Trump: Senate should decide on witnesses; Bolton testimony poses national security risk

Trump: Senate should decide on witnesses; Bolton testimony poses national security risk
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest MORE said Wednesday that he would let the GOP-controlled Senate decide whether his impeachment trial should include witness testimony.

Trump also said that he would rather go the “long way” with a Senate impeachment trial and have former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report MORE and others testify, but that their appearances would pose a risk to national security.

“I would rather go the long way. I would rather interview Bolton. I would rather interview a lot of people,” Trump said at a news conference at the end of a two-day appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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“The problem with John is that it’s a national security problem,” the president continued, indicating executive privilege would apply to Bolton's testimony. “He knows some of my thoughts. He knows what I think about leaders. What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive and I have to deal on behalf of the country?”

Trump added that Bolton left his White House on negative terms last September and “you don’t like people testifying when they didn’t leave on good terms.”

Trump also said he would like to have Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse, Senate panels to question ousted State Dept. inspector general on Wednesday: report National security adviser says foreign powers trying to exploit US race relations Britain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong MORE and former Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Ernest Moniz Trump issues executive order to protect power grid from attack Why we need to transition, quickly, from fossil fuels to clean energy MORE testify in the Senate impeachment trial, but that executive privilege would also apply to their testimony for national security reasons.

He added that he’d “love” to have acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney12 things to know today about coronavirus Mulvaney: 'We've overreacted a little bit' to coronavirus The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic MORE appear, though there was “not much he could add” beyond an interview Mulvaney did with Fox News’s Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceCornel West: 'We're witnessing the collapse of the legitimacy of leadership' Head of Minnesota police chiefs association: Police not trained in hold used on George Floyd Minnesota AG says black Minnesotans have reason to fear local police MORE in October.

Trump instructed Bolton, Mulvaney and other current and former officials not to testify under subpoena in connection with the impeachment inquiry in the House, asserting executive branch immunity. The Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump for obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses and document production, in addition to abusing his power in his dealings with Ukraine.

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Democrats have been pushing to call witnesses in the Senate, arguing the process would be otherwise unfair and tilted to favor the president. Trump’s attorneys, meanwhile, have argued Democrats should have sought a resolution to the subpoena fight in court, claiming Trump was asserting constitutional privilege protections offered to the executive branch.

Trump’s remarks in Davos came one day after his trial began in earnest in the Senate. Republicans defeated a number of amendments offered by Democrats to the rules of the trial seeking to subpoena documents and witnesses, including Bolton and Mulvaney, at the outset of the proceedings.

The rules resolution approved in a party-line vote in the early hours Wednesday morning allows for debate on witnesses following the opening arguments by House impeachment managers and the president’s lawyers.

Trump’s lawyers and his White House have shown opposition to calling Democratic-sought witnesses in the impeachment trial, though Trump on Wednesday deferred to the Republican-controlled Senate while railing against his impeachment as a “hoax.”

“I’m going to leave that to the Senate,” Trump said when asked if witnesses should be called. “The Senate is going to have to answer that.”

“I’m going to head back and I’ll be watching,” the president said of the impeachment proceedings. “But it’s really going to be up to the Senate.”

Most Republicans have remained opposed to witness testimony, but a handful of more moderate members have expressed an interest in hearing from witnesses. Senate Democrats need four Republicans to break with their colleagues in order to compel witnesses to testify.