Trump's Senate impeachment trial: What happened on Day Four

During their third day of arguments, Democrats warned that Trump is a "dictator" who has demonstrated he is a danger to the nation.
Image: Adam Schiff, Jerrold Nadler
House Democratic impeachment managers, from left, Jason Crow, Adam Schiff, and Jerrold Nadler, speak to the media before attending the fourth day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Friday. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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By Dareh Gregorian

The Democratic House managers focused on President Donald Trump's attempts to stymie their impeachment inquiry during his Senate trial Friday as more details about the president's Ukraine dealings emerged.

The managers wound down their final day of opening arguments by outlining the second article of impeachment against the president, obstruction of Congress. Trump, they noted, is the only president in history to completely refuse to cooperate with an impeachment investigation, blocking witnesses and documents.

"The president has declared himself above the law. He has done so because he is guilty," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told the Senate, charging the president wanted to cover up his attempts to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Full coverage of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial

Here are five key moments from the fourth full day of Trump's trial.

The necessity of a "fair" trial

Democrats capped three days with lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff, who attempted to knock down some of Trump’s potential defenses ahead of ceding center stage to the president’s lawyers Saturday.

"I expect you’ll hear the argument 'Obama did it! Obama did it.' Now that may take several different forms, but the form of 'Obama did it' I’m referring to is 'Obama also held aid.' I think that argument is an insult to our intelligence," Schiff said, pointing to how then-President Barack Obama withheld aid during Egypt’s revolution.

"You will hear the call was perfect, you’ll hear the call was perfect. Now I suspect the reason they will make the argument the call was perfect is that because the president insists they do," he said. "I don’t think they really want to have to make that argument — you wouldn’t either. But they have a client to represent so they will make the argument the call was perfect."

He continued: "And they will also make the argument Ukraine thinks the call was perfect, Ukraine says there was no pressure. What that really means is Ukraine wants a future. Ukraine knows it’s still beholden to us for aid. Ukraine still hasn’t gotten through the door of the White House. Ukraine knows that if they acknowledge that they were shaken down by the president of the United States, the President of the United States will make them pay."

He then appealed to the senators' faith in American ideals, urging them to consider this trial's place in history and the world.

Schiff said he believed this trial was "a moment when our democracy was gravely threatened and not from without from within. Russia too has a constitution. It’s not a bad constitution, it’s just a meaningless one."

He argued that America is a beacon of democracy and fairness around the world while suggesting the outcome of this trial could threaten it.

"From all over the world, they look to us — and increasingly, they don't recognize what they see," Schiff said. "Americans get a fair trial — and so I ask you, I implore you. Give America a fair trial. Give America a fair trial. She’s worth it."

A historic stonewalling

The case managers focused on the White House's directive that no executive branch agency or personnel cooperate with the House's impeachment inquiry, which Nadler called an unprecedented "categorical blockade." He contrasted Trump to presidential cooperation in other investigations, including President Ronald Reagan turning over his personal diary to investigators during the Iran-Contra probe.

"This is a determination by President Trump that he wants to be all powerful, he does not have to respect the Congress, he does not have to respect the representatives of the people, only his will goes," Nadler said. "He is a dictator. This must not stand."

Lead House manager Adam Schiff, in the Democrats' final presentation of the evening, hammered that point, too, defending the necessity of the second article of impeachment and painting Trump's conduct as an ongoing threat to Congress' ability to exercise oversight of the executive branch.

He also rebutted Republican arguments that the House had not appropriately exhausted its legal remedies to compel certain witnesses and agencies to comply with subpoenas before moving forward with the obstruction charge.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," he said.

A voice appearing to be Trump's heard demanding Yovanovitch's ouster

Trump has denied knowing Lev Parnas, the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate who advocated for the ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, but evidence contradicting that claim emerged on Friday.

An audio recording reviewed by ABC News of a 2018 dinner at Trump's Washington hotel had a man who sounded like Parnas telling a man who sounded like the president, "I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. . . She's basically walking around telling everybody 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached, just wait.'"

A voice that sounds like Trump replies, "Get rid of her!"

Yovanovitch, who has been lauded for anti-corruption work, was targeted for removal by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. She one of the key witnesses to testify in the House's impeachment inquiry, telling Congress that she was subjected to a smear campaign based on lies that led to her abrupt removal from Kyiv.

Yovanovitch departed Ukraine in May 2019, months ahead of her scheduled departure, after coming under attack from right-wing media, which alleged she was hostile to the president.

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Trump denied doing Parnas's bidding in an interview with Fox News airing Friday evening.

"No, no," he said.

A preview of Trump's defense

While arguing against the House managers' motions to subpoena documents and witnesses on Tuesday, Trump's legal team largely stuck to the legal arguments they outlined in their defense filings with the Senate — that the president didn't abuse his power, and the allegations in the House articles of impeachment don't reach the level of impeachable conduct.

But speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow suggested they would go farther when they begin their presentation at 10 a.m. ET Saturday — complaining that Trump was the victim of a conspiracy and the real foreign interference in the 2016 election came from the Democrats and the FBI.

The president's legal team will begin their presentation at 10 am ET Saturday. "After three days of lies and mischaracterizations by the Democrats, the president’s legal team is ready to come out swinging," a source told NBC News' Hallie Jackson. Sekulow said the presentation would last about three hours before kicking off in earnest on Monday.

"I guess I would call it a trailer, kind of a coming attractions, would be the best way to say it," he said.

Trump suggested on Twitter Friday that he'd prefer for his team to present much of his defense before a potentially bigger television audience on Monday, noting that Saturday "is called Death Valley in T.V.."

How sweet it is

Senators who've been relying on Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's candy desk to help make through it the proceedings got a treat Friday when 700 pounds of Hershey's chocolates were sent to the Republican lawmaker. Hershey Co. is headquartered in his home state of Pennsylvania.