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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

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

Live Blog

Kent, Taylor say they aren’t 'Never Trumpers': 'No, sir'

Kent and Taylor, under questioning from Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said they are not "Never Trumpers."

Trump has accused administration officials who have testified before the committee of being "Never Trumpers." On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted, "NEVER TRUMPERS!"

When Swalwell asked Kent if he was a "Never Trumper," meaning a conservative who refuses to support the president, Kent said he was just a career foreign service official who has served for nearly three decades under Republican and Democratic presidents.

Taylor was more succinct in his answer.

"No, sir," he told Swalwell.

Kent says smear campaign against Yovanovitch was led by Giuliani, corrupt Ukrainians

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., asked Kent about the smear campaign against former Ambassador the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Kent said that the smears against her were led by corrupt people in Ukraine and also promoted by Giuliani. He stopped short of saying that the smear campaign was directly linked to Trump’s decision to remove her. 

"You can't promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people,” Kent said. "Rudy Giuliani's smear campaign was ubiquitous in the spring of 2019 on Fox News and on the internet and Twittersphere."

What to know about Rep. Ratcliffe

Several GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee yielded some of their allotted questioning time to Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, on Wednesday, who repeatedly asked the witnesses simple yes or no questions without letting them elaborate or fully answer. 

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, arrives for a House Intelligence Committee hearing on impeachment on Nov. 13, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

During one round of questioning during the hearing, Ratcliffe asked Taylor a sequence of questions but didn’t give him the chance to respond. 

Ratcliffe served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas at the end of the George W. Bush administration. Trump nominated Ratcliffe in July to serve as his next director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats, but Ratcliffe withdrew himself from consideration in early August after lawmakers questioned his lack of qualifications and reports that he may have overstated his accomplishments on his résumé. 

Ratcliffe has served in Congress since 2015 and has been a staunch defender of Trump and his policies.

Jordan argues that because the investigations didn’t happen, Trump did nothing wrong

In another line of questioning, Jordan highlighted what is becoming a more prominent Republican defense of Trump’s conduct: Because Ukraine didn’t end up investigating the Bidens and Democrats and the roughly $400 million in military aid was released, Trump did nothing wrong.

“What you heard didn’t happen,” Jordan said to Taylor in trying to discredit his understanding of the administration’s efforts toward pressuring Ukraine to probe the Bidens and Democrats.

As The New York Times reported, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy was set to deliver a statement on CNN on Sept. 13 announcing the investigations in order to secure a White House meeting and the military aid. But earlier that week, Congress was alerted to the whistleblower complaint. Then, on Sept. 11, the Trump administration released the hold on aid.

As Schiff said earlier in the hearing, the Trump administration released the aid after facing significant pressure from lawmakers to do so, not to mention the effect of the timing of the whistleblower account being reported to Congress.

Texas GOP Rep. shouts at Taylor

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, spent much of his five minutes of questioning yelling at Taylor.

During a particularly fraught exchange during his questioning, Ratcliffe repeatedly asked Taylor whether he had any evidence that Zelenskiy was "lying" when he told reporters that he was not aware of a military aid hold or of any conditions being placed on the military aid to his country when he had held the July 25 call with Trump.

"Yes or no," Ratcliffe demanded to know. 

"If I can respond," Taylor said, before being interrupted by Ratcliffe, who yelled, "My time is short, yes or no?"

"I have no reason to doubt what the president said,” Taylor said.

Ratcliffe, with sweat on his brow, then replied, “where is the impeachable offense in that call?”

"Shout it out! Anyone?" he continued. Ratcliffe then attempted to withdraw his question and have the clock suspended for his five-minute allotment.

"I have one minute left," he said. "I withdraw the question," he said. 

Kent knocks down the equivalence between Biden and Trump

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., pressed Kent on the difference between Biden acting on Obama administration orders and getting rid of a corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine and Trump pressing the country to open an investigation into the Bidens. 

Kent testified that the former Ukrainian prosecutor undermined a U.S.-backed assistance program and it was a part of American foreign policy to lobby for his removal. He also said that he did not see in the transcript of the July 25 call a genuine interest from Trump to end corruption in Ukraine. 

"I don’t think he was trying to end corruption in Ukraine, I think he was trying to aim corruption in Ukraine — at Joe Biden," Himes said. 

What was Joe Biden's role in Ukraine?

Moments ago, the Republican counsel questioned Kent and Taylor about former Vice President Joe Biden's role in Ukraine. 

Here's a quick primer: Beginning in 2014, Biden led diplomatic efforts in Ukraine to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted a Russian-backed president. He specifically called for the removal of Viktor Shokin, the Ukraine prosecutor general who was widely believed to be corrupt. 

“I said: ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in’ — I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’ ” Biden said at a 2018 event, recounting his actions. “Well, son of a b---- , he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”

The removal of the prosecutor was U.S. government policy at the time, and widely agreed to among the international community as the right move. In his closed-door testimony, Kent testified last month that the International Monetary Fund, the European Union countries and the U.S. agreed that Shokin should be removed as prosecutor general.

Schiff tried to get at the heart of Trump’s demand

Schiff’s exchange with Kent and Taylor is important because he’s trying to pull out of them a confirmation that Trump’s interest in corruption was a cover to manufacture an investigation into the Bidens. Schiff noted that Trump didn't mention corruption during the July 25 call. He didn't mention corrupt oligarchs, but mentioned the Bidens and CrowdStrike. 

“He was interested in the Bidens?” Schiff said. 

“Yes, sir,” Kent replied. 

Schiff argued that Trump wanted to put Zelenskiy in a box. Kent testified that Zelenskiy, however, expressed trepidation about getting involved in foreign elections. 

Members begin questions

The staff questioning round has now ended.

The committee has moved to the five-minute member round for the 22 members alternating between Democrats and Republicans.

As a reminder, in this round members can give their five minutes time to another member.

The member questions should last roughly two hours barring any breaks or procedural delays. At this point, we don’t know if/when another break will occur. 

Castor presses Taylor on 'irregular' Ukraine channel

Castor, after a series of confusing questions that even longtime Republicans took issue with, eventually arrived on a line of questioning that seemed to strike a chord.

Pointing out Taylor’s criticism in his opening statement and prior testimony of the "irregular" diplomatic channel between the U.S. and Ukraine, Castor asked Taylor "did you try to wrest control of the irregular channel?"

"I did not try to," Taylor replied.

Responding to questions about why, Taylor said it was because "both channels were interested in having a meeting between President Zelenskiy and President Trump."

"There’s no reason to kind of wrest control if we were going in the same direction," he added.

Castor then asked again, why, if Taylor held growing concerns about that channel, he didn’t make that attempt but later expressed his worries so sharply.

"I was concerned when the irregular channel was going against the overall direction and purpose of the regular channel," Taylor said.

GOP counsel asks if Hunter Biden speaks Ukrainian

GOP counsel Steve Castor, as part of an apparent attempt to cast Hunter Biden’s joining of the Burisma board as suspect, peppered Kent and Taylor with questions about the son of the former vice president.

Castor asked Kent whether he knew if Biden was an "expert" in "corporate governance."

"I have heard nothing about prior experience," Kent said.

"Do you know if he speaks Ukrainian?" Castor asked a moment later.

"I do not," Kent said.

"Do you know if he possesses any other elements other than that he is the son of a sitting vice president?" Castor asked.

"I do not," Kent replied.