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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

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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

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.