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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.
Image: Impeachment live blog
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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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

George Kent opening statement: Trump actions 'undermine the rule of law'

George Kent, a deputy assistant Secretary of State who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, testified Wednesday that he found it "unexpected and most unfortunate to watch some Americans — including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas — launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing U.S. interests in Ukraine."

Kent, in his opening statement Wednesday, named some of those individuals.

"Over the course of 2018-2019, I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv," he said. "In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelenskiy’s desire for a White House meeting."

Kent reiterated several other elements from what he’d said during his behind-closed-doors testimony last month, saying Wednesday that "as a general principle, I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power."

"Such selective actions undermine the rule of law regardless of the country," he said.

Kent also said that he had raised concerns in a phone call in February 2015 with then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office that "Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest."

"Let me be clear, however. I did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other U.S. officials consistently advocated reinstituting a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who closed the case to account," he added.

Schiff says he doesn’t know whistleblower amid Republican questioning

Republicans began Wednesday’s initial impeachment hearings by pressing House Intelligence Chairman Schiff about having the first whistleblower testify.

As Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, claimed Schiff was the only member of Congress who knew the whistleblower’s identity, Schiff said he actually was unaware of who the whistleblower is. Schiff claimed Jordan was making false statements. The whistleblower reportedly met with a member of Schiff’s staff before his official complaint — which multiple top Trump intelligence officials deemed credible and made in good faith — was released.

The exchange happened as Jordan and Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., pressed Schiff about having the whistleblower testify before the committee.

The whistleblower is a CIA employee who, according to their complaint, was provided information on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, which the whistleblower said amounted to the president soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election. Much of the whistleblower’s complaint has since been corroborated by Trump administration officials testimony before the impeachment committees, as well as the summary of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the White House released.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his allies from seeking to out the whistleblower. Some conservative media outlets have named an official purported to be the whistleblower.

The exchanges between Schiff and the Republicans came as GOP members slowed down the start of Wednesday’s hearing with parliamentary inquiries and points of order.

Witnesses sworn in

Bill Taylor and George Kent are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via Reuters

‘Cult-like?’ Nunes uses odd description of hearings that may anger colleagues

Nunes described witnesses as having auditioned for their roles in the “cult-like atmosphere” of closed-door hearings in prior weeks in the Capitol.

That may not sit well with Intelligence Committee colleague Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who was nearly killed while investigating the cult of Jim Jones as a staffer to then-Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., in 1978. Speier survived several gunshot wounds while Ryan was murdered along with four others.

Moreover, the initial set of hearings, held by the Intel panel in conjunction with two other committees, included members of both parties, making the room an ideologically diverse one for a cult.

Nunes says this is a 'scorched earth war against President Trump'

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, teed up the Republican case against the Democrats during this hearing. 

In his opening statement, he seemed to pivot away from the guilt or innocence of the president, but instead focusing on the impeachment process being a vendetta orchestrated by the Democratic Party for losing the 2016 presidential election. 

He called it a “scorched earth war against President Trump” and complained about the process of the  inquiry, saying the closed-door hearings were a "cult-like atmosphere in the basement of the Capitol.”

He referred to the depositions as "secret," despite the fact that more than 40 Republican members were permitted to ask questions during the depositions.

Nunes called the impeachment process the “low-rent sequel” to the Russian investigation, which he called a hoax and part of a Democratic ploy to go after Trump by any means, and “an impeachment process in search of a crime.”  

He also defended Trump’s actions, saying they were directed at rooting out corruption in Ukraine and inquiring about Hunter Biden’s work at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he was a board member of from 2014 until earlier this year. 

Nunes also began to directly go after the witnesses, calling their closed-door testimony auditions for the Democrats. 

“What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats,” Nunes said.

Schiff's opening statement: ‘If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?’

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., delivered his opening statement in the first impeachment hearing Wednesday, describing what President Donald Trump and administration officials have said about the president's conduct toward Ukraine.

“The issue that we confront is the one posed by the president’s acting chief of staff when he challenged Americans to ‘get over it,’” Schiff said. “If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — must we simply ‘get over it?’” 

“Is that what Americans should now expect from their president?” he continued. “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself — requiring that our laws be faithfully executed, that our president defend a constitution that balances the powers of its branches, setting ambition against ambition so that we become no monarchy — still have meaning? These are the questions we must ask and answer.”

Schiff said the impeachment proceedings are about whether Trump sought to exploit a U.S. ally and have them assist his re-election, and whether “such an abuse of power is compatible with the office of the presidency.”

Of investigations Trump pushed Ukraine to announce into Democrats and the Bidens, Schiff said, “Neither of these investigations were in U.S. national security interest,” though both were in Trump’s political interest.

“Some have argued in the president’s defense that the aid was ultimately released,” Schiff said. “That is true. But only after Congress began an investigation; only after the president’s lawyers learned of a whistleblower complaint; and only after members of Congress began asking uncomfortable questions about quid pro quos. A scheme to condition official acts or taxpayer funding to obtain a personal political benefit does not become less odious because it is discovered before it is fully consummated. In fact, the security assistance had been delayed so long, it would take another act of Congress to ensure that it would still go out.”

“And that Oval Office meeting that Zelensky desperately sought — it still hasn’t happened. Although we have learned a great deal about these events in the last several weeks, there are still missing pieces,” Schiff continued. “The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.”

Members in the room react to opening statements

There are two full rows of seats reserved for members of Congress inside the hearing room, but most are empty. 

Trump allies Reps. Lee Zeldin and Mark Meadows are in attendance.

At the edge of the GOP section, Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican, sits next to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat.

After Rep. Devin Nunes accused Democrats of hypocrisy in his opening statement, Yoho could be heard saying “Hear, hear.”

Tlaib appeared to roll her eyes and look at her other neighbor, Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat.

What's going on inside the White House

A senior White House official says the president is in the Oval Office holding a series of meetings this morning (unrelated to the impeachment inquiry) prior to Turkish President Erdogan’s arrival at noon.

This appears to be a clear counterprogramming effort on the part of the White House — because here’s the reality check: We know the president is certainly keyed in on the hearing (just check his Twitter feed), and his aides are deployed on that rapid response effort on messaging and strategy.

And we're off...

At 10:06am, Schiff gaveled one for the first public impeachment inquiry hearing. 

Rep. Ratcliffe, R-Texas, immediately raised a point of inquiry. 

Kent, Taylor arrive for hearing

Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on the first day of impeachment hearings on Nov. 13, 2019.Jacquelyn Martin / AP
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images