Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Senate approves impeachment trial rules, puts off witnesses

Published:Wednesday | January 22, 2020 | 9:17 AM
US President Donald Trump flashes a thumbs-up as he arrives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, January 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States Senate plunged into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses.

Trump himself said Wednesday he wants top aides to testify but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony.

“We have a great case,” Trump said at a global economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. In a press conference before returning to Washington, Trump said his legal team was doing a “very good job.”

He appeared to break with Republicans efforts to block Democratic motions to immediately call witnesses and subpoena documents.

Instead, Trump said he’d like to see aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, testify as witnesses

Trump said he’d leave the “national security” concerns about allowing their testimony to the Senate.

Tuesday’s daylong session started with the setback for Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the president’s legal team, but it ended near 2 a.m. Wednesday with Republicans easily approving the rest of the trial rules largely on their terms.

With the rules settled, the trial is now on a fast-track.

At issue is whether Trump should be removed from office for abuse of power stemming from his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter as Trump was withhold aid to the country, and for obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.

Chief Justice John Roberts gavelled open the session, with House prosecutors on one side, Trump’s team on the other, in the well of the Senate, as senators sat silently at their desks, under oath to do “impartial justice.” No cell phones or other electronics were allowed.

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