EVENT ENDED

Trump impeachment trial live coverage: Senators probe prosecution, defense

Senators have a total of 16 hours over two days to probe House impeachment managers as well as the White House defense team.
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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Senators grilled both the House managers and the defense team on Wednesday during the first day of the question-and-answer period of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Senators have a total of 16 hours over two days to probe House impeachment managers as well as the White House defense team, which have had three days each to deliver their arguments.

Senators are still divided on whether to hear from witnesses.

Highlights from the impeachment trial so far

Live Blog

Trump to senators at White House event: 'Maybe I’m just being nice to them because I want their vote'

Impeachment was clearly on President Donald Trump's mind Wednesday during a Rose Garden event celebrating the signing of the U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

In the middle of rattling off a list of senators to thank for their work on the deal, Trump noted: "Maybe I’m just being nice to them because I want their vote. Does that make sense? I don't want to leave anybody out."

As the crowd, including a number of members of Congress, laughed, Trump referred to the largely party-line House impeachment vote, saying: "Hey, congressman, I already got your vote. ... To hell with you, I think I have to mention some senators."

Trump also referred to the work a number of senators were doing on impeachment as he called them out, saying Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was anxious to get back to the Capital to ask questions: "He’s got some beauties, I bet." 

On Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Trump said, "He's saying just read the transcript."

When he got to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., he asked, "Why are you not over there, Rick?" and added that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wasn't attending because he was holding a news conference.

As Trump handed out pens to members of Congress after signing the deal, he joked to the crowd: "See how nice I'm being to senators? I don't care about anybody else." 

Toomey suggests he's in the 'nay' column on calling witnesses

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who reportedly raised possibility of trying to strike a one-for-one deal on witnesses after news of the Bolton book broke, is now sending signals that he's leaning against calling for witness testimony.

Toomey said Wednesday morning that he is “very, very skeptical” that new witnesses would change his mind on the verdict, his spokesman Steve Kelly confirmed to NBC. Toomey's remarks were reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Graham 'concerned' attacks on Bolton will only increase calls for him to testify

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that he is "concerned" that attacks on John Bolton's credibility could increase demands for him to he testify in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial — a statement that came shortly after Trump ripped into Bolton on Twitter.

“The House managers’ claim that the sole reason President Trump temporarily paused the aid was purely personal and political, not public, does not withstand scrutiny," Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close Trump ally, claimed in a statement. “However, I am concerned when John Bolton’s credibility is attacked, it makes it more likely some will feel the need to call him as a witness."

Graham, who is up for re-election this year, added that if Bolton is called, “it would be important for the president and his team to call witnesses on other issues.”

In his statement, Graham said he thinks additional testimony from witnesses is "unnecessary."  

“For the sake of argument, one could assume everything attributable to John Bolton is accurate and still the House case would fall well below the standards to remove a president from office," he said, referring to reports that Bolton's upcoming book contradicts a key part of the president's impeachment defense.

Graham also claimed there was "ample evidence for the president to be concerned about conflicts of interest on behalf of Hunter Biden and that Vice President Joe Biden’s failure to take appropriate action was unacceptable. This combination, in my view, undercut America’s message on reforming corruption in Ukraine." 

What to watch on Wednesday

A source on the legal team says they are 'prepared” for whatever comes, with another source familiar with the thinking telling NBC News that they’re ready for a wide range of questions, including, of course, some on Bolton. The team is expecting Democrats to focus the bulk of their Q&A on trying to build the case for witnesses. Another source familiar with the matter predicts the questions on the Republican side will likely try to provide greater clarity on “areas of interest” that senators have talked about privately (our read: like, presumably, Bolton.) 

Witness update

The White House is largely deferring senator-wrangling to Mitch McConnell. But a source familiar with the legal team’s thinking tells NBC News that they believe the witness vote will be “close.” Another source acknowledges there’s less confidence now than before the Bolton book leak about a quick wrap-up to the trial, but still thinks there’s a strong chance they get an acquittal by the end of the week. 

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas arrives, takes selfies at Capitol

Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, poses for a selfie with protester outside of the Capitol on Jan. 29, 2020.Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Just catching up with the trial? Here's what you missed.

Wednesday marks a new phase of the impeachment trial, as senators turn to asking questions of the prosecution and defense. Trump's team wrapped up their arguments on Tuesday.

Here's a brief recap of the trial so far:

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

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

Attorney Joseph Bondy asked U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken of New York for a modification to Parnas' bail conditions, including the removal of his GPS monitoring device, because it wouldn't be permitted in the Senate Gallery. The proposal was for Parnas to travel from New York to Washington on Wednesday and attend the trial from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Read the story.

Manchin says he thinks Hunter Biden is a relevant witness

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday that he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is a relevant witness in the impeachment trial.

"You know, I think so. I really do," Manchin said. "I don't have a problem there because this is why we are where we are. Now I think that he can clear himself of what I know and what I’ve heard."

"But being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong no matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican," he continued.

The Mountaineer State senator added that if Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, agreed that the younger Biden is "pertinent," Manchin would vote to call him.

Manchin's state overwhelmingly voted in favor of Trump in 2016 and then reelected Manchin in 2018.

Democrats have contended that Hunter Biden is not a relevant witness to Trump's impeachment trial, since he has no direct knowledge of what Trump was charged with — abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

Manchin said he favors approving witnesses in the case, and Republicans have said they will seek to bring witnesses like the Bidens and the whistleblower forth if witness testimony is approved.