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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

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

Kent says plainly that Giuliani was looking for ‘political dirt’

Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., pressed both Kent and Taylor on Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy efforts, and they both agreed it was not in the interest of U.S. national security. 

“Was Mr. Giuliani promoting official U.S. interests?” she asked. 

Kent: "I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt."

Taylor: "I agree"

Fun fact: Demings also questioned former special counsel Robert Mueller in July and got him to say that Trump was not entirely truthful in his written answers in the Russia probe.

Taylor notes that Pompeo cable was a career first

During an exchange with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., Taylor said that the first time he sent a first-person cable to the secretary of state in his 30-year career in the foreign service was in August to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Taylor emphasized that sending a cable to America’s top diplomat was a rare move.

Asked whether Taylor heard back from Pompeo, Taylor said, "Not directly."

Kent said that he was on vacation when the cable came in, "but my understanding is that it made it to his intended recipient."

Kent, however, said he’s unsure if anything was done, saying, "I can’t honestly say what happened with the cable at the highest level."

In August, then-White House national security adviser John Bolton recommended that Taylor send a first-person cable to Pompeo directly relaying his concerns about the U.S. security assistance to Ukraine that was held up by the Office of Management and Budget more than a month earlier, on July 18. 

"I wrote and transmitted such a cable on Aug. 29, describing the 'folly' I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government,” Taylor said about the cable in his opening statement Wednesday. 

Warren says 2020 campaign won't keep her from a potential Senate impeachment trial

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told reporters on Wednesday that her campaign wouldn't keep her from attending a potential Senate impeachment trial.

"I have constitutional responsibilities," she said. "I took an oath of office as did everyone in Congress. Part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law, that includes the president of the United States, and if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate then I will be there for the trial."

Warren also said she had not been able to catch up on the first day of the impeachment hearings in the House today. 

McConnell criticizes government business 'put aside' for impeachment hearing

Hearing room bursts out laughing after Democrat snaps back at Jordan

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., got a round of laughs in the hearing room for a joke he made in response to a lengthy rant from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, about how impeachment investigators need to have “the person who started” the impeachment probe, meaning the first whistleblower, come testify.

Welch retorted, "I'd like to see the person who started it come testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there."

Laughs followed.

Ratcliffe seeks to find out about Democrats’ interactions with the whistleblower

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, sought to engage in a "colloquy" with Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., during his round of questioning to find out details about what Schiff knows about the whistleblower and any interactions with the person. 

Schiff then said that Ratcliffe should direct his questions to the witnesses. 

"I’m not trying to find out the identity," Ratcliffe said. "I’m just trying to find out the date that this happened." 

Republicans have been focused on the whistleblower approaching a member of the majority staff before filing their official complaint about what they knew about the Trump-Zelensky phone call. Republicans claimed both before and throughout the hearing that Schiff knows the identity of the whistleblower, but Schiff made clear Wednesday that he doesn’t know who the person is. Democrats have said that during the closed-door depositions that Republicans have sought to out the whistleblower. 

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., chimed in and read from the rules of the public hearings that what Ratcliffe was seeking to do regarding the whistleblower was not in accordance with the resolution passed by the House that outlined procedures for the hearings. 

Ratcliffe pushed further asking Schiff, "Are we ever going to find out the details?"

"Mr. Ratcliffe, your time is dwindling. I suggest you use it," Schiff responded. 

Hurd's questioning highlights Dems' point on timing of Trump's interest in Ukraine corruption

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, sought to make the point in his line of questioning that the Trump administration provided substantial military aid to Ukraine in fiscal year 2017 and 2018, trying to highlight that the administration was very supportive of Ukraine.

But that point also highlights something else important: that Trump did not become enamored with Urkainian “corruption” until earlier this year, which happens to also be when Biden began running for president. It’s a point Democrats have sought to make in the impeachment process.

Of course, the two “corruption” investigations Trump sought were probes of the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory involving the Democrats and the 2016 election.

The diplomat who overheard Trump call once won award for dissenting

The U.S. diplomat who is said to have overheard a phone call between President Donald Trump and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which Trump asked about "investigations" once won an award for voicing dissent within the government when he saw something amiss. 

David Holmes, now the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is the latest character to be drawn into the impeachment saga when he was unexpectedly added to the hearing calendar for a closed-door deposition on Friday. He’s expected to be questioned by House investigators about events during and around Sondland’s visit to Kyiv in July, including what he overheard Sondland on his cellphone discussing with Trump. During public testimony Wednesday, Bill Taylor revealed that a staffer recently told him about the conversation. Two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News that Holmes is the staffer in question.

Holmes has a history of speaking up when he disagrees, according to an NBC News review of archived materials from the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. diplomats. In 2014, he won AFSA’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent, which honors a midcareer foreign service officer for intellectual courage in speaking up.

At the time of the award, Holmes was senior energy officer as U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He was recognized for his work on Afghanistan and South Asia during which he filed a formal dissent channel message in February 2013. He argued that the division of authority for Afghanistan-Pakistan policy among different parts of the State Department “hindered our diplomatic effectiveness.”

“My efforts over this period, and then my formal dissent, were intended to give a voice to an important perspective that I felt lacked an advocate,” Holmes was quoted as saying in an article in the September 2014 edition of The Foreign Service Journal, the union’s monthly magazine.

A dissent cable is a unique State Department mechanism that lets diplomats voice disagreement about U.S. policies, with protections against retribution. They’ve been used previously during the Vietnam War and in 2017 when diplomats objected to Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations. Read more about Holmes' background here

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.