IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump impeachment trial live coverage: The president's defense delivers closing arguments

After the arguments phase of the trial, senators will turn to questioning the Democratic House managers and Trump's lawyers.
Image: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House voted to send impeachment articles against President Donald Trump to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell officially received the House managers on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

President Donald Trump's lawyers on Tuesday wrapped up their final day of arguments in his impeachment trial, calling the charges against him unfounded and politically motivated.

After previewing their case in a short session on Saturday, Trump’s legal team doubled down on Monday, insisting there was nothing improper about his dealings with Ukraine's government and casting blame on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

The president's defense largely avoided direct mention of a bombshell report involving John Bolton.

Highlights from the impeachment trial

Live Blog

Philbin says Senate has higher threshold to meet than House in impeachment process

GOP Sens. Loeffler, Lee, Kramer and McSally asked: of Trump's lawyers, "Is the standard for impeachment in the House a lower threshold to meet than the standard for conviction in the Senate, and have the House managers met their evidentiary burden to support a vote of removal?" 

In response, White House lawyer Patrick Philbin said the Senate has much higher threshold to meet than the House in deciding to remove the president from office. 

“The mere accusation by the House comes here with no presumption of regularity at all in its favor,” Philbin said, adding that the Senate sits as “tryer of both fact and law.” 

Philbin said that House managers have failed in their burden of proof and, according to the Trump legal team, didn’t state in their articles “anything that amounts to an impeachment offense.” 

“They have presented part of the facts and left out the key facts,” he said.

McConnell says he doesn't have the votes yet to prevent witnesses

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acknowledged to Republican senators during a private meeting earlier Tuesday that he did not currently have the votes to avoid calling witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, a GOP aide familiar with his comments told NBC News.

Though the votes are not yet secured, Republicans appeared confident Tuesday evening that they would ultimately be successful in blocking witnesses. Senate Republican leadership exerted strong pressure on the party's members to vote against calling witnesses, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Read more here.

Giuliani calls John Bolton a 'backstabber' and 'swamp character'

Rudy Giuliani said in a new interview that Bolton is a “backstabber.”

“He is a personal friend, I thought. So here’s the only conclusion I can come to, and it’s a harsh one and I feel very bad about it. He’s a backstabber,” Giuliani said in an interview on “CBS This Morning” that is expected to air on Wednesday. CBS released a clip of the exchange on Tuesday evening.

“If your friend was complaining about you behind your back and didn’t have the guts to come up to your face and tell you, ‘I think you’re screwin’ up, Catherine,’” that’d be a backstabber. That’s classic backstabber,” he added.

Giuliani called Bolton a “swamp character” said he “can’t imagine” that Trump said what Bolton alleged in the former White House aide's upcoming book. 

According to a manuscript of the book that The New York Times reported on earlier this week, Trump told Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials offered help with investigations into the Bidens demanded by Trump. 

Numerous witnesses testified during the Trump impeachment inquiry that Giuliani played a key role in carrying out a shadow foreign policy for Trump in Ukraine by pressuring its top officials to launch Biden investigations and a probe into a debunked 2016 conspiracy theory. Former White House official Fiona Hill testified last year that Bolton was unhappy with the "drug deal" cooked up by Giuliani and others in Ukraine.

Nadler says John Kelly should be called as witness if Senate allows testimony

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said Tuesday evening that if the Senate votes to allow witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, he would like to hear from former White House chief of staff John Kelly. 

In an interview on MSNBC, Nadler, one seven House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump, was asked who he’d like to hear from if the Senate permits witnesses to testify. 

“John Bolton, certainly...Mick Mulvaney, the president's chief of staff, some of the other witnesses who we have heard had first hand information,” Nadler said. “And maybe now John Kelly.”

On Monday evening, Kelly said at an event in Florida that he believes what Bolton reportedly wrote in a manuscript of his upcoming book. 

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” Kelly said. 

Nadler said Tuesday that Kelly’s comments “seem to indicate that he has knowledge of what Bolton is testifying to.”

The Judiciary chairman added that he hopes the Senate reaches a vote to permit all witness testimony and he said if that doesn’t happen, “We'll seek individual votes [on witnesses]. It depends on how the Senate votes.”

Parnas can attend Trump's impeachment trial, but judge won't let him take off ankle monitor

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that Lev Parnas, one of Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associates, can attend the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump — although he won't be able to take off his ankle monitor, so he likely won't be permitted on the Senate floor.

Attorney Joseph Bondy asked Judge Paul Oetken for a modification to Parnas’ bail conditions, including the removal of Parnas’ GPS monitoring device, because it would not be permitted in the Senate Gallery. The proposal was for Parnas to travel from New York to D.C. Wednesday and attend from 12:30 to 2:45pm.

Bondy said Sen. Chuck Schumer’s Office notified him that the ticket request for both Bondy and Parnas to attend was granted by that office.

The plan was then for Parnas to travel back to New York after the Senate proceeding and have his GPS device replaced. Bondy said that prosecutors didn’t object to Parnas attending the Senate trial, but didn't want his GPS device removed.

GOP Senate leaders pressured senators to not call for witnesses in Trump trial

Senate Republican leadership exerted strong pressure Tuesday on the party's senators to not call for witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The sources said Republican Senate leaders "whipped the vote" — although there was no official vote count — against calling for witnesses at the private GOP Senate meeting Tuesday afternoon, which came after Trump's defense team wrapped up arguments.

Several Republican senators wouldn’t divulge to NBC News the substance of what they discussed, telling reporters to "check with the whip" about any directives from leadership.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told NBC News that he was "whipped against voting to call witnesses" but that there was not an official whip count.

Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and John Boozman, R-Ark., told NBC News, however, that they did not feel pressured. Boozman said everyone at the hour-long meeting was being “respectful.”

Courtroom sketch shows Romney drinking his favorite floor drink

Schiff says White House team made 'effective' case for Bolton testimony

Schiff after the trial session Tuesday reiterated that Trump’s own lawyers made an "effective" case for why the Senate should call Bolton as a witness.

"I don't think, frankly, that we could have made as effective a case for John Bolton's testimony as the president's own lawyers," said Schiff.

The House managers, Schiff said, have already been preparing for the possibility of Bolton testifying but that "we have a lot more work to do to prepare now that we know more of what he is likely to say."

As for a proposed witness exchange with Republicans, which some top Democrats have opposed, Schiff said, "If they want a witness for witness, then let them call Mick Mulvaney. Mick Mulvaney has said that he disputes what John Bolton has to say ... Let them call Secretary Pompeo. Let them call people that are percipient witnesses to this scandal and this corrupt scheme."

Asked by NBC’s Kasie Hunt whether Schiff would be prepared to testify during the trial as a witness called by Republicans, Schiff said, "My testimony is he’s guilty."

McCaskill: Given Trump kids and 'grift,' Trump team's attack on Bidens unbelievable

Poll: Three-quarters of voters say witnesses should testify