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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

Democrats vote to table motion to subpoena the whistleblower

Bill Taylor departs after giving testimony

Bill Taylor, top diplomat to Ukraine, leaves after giving testimony at an impeachment hearing on Nov. 13, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Trump campaign manager bashes 'unelected, career government bureaucrats'

"The entire world can read the transcript of President Trump’s conversation with President Zelensky, so people don’t need to rely on third-party opinions when they can see the facts for themselves," said Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.

He added, "Despite that, today we heard from Democrats’ hand-picked star witnesses, who together were not on the Ukraine phone call, did not speak directly to President Trump, got third-hand hearsay from one side of a different phone call in a restaurant, and formed opinions based on stories in the pages of the New York Times. We hate to break it to these unelected, career government bureaucrats who think they know best: the President of the United States sets foreign policy, not them. And disagreement on policy is not an impeachable offense."

Schiff lays out thrust of inquiry case, denies knowing the whistleblower

Schiff, in his closing remarks, reiterated the allegation that Trump abused his office and leveraged a high-profile meeting and military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and, in effect, invite foreign interference in U.S. elections to help his re-election. 

“You described a situation in which those in the service of the president made it clear to the Ukrainians they need to publicly announce these investigations or they weren't going to get that meeting and they weren't going to get that military assistance,” Schiff said, referring to the testimony of Taylor and Kent. 

Schiff noted that this hearing is just one of several scheduled for the coming days and weeks to bolster the Democrats’ case. Democrats on Tuesday announced a second week of open hearings in the House impeachment inquiry, including with E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, and top Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

Before wrapping up, Schiff again denied knowing the identity of the whistleblower before the complaint was filed. 

Nunes, meanwhile, ended the hearing where he began, by decrying the process and demanding Democrats call the whistleblower and other Democratic operatives to testify.

"You are not allowing those witnesses to appear before the committee, which i think is a problem," he said.

The California Republican said the hearings should stop until lawmakers get answers to the extent of alleged "prior coordination" with the whistleblower; the extent of what Nunes claimed was Ukraine election meddling against the Trump campaign, a reference to the conspiracy theory that Trump and Giuliani have been chasing; and the reason Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma hired Hunter Biden to its board and whether his position affected any Obama administration actions.

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.