama withheld aid during Egypt’s revolution.

"You will hear the call was perfect, you’ll hear the call was perfect. Now I suspect the reason they will make the argument the call was perfect is that because the president insists they do," he said. "I don’t think they really want to have to make that argument — you wouldn’t either. But they have a client to represent so they will make the argument the call was perfect."

He continued: "And they will also make the argument Ukraine thinks the call was perfect, Ukraine says there was no pressure. What that really means is Ukraine wants a future. Ukraine knows it’s still beholden to us for aid. Ukraine still hasn’t gotten through the door of the White House. Ukraine knows that if they acknowledge that they were shaken down by the President of the United States, the President of the United States will make them pay."

Schiff recalls Trump's ire when he mocked Ukraine call

Schiff, as part of his closing remarks, said that Trump and his allies haven't seemed particularly invested in answering the gravity of the charges the House has laid out against the president — choosing instead to attack the process and the Democratic House managers, including himself. 

He then recalled a moment that Trump revisits often — when he parodied Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president while chairing a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee last September. 

"I discovered something very significant by mocking the president and that is for a man who loves to mock others, he does not like to be mocked. As it turns out, he's got a pretty thin skin. Who would have thought it?” Schiff said. “Never mind that I said I wasn't using his words before I said, and I wasn't using his words after I said it, and I said I was making a parody of his words — 'It's an outrage! He mocked the president, that Schiff! Terrible!'"

Trump has said Schiff should resign and be investigated for his mocking interpretation of that July phone call, in which Trump asked a foreign leader to look into the Bidens, as well as a conspiracy involving the 2016 election.

"He is a sick man!" Trump tweeted last September.  

Schiff wraps Democrats’ case: 'That has been proved'

Schiff read through the articles of impeachment on Friday night, arguing that the managers had proved each element with the refrain 'that has been proved.'

“President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government in the 2020 election," he began. "That has been proved."

Schiff says he’ll be the last speaker tonight

Looks like tonight could be an early night for impeachment watchers, as manager Schiff says he’ll be the last speaker tonight.

"I'm tired! I don't know about you but I'm exhausted,” he said.

Schiff joked that he was hoping to keep things short tonight, the conclusion of House Democrats' case against the president.

"To be immortal, you don’t need to be eternal."

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.