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

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Live Blog

ANALYSIS: The Trump chaos theory for how to beat impeachment

WASHINGTON — The Republican defense of President Donald Trump is all over the place — a situation that is both less than ideal, but perhaps good enough for the White House.

The only two points GOP lawmakers agree on right now are that they aren't ready to remove Trump from office and they think Democrats don't play fair. Otherwise, they've been unable to formulate a clear, cohesive message in support of a commander in chief facing serious consequences over the wide-ranging campaign he ran to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Instead, and often in lieu of delving into the facts of the case, they've lined up behind one of a series of arguments for Trump staying in place. Read those arguments and the rest of the analysis here.

Hoyer condemns GOP efforts to out whistleblower

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) released a statement on Republican efforts to out the whistleblower: 

"Efforts by some Republican Members of Congress to 'out' the whistleblower who revealed President Trump’s abuse of power are a blatant attempt at witness intimidation.  Not only does this shamefully put the whistleblower and his or her family at physical risk, it is also a clear attempt to deter other courageous patriots from revealing abuses and unlawful behavior in this Administration.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for Republicans in Congress to defend President Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into assisting his re-election campaign. That fact does not justify this dangerous effort to distract the American people from the evidence at hand.  Our laws do not permit retaliation against witnesses and anonymous tipsters in criminal cases, and we should not tolerate it in this case either. I call on federal law enforcement to look closely at the concerning statements made recently by some Republican Members of Congress and for our intelligence agencies to take all necessary steps to protect the whistleblower’s anonymity."

Rand Paul defends calling for whistleblower's unmasking

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., defended his comments about the whistleblower when speaking to reporters on Wednesday, saying he believes the whistleblower needs to answer questions about whether he or she knows if there was any conflict of interest with Hunter Biden.

NBC News pressed Paul about a tweet from whistleblower attorney Andrew Bakaj that said, "Let me be absolutely clear: @RandPaul will be personally responsible for anything harmful that happens."

Paul said, "I think attorneys are always advocates for their clients and you can’t really trust what they say. But they’re advocates for their clients. Look, I’ve been a victim of political violence twice, once at the shooting at the ballfield, and once was six of my ribs broken, so I don’t wish any harm to anyone."

Durbin asks if Ukraine call was so routine, 'why do they hide it?'

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Wednesday that he can’t follow the logic of the Republican response to the release of the most recent deposition transcripts, asking if the Trump-Ukraine call was so routine, “why do they hide it? Why do they have to put it in a secret server after it was disclosed?” 

"They obviously knew that something happened in that conversation that was not normal, was not acceptable, and they were doing everything they could to conceal it," he continued. "If you conceal the evidence, you obviously have guilt in mind."

Asked about Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham's remarks that he sees no evidence of a quid pro quo in the witnesses' testimony, Durbin responded, "He doesn’t want to see it. He ought to take a closer look. It’s pretty obvious. Lin’s a good lawyer and he should know better. If you don’t wanna see something, you’re not going to see it."

Meadows: Defending Trump is 'getting easier' as more officials testify

Fiona Hill's lawyer disputes Sondland's testimony

The lawyer for former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill is accusing Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland of making up testimony about purported conversations he and Hill had over coffee.

"Sondland has fabricated communications with Dr. Hill, none of which were over coffee," her lawyer, Lee Wolosky, wrote on Twitter. "Dr. Hill told Sondland what she told lawmakers — the lack of coordination on Ukraine was distastorous, and the circumstances of the dismissal of Amb Yovanovitch shameful.”

Wolosky confirmed to NBC News that he sent the tweet but did not provide additional information about his accusation. Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, declined to comment.

In his deposition, Sondland referred at least four times to having coffee with Hill when they overlapped in the Trump administration, including once in the White House and another time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Sondland, in the transcript of his deposition, described Hill as being visibly emotional during a coffee he said they had at the White House when Hill was leaving the administration. He said she was “sort of shaking, she was pretty mad,” describing her as unloading her pent-up frustrations with Trump, then-national security adviser John Bolton and the administration on her way out.

Hill’s lawyer noted in his tweet that she was critical in her testimony about the way Ukraine policy was handled and the ouster of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, among other things. Hill’s main point of contention with Sondland appears to be not whether she criticized the administration, but whether she did so in a private coffee meeting with him.

Graham says he's 'not going to read the transcripts'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Wednesday that he is "not going to read these transcripts" of testimony in the impeachment inquiry, saying, "the whole process is a joke."

Kurt "Volker, the special envoy, said there was no quid pro quo," Graham said. "Sonderland has changed his testimony to say he presumes there was. What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo. So, no, I find the whole process to be a sham and I'm not going to legitimize it." 

In his testimony, special envoy to Ukraine Volker told House investigators that no quid pro quo was communicated to him and that he did not believe the timeline of events bore out that kind of leverage based on his understanding of when the Ukrainians became aware of the hold on military aid.

Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, also said Rudy Giuliani should stop his Ukraine efforts, adding that he lent no credence to a 2016 conspiracy theory that Trump and his personal lawyer have been chasing about Ukrainian involvement in hacking Democrats' emails.

"I think we should not do this in the future," Graham said. "You know, who was the guy, Sidney Blumenthal, did this whole crap in Libya, you know, running around representing Clinton in Libya. I think that’s bad public policy. 

"I don’t know what Rudy was trying to do, if he was trying to defend Trump against allegations of, you know, working with Russia," Graham added. "There’s a theory out there that the Ukrainians hacked into the emails, not the Russians. I don’t buy that for one minute. I find no credibility to the idea it was the Ukraine who hacked into the DNC. It was the Russians, I’m convinced it was the Russians."

FLASHBACK: Bill Taylor's opening statement

Ahead of Bill Taylor's public hearing next week and the transcript of his impeachment testimony, which we're expecting later Wednesday, here's a reminder of what he said during his opening statement last month:

President Donald Trump has insisted there was no "quid pro quo" in his dealings with the Ukrainian government, and "no pressure" on Ukraine's president to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

But in his remarkable 15-page statement delivered to Congress on Tuesday, Trump's top diplomat to Ukraine painted a picture of both.

Read the six most astonishing revelations here.

Bill Taylor transcript coming today, Schiff says

Schiff announced on Wednesday that impeachment investigators would be releasing the transcript of Bill Taylor's deposition later in the day. He said what we will see from the transcript is that the GOP had equal time to ask questions. 

Donald Trump Jr. tweets name of person he says is the whistleblower

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, tweeted on Wednesday the name of a person who some conservative media outlets have alleged is the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint triggered the House impeachment inquiry.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the unnamed whistleblower, whose right to anonymity is protected by federal law. On Oct. 14, he tweeted that the whistleblower "must testify" before Congress and that "we must determine the Whistleblower's identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA." 

In recent days, some of Trump's staunchest Republican allies have called on the media to reveal a name, and on Sunday, Trump intensified his own calls for the person to be exposed. "The whistleblower should be revealed," Trump told reporters outside the White House.  

Trump Jr. said in follow up tweets that he did not coordinate with the White House. 

NBC News is not reporting the name of the whistleblower as long as that person wishes to remain anonymous, due to security and safety concerns, and will not publish the names of anyone purportedly identified by outside parties as the whistleblower. NBC News has confirmed, however, that the person is a CIA employee who was detailed to the White House.

Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, lawyers for the whistleblower, have been publicly opposing GOP pressure to reveal the identity of the whistleblower, not only because of his or her personal safety but because they insist that the person's identity is now irrelevant since the claims contained in the complaint have been corroborated by the testimony of other named witnesses in the impeachment probe. 

"Identifying any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm. We will not confirm or deny any name that is published or promoted by supporters of the president," the attorneys said in a statement Wednesday

"We will note, however, that the publication of a name shows the desperation to deflect from the substance of the whistleblower complaint. It will not relieve the president of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true," Zaid and Bakaj added.