Trump says McConnell can decide on witnesses for Senate trial

Trump says McConnell can decide on witnesses for Senate trial
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE on Tuesday said he would let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 BidenButtigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll 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 SchiffSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Trump: Nevada a 'great win' for Sanders Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE (D-Calif.).

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Schumer cites security, DHS ban in questioning TSA use of TikTok Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill 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 MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump directly sought to block publication of Bolton's book: WaPo 'Parasite' studio fires back after Trump criticism: 'He can't read' Trump swipes at 'little wise guy' Brad Pitt, Korean film 'Parasite' during rally 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.