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Live impeachment trial updates: Senate votes to acquit Trump

The outcome was effectively assured after senators on Friday voted against hearing witnesses, also largely on party lines.
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

Senators voted Wednesday to acquit President Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment.

Only one Republican broke rank to vote with Democrats: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump on abuse of power. The vote on the second article, obstruction of Congress, came down on party lines.

The outcome was effectively assured after senators on Friday voted against hearing witnesses, also largely on party lines.

Read the latest news and analysis below:

971d ago / 7:48 PM UTC

Dem senator gets emotional, thanks Romney after speech

During Romney's powerful speech on the Senate floor, the chamber was empty except for three Democrats listening intently: Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

Schatz wiped his eyes during Romney’s speech and, along with Leahy, followed Romney off the floor. Schatz told NBC News that he thanked Romney for his vote.

Schatz said he became emotional “because we all need to believe that this place can work, and this place can only work if individuals occasionally put country above party. And Mitt Romney just did that.”

He added, “I came to the floor because I was hoping. I didn’t talk to him about it, I just saw 2 o’clock and I cleared my schedule to come down.”

The only Republican in the chamber was Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who came in a few minutes late and stood by his desk just gazing at Romney. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who was presiding over the Senate at the time, did not make eye contact with Romney once.

971d ago / 7:38 PM UTC

Schiff reacts: Romney displayed 'moral courage'

971d ago / 7:32 PM UTC

Full text: Romney's speech on why he'll vote to convict Trump of abuse of power

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, became the lone GOP senator to break with his party Wednesday, announcing in a speech on the Senate floor that he would vote to convict President Donald Trump of abuse of power — one of two articles of impeachment — in a vote expected later in the afternoon.

Read his full remarks as prepared for delivery, obtained by NBC News:

971d ago / 7:26 PM UTC

Kasie Hunt on why Romney's vote matters to Trump

971d ago / 7:10 PM UTC

Romney says he will vote to convict Trump for abuse of power

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, announced he will vote to convict President Donald Trump on abuse of power, one of the two articles of impeachment he faces.

Romney is the only Republican to announce a vote to convict the president. 

Romney said Trump was "guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust" and that "what he did was not perfect."

He called Trump's conduct a "flagrant assault on electoral rights, electoral security, and fundamental values" and "the most abusive and destructive violation of one's oath of office that I can imagine."

As he started to read his speech, Romney appeared to choke up with emotion.

"The president's insistence that [Joe and Hunter Biden] be investigated by the Ukranians is hard to explain other than as a political pursuit," Romney said. "There's no question in my mind that were their names not 'Biden,' the president would never have done what he did."

Romney said he knew he was certain to face backlash from the president and his supporters and said it was the most difficult decision he's faced. He added that the vote allows him to tell his children and family that he performed his duty "to the best of my ability."

“With my vote I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty,” Romney said. “What the president did was wrong. Grievously wrong.”

971d ago / 7:02 PM UTC

Kaine defends Pelosi, calls Trump a 'jackass'

Sen. Tim Kaine did not mince words during an appearance on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Wednesday to talk about Trump's impeachment and the State of the Union address. 

The Virginia Democrat said that Trump cannot claim exoneration because his impeachment trial was a "sham" and called the president a "jackass" for not shaking hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after his address Tuesday night. 

"He’s going to be acquitted," Kaine said. "I don’t think it’s an exoneration because the Senate trial was such a sham."

He added, "The refusal to allow evidence will put an asterisk by this. So, yes, it is an acquittal, but if I were the president, I would want exoneration and I don’t think exoneration is what you get when you engineer a sham rather than a trial."

He also excoriated Trump for ignoring Pelosi's outstretched hand and in turn defended the speaker for ripping her copy of the president's speech at the end of his address. 

"I said, well, wait, so, he won't shake her hand and he gives a Medal of Freedom to somebody who's called her every name under the book for years," he said, referring to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has consistently trafficked in sexism and racism.

"And he stands up there and lies about health care, but we're going talk about how she should respond? I mean, he can behave like a jackass, but we have to jump all over her back? I mean, I don't get the double standard."

971d ago / 6:37 PM UTC

Maloney on Collins acquittal vote: 'It's transparently nonsense'

971d ago / 5:39 PM UTC

Jones: Re-election battle 'never crossed my mind' in impeachment decision

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Jones spoke to reporters following his announcement that he would vote to convict Trump.

When asked if he was worried about his re-election, Jones said, "No. It has never crossed my mind. Did ya’ll hear that speech? Did anybody hear that speech? It has never crossed my mind."

He added that he "did what I thought was the right thing to do. It had been coming together."

NBC News noted that Jeff Sessions, who once held Jones' seat and is now running to reclaim it, is already attacking Jones over his impeachment vote

"So?," he said.

971d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

Hoyer says Bolton could 'probably' give 'relevant testimony'

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that impeachment will be “over today” and that he finds it “very regrettable what is about to happen” in terms of the Senate acquitting Trump without hearing from any witnesses or requesting documents.

Asked if the House will subpoena John Bolton to testify, he says the committees will make that decision if they will proceed on that but that “we think he probably has some relevant testimony to give.”

971d ago / 4:57 PM UTC
971d ago / 4:49 PM UTC
971d ago / 4:42 PM UTC

Pelosi explains why she ripped Trump's speech: 'A pack of lies'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore a copy of Trump's State of the Union speech in half Tuesday shortly after he concluded his address in the House chamber. She addressed this moment in a meeting with Democrats on Wednesday morning, telling them that she "tried to find one page I could spare that didn’t have a lie on it" but that "it was a pack of lies."

Multiple sources inside the room told NBC News that Pelosi called Trump's address a "disgrace" and accused him of turning the speech into a "reality show."

"Last night, we saw the President of the United States shred the truth right in front of us, tear up the truth," Pelosi said, according to one aide in the room. "We saw him lie about pre-existing conditions, that he’s the champion when he’s in court suing for it."

According to the aide, she said that "tried to find one page I could spare that didn’t have a lie on it."

"I didn’t go in there to tear up the speech, and I didn’t even care that he didn’t shake my hand, in fact, who cares?," she said, according to the aide. "But I’m a speed reader, so I read – you know – I went like this through the speech. So I knew that it was a pack of lies.  I knew it was a pack of lies, but I thought, ‘Well, let’s see how it goes.’ About a quarter through it I thought, 'You know – he’s selling a bill of goods like a snake oil salesman. We cannot let this – we cannot let this stand.'"

Fellow Democrats gave her a standing ovation for her remarks, the sources said.

971d ago / 4:04 PM UTC

Manchin says he 'agonized' over impeachment vote

Manchin said he has “agonized” over how he will vote later Wednesday on the articles of impeachment.

“I know my state and I know my people well,” Manchin said. “But I know this country well and I feel very strong about the decision I’ll make is going to be a very personal one.”

Manchin said he has not spoken to Trump nor has he asked any other moderate Democrats how they will vote. Asked if the Senate can work in a bipartisan way moving forward, Manchin said “we have to.”

“Last night did not give me the encouragement we need,” he continued. “We need to unite the country. The country needs to be united.”

971d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

Doug Jones, vulnerable Democrat, will vote to convict Trump

Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election this year, said on Wednesday that he will vote to convict Trump. 

"After many sleepless nights, I have reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress," he said in a statement, adding that, "the gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges, and the implications for future presidencies and Congresses all contributed to the difficulty with which I have arrived at my decision."

971d ago / 3:57 PM UTC

FBI director asked about Biden investigation

Appearing at an oversight hearing Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked if the president or the Justice Department has sought in any way to retaliate for the impeachment process by asking the FBI to investigate Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, or any member of Congress.

Wray said the FBI will only open investigations based on the facts or the law. 

Nadler said, so no one asked you to do this, correct? Wray said, “No one has asked me to open an investigation” except based on the facts and the law.

971d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

Nadler says House 'likely' to subpoena Bolton

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, one of the House managers in the impeachment trial, spoke to reporters following a caucus meeting about his expectations for the upcoming Senate impeachment vote. 

Nadler said he thinks it's "likely" one of the House committees will subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, one of the key witnesses Democrats were hoping to call. Bolton was an eyewitness to much of Trump's conduct on Ukraine and expressed concerns about Rudy Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine diplomacy.

Bolton had said he would testify if subpoenaed but the Senate on Friday killed an effort to hear from new witnesses.

Nadler didn’t give a timeframe for the potential subpoena.

971d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

Romney to make impeachment remarks at 2 p.m.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the two Republicans who voted with Democrats to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, will make remarks on the Senate floor at 2:00 p.m. ET.                                         

971d ago / 3:22 PM UTC

Thune says some Democrats may vote to acquit Trump

Senate Majority Whip Thune, R-S.D., told NBC News that "I would not be surprised" if some Democrats voted to acquit Trump.

"I think there are a couple who may be available," he said. "I’ve had some conversations with them." 

971d ago / 2:43 PM UTC

In Senate trial, Trump may have gained power but lost political case

President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial promises to leave him more powerful in Washington — and possibly more vulnerable to defeat on the campaign trail.

That's in part because a handful of pivotal Senate Republicans chose to criticize Trump's behavior in office while protecting him from both official sanction and the potential jeopardy of witnesses unraveling his impeachment defense under oath. As a result, Trump is on the verge of emerging from the trial with a tacit green light to defy Congress without fear of reprisal, and also safe in the knowledge that elected representatives will push only so far to find out whether he tells the truth to the public.

"It’s arguable that he’s the most politically powerful president in American history," presidential biographer Jon Meacham said on NBC News during a break in the trial Friday.

But that power, demonstrated with the Senate's 51-49 vote Friday against considering new evidence, combined with the mild rebukes from GOP senators to dilute the most compelling aspect of his political brand. It will be harder for Trump to cast himself as a victim of the system after allies in the Senate said he overstepped the bounds of his authority and then used their power to bail him out of trouble.

The more he looks like he's rigging the system, the less it looks rigged against him.

Read more here.

971d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

Trump's impeachment acquittal vote is all but assured. Nixon's resignation helps explain why.

When President Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974, his successor, Gerald Ford, told the nation that “our long national nightmare is over.” But with Alan Dershowitz’s arguments during President Donald Trump's impeachment trial last Wednesday that a president can do almost anything “that he believes will help him get elected — in the public interest,” it is clear that Nixon’s resignation left a serious gap in the precedents of impeachments.

Indeed, Dershowitz may have some of the last words on the matter. On Friday, the Senate voted to not allow new witnessesincluding John Bolton. It seems increasingly likely that the Senate will vote soon to acquit Trump. So what went wrong here, if you believed conviction was appropriate? The answer starts with the Nixon precedent, or better said, the lack of precedent.

The precedents set by each impeachment are important. And what happened to Nixon can help explain what happened, however different, to Trump.

Read more here.

971d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

Just catching up? Here's what you missed this week

Here's a brief look at what happened this week in Trump's impeachment trial: