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

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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

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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

Schumer slams Trump defense team's case as 'extremely weak'

Schumer, talking to reporters after the end of arguments in the impeachment trial, called the case that Trump’s defense team made “extremely weak” and accused them of “avoiding the truth.”

“They just cannot address the issues,” Schumer said. “Their whole argument is diversion.”

“The bottom line is very simple. We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Schumer added. “That’s what witnesses and documents mean.”

“The president' lawyers spent three days avoiding the truth,” Schumer continued. “I think their case has been extremely weak.”

McConnell concludes Tuesday's trial by laying out Q&A rules

The White House defense team used just under 10 hours to give their defense.

McConnell then said that a deal has been made on the Q+A period of the trial, which will include:

  • WEDNESDAY: At 1 p.m, 8 hours alternating between majority and minority sides.
  • THURSDAY: Up to 8 hours alternating between sides for up to eight hours.
  • Chief Justice Roberts said he will go with the 1999 precedent of giving 5 minutes per response.

Schiff rejects Sekulow claim that Bolton allegations are irrelevant

Schiff, responding to an argument Sekulow made that Bolton's claims about Trump and Ukraine are inadmissible, said, "Once again, the president’s team, in only a way they could, have further made the case for calling John Bolton."

Earlier Tuesday, Sekulow dismissed Bolton's claim that Trump had admitted to tying Ukraine aid to the Biden investigation, an assertion made in an unpublished manuscript by Bolton as reported by The New York Times on Sunday, saying the claims were inadmissible at trial.

"Are you going to allow proceedings on impeachment to go from a New York Times report about someone that says what they hear is in a manuscript?" Sekulow said. "Is that where we are? I don't think so. I hope not."

Schiff also responded to Sekulow's argument that the issues surrounding Ukraine are merely due to a policy disagreement.

"I suppose that’s the difference: Americans don’t believe as a matter of policy the president should be able to behave as corruptly as he chooses," Schiff said.

He added that "there’s a subtext here which is essentially the president’s defense team saying, yes, he’s guilty, we know he’s guilty, and we have to fall back on the fallback of all time, which is, 'So what?'"

GOP Sen. Braun on Trump's conduct: 'We knew what we were getting'

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., during a brief break in the trial, said of Trump's behavior: Well, this is what we signed up for.

"I've been a Trump supporter for the agenda," Braun, who was elected in 2018, told NBC News. "I've come here to work on health care, I was one of the first guys to join the Climate Caucus. I think it's a big deal."

"When it comes to the president's behavior and style, we knew what we were getting here," he added, saying Trump was elected to shake up the establishment.

It's an interesting argument to make as the president faces impeachment over his behavior, pushing Ukraine to probe the Bidens and Democrats as he withheld aid and an official White House visit to the country's president. Democrats alleged he abused his power and obstructed Congress' investigation.

Cipollone delivers last defense presentation: 'I think we’ve made our case'

White House counsel Pat Cipollone began the last presentation of the Trump defense team by telling senators, “I think we’ve made our case.”

“All you need in this case is the Constitution and your common sense,” Cipollone said. 

“You know what the right answer is in your heart. You know what the right answer is for your country. You know what the right answer is for the American people,” he added.

Cipollone, whose presentation lasted only about 10 minutes, then played a video of several members of the House who spoke during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 — including Rep. Jerry Nadler and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, both New York Democrats. 

Cipollone then wrapped up his remarks.

"This should end now, as quickly as possible," he said. 

OPINION: Trump's impeachment trial defense hinges on six arguments. They can all be rebutted.

President Donald Trump’s lawyers began their impeachment arguments on Saturday with what football fans might call a “prevent” defense. Under that strategy, a team with a lead late in the game plays cautiously to avoid giving up a big play.

And now we know why.

Trump’s defense team is now offering its closing arguments. Over the course of the past few days, the group has offered six predictable defenses, each of which can be rebutted. It now appears that their goal was to simply provide Republican Senators with sufficient talking points and avoid changing anyone’s mind.

But on Sunday, that strategy appeared to backfire when it was reported that former national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book contradicts at least one of Trump’s defenses. By avoiding witness testimony that could have been high risk or high reward rather than addressing those facts head-on at his trial, Trump is now seeing the facts trickle out in other forums where it is difficult to control.

Read the opinion piece.