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Trump impeachment: Analysis and news on the House charges and Senate acquittal of the president

The Senate trial on the two articles of impeachment against Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, ended with acquittal on both charges.
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The fast-moving impeachment of President Donald Trump, stemming from his dealings with Ukraine, moved to the Senate for trial in January after the House voted a month earlier to adopt two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Senate voted in early February to acquit the president on both charges.

Trump's impeachment followed weeks of testimony related to his efforts to press Ukraine for investigations into Democratic rivals and hours of fiery debate over the process.

Trump is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. Read all of the breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Trump impeachment highlights

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry

Live Blog

Schiff accuses Trump's allies of trying to stop witnesses from testifying

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NBC News that he hopes Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, will testify Wednesday as planned. He also confirmed that Cooper had been subpoenaed to testify. 

Schiff accused the Republicans disrupting Cooper's deposition of trying to stop her and other witnesses from testifying.

Q: Will Laura Cooper testify today?

A: I certainly hope so. The witness has been waiting a long time.

Q: Are Republicans still in the room?

A: You’ll have to ask them. ... Clearly the White House was devastated by yesterday’s testimony, and these witnesses have been willing to defy the administration and follow the law and come testify, so the president’s allies are trying to stop them through other means, but they won’t be successful.

Q: She was issued a subpoena to appear today?

A:  Yes.

"The House parliamentarian has ruled that these members are in violation of House deposition rules."

A House Intelligence Committee official said the "stunt" was "in service of the president’s demand that they 'fight harder' to obstruct a legitimate impeachment inquiry," adding, "The House parliamentarian has ruled that these members are in violation of House deposition rules."

The official also said Republican members had brought their electronics into the secure facility where the testimony was to take place, "a major security breach." Several lawmakers refused to remove their devices even after the sergeant- at-arms and security personnel raised the issue, the official said.

The official also pointed out that former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi, emphasized at the time that non-committee members were not allowed in the deposition room.

 

In battleground Wisconsin, support for impeachment lags behind national polls

WASHINGTON — A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, arguably the most important state for the 2020 presidential race,  is a reminder that the national poll results we’re seeing are a bit different than in the attitudes in top battleground states for 2020. 

In the poll, 46 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin say there is enough cause for Congress to hold impeachment hearings on Trump, versus 49 percent who disagree. That 46 percent is lower than the majorities we’ve seen in most national polls supporting the impeachment inquiry.

 

The poll also finds 44 percent of Wisconsin supporting Trump’s impeachment/removal from office, versus 51 percent who oppose it.

Trump’s job rating in Wisconsin is 46 percent in the poll — slightly higher than his national average in the low 40s.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on supporting the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal during a visit to Derco Aerospace Inc., a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in Milwaukee, July 12, 2019.Carlos Barria / Reuters

In hypothetical general-election matchups, Biden leads Trump by 6 points in the state, 50 percent to 44 percent. That’s compared with Bernie Sanders’ 2-point lead (48 percent to 46 percent), Elizabeth Warren’s 1-point lead (47 percent to 46 percent), and Pete Buttigieg’s 2-point deficit (43 percent-45 percent).

Most national polling shows all of these Democrats ahead of Trump by double digits or high-single digits.

The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17 of 799 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Trump's lawyers argue he can't be charged while in office — even if he shoots someone

WASHINGTON — A panel of three federal appeals court judges appeared to be unreceptive on Wednesday to President Donald Trump's claim that local prosecutors cannot get his financial records as long as he's in office — and heard an extreme hypothetical from the president's lawyers making the case.

The long-standing view of the Justice Department is that a president cannot be indicted while in office. William Consovoy, President Trump's lawyer, told the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the immunity extends to the entire criminal justice process, including grand jury subpoenas for documents.

Carey Dunne, New York District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.'s general counsel, said the president's position is too absolute.

There could be examples where a state should be able to conduct a criminal investigation of a sitting president, "if, for example, he did pull out a handgun and shoot someone on Fifth Avenue."

Asked about that, Consovoy said a president could be charged with such a crime once he was out of office or if he was impeached and removed from office. "This is not a permanent immunity," he said.

"I'm talking about while in office. Nothing could be done? That's your position?" asked Judge Denny Chin.

"That is correct," Consovoy said.

Trump's former acting attorney general says 'abuse of power' isn't a crime

Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump hours after Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine, on Tuesday testified that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals by withholding crucial military aid.

In a segment on the House impeachment inquiry, Whitaker told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that "abuse of power is not a crime." 

"I’m a former prosecutor and what I know is this is a perfect time for preliminary hearings where you would say show us your evidence," Whitaker said. "What evidence of a crime do you have? So the Constitution— abuse of power is not a crime."

"Let’s fundamentally boil it down," he added. "The Constitution is very clear that there has to be some pretty egregious behavior and they cannot tell the American people what this case is even about."

NBC News has reported that House Democrats are zeroing in on abuse of power in the inquiry. Impeachment battles involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon both involved abuse of power charges, though Nixon resigned before he was impeached.

Republicans delay start of Pentagon official's closed-door testimony in impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON — A group of House Republicans on Wednesday delayed the start of closed-door testimony by Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, after they stormed the secure room where the deposition was being held.

Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the GOP members — who don’t sit on the committees who are questioning witnesses in the impeachment inquiry — entered the secure room, known as a SCIF, in the basement of the Capitol Visitor’s Center. Before entering, they protested Democrats’ handling of the probe, arguing that the process was not fair to Republicans or the president.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told reporters that there were approximately 20 GOP members in the room who refused to leave, and said that they came into the secure room yelling that they be allowed inside. Some of these members brought their cell phones, which is not permitted.

"This is being held behind closed doors for a reason because they don’t want you to see what the witnesses are like," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told reporters Wednesday morning before they entered the room. “This is a Soviet style impeachment process. This is closed doors, it is unfair in every way and I don’t care whether you are the president of the United States or any other citizens of this country, you should be allowed to confront your witnesses."

Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment investigation, explained last week that there is precedent stemming from the Watergate era, as well as President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, for holding the initial investigation behind closed doors. He also said that he anticipated a time when impeachment investigators will release the transcripts of the depositions, and that the House may call back some of those witnesses to testify in public.

On Wednesday, Biggs and other members appeared to post tweets from inside the room.

Read more about the stand-off here.

Republican Sen. Thune: 'Picture...is not a good one'

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, reacted on Wednesday to the closed-door testimony of top diplomat Bill Taylor, who said Ukraine aid from the U.S. was linked Trump demands for probes of the Bidens:

"The picture coming out of it based on the reporting we'e seen is, yeah, I would say is not a good one, but I would say also that, again, until we have a process that allows for everybody to see this in full transparency it's pretty hard to draw any hard fast conclusions." 

Thune added, "I think that whatever (Taylor) said in private it ought to be done in public. And I think the Republicans are right to point out that this has been very a sort of rigged process relative to previous impeachment exercises that have been undertaken in the past."

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, is highly unlikely to "friend" founder Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook.AP -- file

More than 200 former USAID officers blast Trump administration's treatment of diplomats

WASHINGTON — More than 260 former foreign service officers, political appointees at the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as civil servants, are blasting the Trump administration for its treatment of current diplomats at the State Department and for the White House decision to freeze U.S. assistance to Ukraine.

In a statement of support obtained by NBC News from one of its signatories, Desaix “Terry” Myers, the former officials wrote that they were writing in support of their colleagues “now under siege for their work as diplomats.” 

“Together, we spent our careers working to represent the policies and values of the United States.  We are angered at the treatment of dedicated, experienced, and wise public servants like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; and we are distraught at the dangers inherent in the President’s cavalier (and quite possibly corrupt) approach to making foreign policy on impulse and personal interest rather than in response to national security concerns,” the statement says.

The statement was signed by a variety of former USAID officers, including some former ambassadors.  Myers served as USAID’s mission director for Russia and Indonesia and previously taught at the National War College.

The former officials said that they are “appalled” that taxpayer dollars set aside by Congress for military assistance to Ukraine “may have been used to leverage foreign support for partisan political objectives.”

“The way the President is conducting foreign policy raises questions about the reliability of the U.S. as a partner, its commitment to diplomatic norms, and its capacity for leadership,” they wrote. 

In addition to praising former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, they commended the other officials who have also testified so far in the House impeachment inquiry including Bill Taylor, charge d’affaires in Ukraine, Michael McKinley, who recently resigned as one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s top advisers, and George Kent, a senior official in charge of Ukraine policy at the State Department. 

Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, is testifying behind closed doors Wednesday and is expected to face questions about the White House’s decision over the summer to withhold military assistance to Ukraine.

Rick Perry 'happy to' talk to lawmakers once they abide by 'precedent'

Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday that he would “be happy to come forward” to talk to House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry if “they follow the precedent, when they follow what has been referred to me as the precedent of an inquiry.”

“But the fact is, I’m not going to participate, the White House has advised us not to participate, my general counsel has told me not to participate in what they consider to be an unprecedented effort to try to use an inquiry in an unlawful way,” Perry said.

Perry, whom Democrats have subpoenaed for documents related to Trump and Ukraine, suggested in a Fox Business interview Wednesday that abiding by precedent included holding a vote on the impeachment inquiry — something House Republicans have demanded but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said is not required.

Perry, who announced last week that he will step down, has emerged as a central figure in Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election. The energy secretary was one of a cadre of officials — including now-former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — who ran an “irregular” channel of U.S. policymaking on the country, according to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s testimony Tuesdaybefore the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a hearing on the President's budget request for Fiscal Year 2020, Tuesday, April 2, 2019.Patrick Semansky / AP file

Poll shows growing support for impeachment

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that American voters' support for the House impeachment inquiry has reached its highest level, at 55 percent in the survey.

On the flip side, 43 percent of voters disapprove of the inquiry. Last week, the poll showed 51 percent approved of the inquiry, while 45 percent disapproved.

Among Democrats, 93 percent approve of the inquiry, as well as 58 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans. Among those who disapprove were 88 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.

Nearly half of the respondents, 48 percent said Trump should be impeached and removed from office while 46 percent say he should not. Last week, that total was flipped.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,587 self-identified registered voters between Oct. 17 and Oct. 21. The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.