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McConnell knocks call for additional impeachment witnesses

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture 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 BoltonRepublicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Trump pushes back on Bolton poll Hillicon Valley: Facebook Oversight board to rule on Trump ban in 'coming weeks' | Russia blocks Biden Cabinet officials in retaliation for sanctions 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 MulvaneyHeadhunters having hard time finding jobs for former Trump officials: report Trump holdovers are denying Social Security benefits to the hardest working Americans Mulvaney calls Trump's comments on Capitol riot 'manifestly false' 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 SchumerBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs 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."