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

Schumer says senators should 'keep their ears and minds open' on impeachment

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday's impeachment hearing shows why the investigation must "continue unimpeded."

"The new revelations show exactly why the investigation must continue unimpeded so all the facts come out and why every senator should not prejudge until all the facts are out," he said. "We heard some new facts today, and that's all the more reason senators should keep their ears and minds open."

Republicans argue witnesses don't have 'firsthand' knowledge of events. Is that right?

Republicans repeatedly argued — on Twitter and in the hearing room — that Wednesday's witnesses lacked firsthand knowledge of a pressure campaign on Ukrainian officials, and placed emphasis on the fact that Kent and Taylor never spoke directly to Trump. 

This argument is in part misleading. Kent and Taylor had direct knowledge of the Trump administration's diplomatic mission in Ukraine, and testified to those facts. Republicans are correct in noting that these two particular officials do not have firsthand knowledge of Trump's conversations, or those of his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

In their sworn depositions and in the open hearing, Taylor, the current acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Kent, a top State Department official, referred to conversations, emails and meetings they participated in or were told about involving high-level diplomats, senior Ukrainian officials and the Ukrainian president. They refer to contemporaneous notes and official documents. 

Taylor, answering questions from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, confirmed that he was not on Trump's July call with Ukraine's president that triggered a whistleblower complaint, nor had he spoken directly with Mulvaney, who Taylor said was part of a secondary, "irregular" diplomatic channel that worked to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations, and that he had never met the president. 

"This is what I can’t believe, and you're their star witness," Jordan said.

Impeachment investigators have interviewed 15 witnesses in closed-door questioning and subpoenaed more. At least one, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, was on the call at the heart of the impeachment inquiry and is scheduled to testify publicly next Tuesday. Meanwhile, Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, who multiple witnesses testified spoke directly with Trump and claimed to act accordingly, is scheduled to testify publicly next Wednesday. 

Notably, more than a dozen White House staffers and Cabinet officials with firsthand knowledge have not complied with congressional subpoenas, including Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and a slew of other government staffers. The White House has sought to limit what witnesses can say. Kent and Taylor testified that they had been directed by the State Department not to testify when invited by congressional investigators, only doing so once they were subpoenaed.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., pointed this out during the hearing on Wednesday.

"You'd have a lot more direct testimony and direct evidence if you weren't blocking that ability," he said.

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.