Trump signals White House would try to restrict Bolton testimony

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE indicated Thursday the White House would seek to limit testimony from former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonJudge appears skeptical of Bolton's defense of publishing book without White House approval Maximum pressure is keeping US troops in Iraq and Syria Woodward book trails Bolton, Mary Trump in first-week sales MORE if he were called to testify in a Senate impeachment trial.

Trump reiterated that he would defer to the Senate on whether Bolton would be allowed to testify, but made clear the White House may seek to claim executive privilege to limit what he could say.

"I'd have to ask the lawyers because we do have to — to me, for the future — we have to protect presidential privilege," he continued. "When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that."

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"So we have to protect presidential privilege. For me, but for future presidents," he added. "People can’t go up and say whatever my thoughts are, whatever your thoughts are about us, countries' views. You don't want that to be out."

The White House blocked several witnesses from testifying during the House impeachment inquiry last year.

Bolton said in a statement Monday that he would be willing to testify in a Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed, even over administration objections.

Bolton's testimony would be a boon to Democrats seeking to build a case against Trump in the looming Senate impeachment trial. The former national security adviser, who left his post in September, was mentioned repeatedly during House testimony late last year.

It remains unclear whether any witnesses will be called, however, as GOP senators appear to be in agreement on beginning the trial without a commitment to hearing from witnesses.

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The House impeached Trump in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after alleging he made security aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine contingent on the country announcing investigations into his political rivals.

Bolton described the effort by administration officials to press Ukraine for the investigations as a “drug deal,” according to witness testimony in the House impeachment inquiry. His attorneys have also said he has relevant information on meetings and conversations regarding Ukraine.

Trump, who has repeatedly called the impeachment proceedings a "hoax" and denied wrongdoing, said Thursday he would like to see former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida MORE, his son Hunter Biden and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff to subpoena top DHS official, alleges whistleblower deposition is being stonewalled Schiff claims DHS is blocking whistleblower's access to records before testimony GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power MORE (D-Calif.) testify in a Senate trial.

But the White House has increasingly dialed back its desire to hear from witnesses in favor of a quick trial that ends in Trump's acquittal.

The timing of the trial remains unclear as the House has yet to submit the articles of impeachment to the upper chamber. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with 0 drug coupon plan Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday that she would do so "soon."