EVENT ENDED

Trump impeachment trial: Senate passes impeachment trial endgame

The defeat of the vote on witnesses Friday moves the trial into the final phase, setting up an acquittal vote next week.

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Senators on Friday laid out the ground rules of the final phase of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, voting largely on party lines against calling witnesses and documents.

The final vote on Trump's fate is set for Wednesday and is almost certain to end in an acquittal.

Read about the highlights below:

Live Blog

Senate vote on calling witnesses fails, ushering in trial endgame

The Senate voted not to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Friday afternoon, ushering in the final phase of the proceedings, with a vote to acquit or convict Trump possibly coming as late as Wednesday.

Democrats sought testimony from ex-national security adviser John Bolton on Trump’s alleged conditioning of Ukraine aid on investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden. But they failed to get a majority to back their efforts after Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two key Republican swing votes, announced that they would not back the move.

Witness vote NOW

Senators are now voting on whether to hear witnesses.

Parnas names top Trump officials in letter to McConnell on potential testimony

The attorney for indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas sent a letter Friday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with a laundry list of alleged evidence he would testify to if allowed to appear as a witness in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

The letter, sent by Parnas’s attorney Joseph Bondy and obtained by NBC News, represents a last-ditch attempt by Parnas to make known the value of the information he feels he could provide as he continues to push to be a witness. It comes as the Senate appears all but certain to vote Friday to reject hearing witnesses before voting to acquit the president, likely next week.

Read the full story.

Schiff argues Senate will undercut its own authority if it doesn't call witnesses

Schiff told senators they'd be kneecapping their own authority for generations if they allow President Donald Trump to get away with his congressional stonewalling, paving the way for presidents to ignore congressional oversight. 

Schiff told the Senate that voting no on subpoenaing witnesses and documents "will have long-lasting and harmful consequences long after this impeachment trial is over. We agree with the president's counsel on this much, this will set a new precedent" — and "a very dangerous and long-lasting precedent that we will all have to live with."

"President Trump's wholesale obstruction of Congress strikes at the heart of our Constitution and democratic system of separation of powers," he said. "Make no mistake, the president's actions in this impeachment inquiry constitute an attack on congressional oversight, on the coequal nature of this branch of government. Not just on the House but on the Senate's ability as well to conduct its oversight to serve as a check and balance on this president and every president that follows."

He added, "It will allow future presidents to decide whether they want their misconduct to be investigated or not. Whether they would like to participate in an impeachment investigation or not." 

He also warned the truth about what happened will emerge eventually. 

"It’s important to remember that no matter what you decide to do here, whether you decide to hear witnesses and relevant testimony, the facts will come out in the end. Even over the course of this trial, we have seen so many additional facts come to light. The facts will come out. In all of their horror, they will come out," he said.

Former chief of staff John Kelly says not allowing witnesses amounts to 'half a trial'

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said in an interview Friday with NJ Advance Media that the Senate’s expected vote to end the impeachment trial without hearing from additional witnesses amounted to “half a trial.” 

“In my view, they kind of leave themselves open to a lot of criticism,” Kelly said. “It seems it was half a trial.” 

Kelly, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff from mid-2017 through 2018, said he believed former national security adviser John Bolton’s allegations in an unpublished book that Trump told him he was holding up aid to Ukraine to pressure their government to investigate Trump’s political rivals. 

Kelly called Bolton “a copious notetaker” and “an honest guy and an honorable guy.” 

Bolton’s claims were first revealed in a New York Times report that cites the manuscript of Bolton's upcoming book. NBC News has not reviewed the manuscript. 

“If I was advising the United States Senate, I would say, 'If you don’t respond to 75 percent of the American voters and have witnesses, it’s a job only half done,'” Kelly said. He added, “You open yourself up forever as a Senate that shirks its responsibilities." 

Quinnipiac poll this week showed that 75 percent of voters supported allowing witnesses in the trial. 

ANALYSIS: Why give anything to the Senate?

The Senate seeks a lot of information from the executive branch. Lawmakers routinely write letters asking for documents and requesting that administration witnesses appear to give testimony on a wide range of topics. 

While there are a number of levers the Senate can use to put pressure on a recalcitrant administration to force the production of witnesses and documents, issuing subpoenas — and the threat that non-compliance could lead to prosecution — always has been one of its biggest hammers.

But Senate Republicans have heavily criticized House Democrats for having done, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., put it, “little to pursue” witnesses who were subpoenaed. In doing so, Rubio and other Republican senators have essentially advised Trump and future presidents of both parties to ignore Senate subpoenas — or at least fight them in court — because they’re not really serious attempts to get information. The Senate has no power to impeach a president who flouts subpoenas or seeks to tie them up in courts for obstructing Congress.

McConnell, Schumer discussed deal to wrap up trial on Wednesday, sources say

Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell told their members at their respective closed-door lunches that the two leaders have agreed to a proposal that would culminate in a Wednesday vote to acquit the president, according to two Democrats in the room and two Republican aides familiar with the matter. 

Since the proposal requires the buy-in of senators of both parties and the president, the details and timeline could shift.

Schumer told reporters during a break in the trial, "There is no agreement between McConnell and myself," indicating the details could still be in discussion.

The White House and some Republicans are still hoping for an acquittal vote before Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. A White House official told NBC News that the White House would prefer acquittal on Tuesday but would accept Wednesday.

“We're happy with an acquittal as soon as possible," the official told NBC News. "We sure would like Tuesday, but the Senate can only go as fast as it can. Whenever the date and time lands, resolution provides certainty of conclusion, which we like quite a bit.”

If the proposal is approved by all parties, the trial would not be in session this weekend. It would resume Monday with six hours of closing arguments divided between the House managers and the White House defense. If accepted by all parties, Tuesday would allow senators 10 minutes each to make a statement.

House managers target Trump defense team's top lawyer after latest Bolton report

House managers went after the lead defense lawyer in Trump's impeachment trial, White House counsel Pat Cipillone, on Friday after a new report about a meeting he allegedly had with the president, Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton in May of last year.

The New York Times reported that in that meeting with Cipollone, Trump asked Bolton to call then-Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy to tell him to meet with Giuliani.

Two of the house managers noted that Cipollone had accused Democrats of hiding important facts during the trial. 

"You'll recall Mr. Cipollone suggesting House managers were concealing facts from this body. He said all the facts should come out," lead House manager Adam Schiff said. "Well there's a new fact, which indicates that Mr. Cipollone was among those who was in the loop." 

Another manager, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, played video from earlier in the trial showing Cipollone telling the senators "impeachment shouldn't be a shell game. They should give you the facts."

Garcia responded, "Let's be very clear. We are not the ones hiding the facts."

 

Article II: Inside Impeachment — Can I get a witness?

On Friday's episode of Article II, Steve Kornacki talks to Frank Thorp, NBC News producer covering the Senate, about what to expect as the end of the Senate trial approaches.

Stay tuned! Depending on how the day unfolds, a follow-up episode will drop either later tonight or early Saturday.

Download the podcast.