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McConnell knocks call for additional impeachment witnesses

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday knocked talk of calling additional impeachment witnesses, arguing that Democrats want the Senate to go "fishing" during the soon-to-start impeachment trial.

"If the existing case is strong, there's no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place," McConnell said from the Senate floor.

McConnell's comments come as his caucus is locked in an increasingly public fight over impeachment witnesses.

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A small number have suggested they are open to calling witnesses midtrial, but they're getting public pushback from their conservative colleagues, who warn that if Republicans support calling former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPence, other GOP officials expected to skip Trump send-off NSA places former GOP political operative in top lawyer position after Pentagon chief's reported order After insurrection: The national security implications MORE they also have to support calling witnesses Trump might want such as Hunter Biden or the whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

Democrats are planning to force votes on calling four witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyConsumer bureau director resigns after Biden's inauguration FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning Biden consumer bureau pick could take over agency on Inauguration Day MORE. They need four GOP senators to successfully call a witness.

McConnell, however, argued on Tuesday that demands for additional witnesses "do not show confidence" in the House case.

"The Constitution gives the sole power of impeachment to the House. If a House majority want to impeach a president, the ball is in their court, but they have to do the work," McConnell added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' Why pretend senators can 'do impartial justice'? MORE (D-N.Y.) defended his party's witness request in his own floor speech on Tuesday, arguing that without additional witnesses or documents the trial will be a "sham." During President Clinton's impeachment trial, the Senate voted along party lines to depose three witnesses behind closed doors.

"All we're asking is for the president's own men, his appointees, to come forward and tell their side of the story," Schumer said. "The American people want a fair trial in the Senate. ... The American people will be able to tell the difference between a fair hearing of the facts and a cover up."