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Trump says McConnell can decide on witnesses for Senate trial

Trump says McConnell can decide on witnesses for Senate trial
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE on Tuesday said he would let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently MORE (R-Ky.) decide on whether to allow witnesses in a looming impeachment trial in the upper chamber.

“Yeah, he can decide. And we’ll also have to decide on when we’re taking the vote for the USMCA," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, referring to his signature North American trade deal called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

"To me, I’d let the Senate decide on that," he added.

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The president also indicated that the Senate would have to decide on whether to conduct an impeachment trial vote on the trade agreement first. McConnell has said the Senate would take up USMCA after wrapping up a trial.

Trump's comments about impeachment witnesses indicated that he is prepared to back down on his repeated desires to see former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Five things to know about Georgia's Senate runoffs MORE, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and Biden's son Hunter Biden be called to testify in a Senate trial.

McConnell said earlier Tuesday that the Senate trial should not include witnesses in his clearest comments yet about what he believes the process should look like.

"I think we've heard enough. After we've heard the arguments, we ought to vote and move on," McConnell told Fox News Radio.

The president had previously stated a desire to hear from several witnesses central to the allegations against him, including the Bidens, the whistleblower whose complaint about a phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart sparked the Democrats' impeachment inquiry and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.).

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But several Republican senators had been reluctant, instead indicating a preference for a quick trial that would acquit the president without involving witnesses.

Trump's deference to McConnell came after Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) made an initial proposal on rules for the trial. As part of the offer, Democrats asked to call four witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE.

McConnell on Tuesday rejected the proposal and said he would begin negotiations over the trial parameters this week.

— Updated at 3:22 p.m.