Trump says McConnell can decide on witnesses for Senate trial


President Trump on Tuesday said he would let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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.

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 Biden, 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 Schiff (D-Calif.).

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 Schumer (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 Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

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

— Updated at 3:22 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Joe Biden John Bolton Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell

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