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Rep. Duncan Hunter to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds

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What happened on Day Four

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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.

Here are four key moments from the fourth full day of Trump’s trial.

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.

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“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.

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.

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A voice appearing to be Trump’s heard in recording demanding diplomat Yovanovitch’s ouster

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A voice that appears to be that of President Donald Trump ordered aides to “get rid” of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after two now-indicted Rudy Giuliani associates told him she had been badmouthing him, according to an audio recording reviewed by ABC News.

The network said the recording appeared to include a discussion between Trump and Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman at a small private dinner. Trump has denied knowing the pair and dismissed numerous pictures of them together as just photos taken at public events.

NBC News has neither obtained nor heard the recording and cannot verify the authenticity of the ABC report.

Parnas’s lawyer Joseph Bondy told NBC News Friday night that he located a version of the recording and turned it over the House Intelligence Committee after ABC reported on its existence. A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment.

Trump denied knowing Parnas in an interview with Fox News earlier Friday.

Asked if he was relying on Parnas to get rid of Yovanovitch, Trump said, “No, no. I have a lot of people – he’s somebody I guess based on pictures I see goes to fundraisers but I’m not a fan of that ambassador,” Trump said. “I want ambassadors that are chosen by me. I have a right to hire and fire ambassadors.”

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According to ABC, the voice that sounds like Trump apparently told aides at the April 2018 dinner at Trump International Hotel in Washington: “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

Trump made the demand after a voice that sounds like Parnas’ told the president that Yovanovitch was telling people that Trump was going to be impeached.

“The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we got to get rid of the ambassador,” says the voice that sounds like Parnas. “She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.'”

Yovanovitch was removed from her post, but not until a year later.

A copy of the recording is in the custody of federal prosecutors in New York, according to ABC.

The audiotape lines up with what Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about the Trump dinner in an interview last week.

He said he was having dinner in a private area of the hotel with the president and some of his aides.

“I don’t know how the issue is, the conversation came up, but I do remember me telling the president that the ambassador was badmouthing him and saying he was going to get impeached. Something to that effect,” Parnas told Maddow.

“And at that point he turned around to John DeStefano, who was his aide at the time, and said, ‘Fire her.’ And we all, there was silence in the room,” Parnas said.

He said DeStefano replied it couldn’t happen at the time because Mike Pompeo had not yet been confirmed as secretary of state. “I don’t know how many times at that dinner, once or twice or three times, but he fired her several times at that dinner,” Parnas said, speaking of Trump.

“He even had a breakdown and screamed, ‘fire her!'” to another assistant, Parnas claimed, and the assistant replied, “Mr. President, I can’t do that.”

Yovanovitch, who has been lauded for anti-corruption work, was targeted for removal in a campaign led by Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.

The release of the audio comes as Democrats were outlining obstruction of Congress charges against the president in his Senate impeachment trial. Both Parnas and Fruman were ordered to turn over Ukraine-related documents to the House impeachment investigators, but refused.

Their lawyer at the time, former Trump lawyer John Dowd, cited various reasons for refusing to hand over documents, including that the pair “assisted Mr. Giuliani with his representation of President Trump.”

Following his arrest, Parnas started cooperating with House investigators and turned over numerous documents text messages and emails.



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Nuns get the message out, target vets, focus on minorities

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DES MOINES, Iowa — While his crowd sizes are underwhelming, Joe Biden is hoping veterans, Catholics and people of color will be his secret weapons in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, according to three people who attended a private donor retreat here and were briefed on the plan.

The campaign has taken some unusual steps to reach those voters, who are more typical of general-election swing voters than the Democratic Party loyalists who generally turn out in primaries and caucuses.

For instance, Biden officials told donors the campaign has hired paid canvassers, instead of relying solely on volunteers, to reach the state’s small but growing population of Latinos and African Americans. Iowa Democrats not affiliated with the campaign say that’s unusual, since the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, now just over a week away, are often about showcasing grassroots enthusiasm.

The campaign has also had nuns send handwritten letters to Roman Catholics, focusing on Dubuque, a heavily Catholic city, attesting to Biden’s faith, which he’s spoken about on the trail. And it’s focused on targeted rural areas, including on a bus tour with the former vice president, where few delegates are at stake, but they can sometimes be won by persuading just a handful of caucusgoers.

To find veterans, the campaign pulled county property tax records, since they qualify for a tax credit, and then invited them to events with prominent Biden supporters who are also veterans, such as former Secretary of State John Kerry and freshman Rep. Conor Lamb, who has told Iowans that Biden can win back places like his western Pennsylvania district, which went for Donald Trump in 2016.

The donor retreat, which was held last weekend at the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines, offered a chance for members of Biden’s national finance committee to hear from top campaign officials, including the vice president himself, and for wealthy supporters to get a taste of canvassing door-to-door in their fancy ski gear in 6-degree temperatures.

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Campaign manager Greg Schultz and chief analytics officer Becca Siegel walked donors through their national strategy, and how Iowa fits into it, while Iowa State Director Jake Braun spoke about the state’s Feb. 3 caucuses.

Publicly, the campaign has downplayed the importance of Iowa in Biden’s path to the nomination, especially after a weak showing in a recent poll, noting he is expected to do well in more diverse states down the road, such as South Carolina.

But the presentation to donors made it clear they still view Iowa as essential, if less critical than it might be to other candidates, since they believe they have other pathways to the nomination.

And they said managing expectations in Iowa was key to their plan of trying to build a sense of momentum heading into Super Tuesday on March 3, when more than a dozen states will vote on the same day.

The campaign brass said they had simulated some 10,000 possible routes through the primary calendar to gauge how important each state is and, not surprisingly, found that a vote in Iowa was worth more than a vote anywhere else, since success in Iowa helped in each subsequent state.

Many of Biden’s events have been relatively sparsely populated, even in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, especially considering he’s still the race’s front-runner in national polls.

For instance, while former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Indiana, packed some 1,200 into an event in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday night, there were only several dozen at a Biden town hall in Mason City the next morning.

But Biden’s strategy was evident on his most recent swing through some of the state’s smaller cities, which included a national security event at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and pitches about his electability to voters in redder parts of the state.

Christie Vilsack and her husband, former Iowa governor and Obama Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, have endorsed Biden, urged Iowans to “think of your favorite Republican … because we all have Republican friends.”

“I’m urging all of you to make that practical decision,” Vilsack said.

Randy Flaherty, a disabled Navy veteran who has two sons in the military, met Biden during his 2008 presidential run and carries in his wallet a challenge coin the former vice president gave him.

“I think he’s the only candidate that we’ve got running, and I’ve talked to about all of them, who can put this country back together,” Flaherty said.



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