Trump would support witnesses testifying in Senate trial if Bidens were called

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By Adam Edelman  with NBC News Politics
Image: President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference at the White Hou
President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference at the White House on Jan. 9, 2020.   -  Copyright  Evan Vucci AP

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he wouldn't mind a deal in the Senate for witnesses to be called during his impeachment trial if it meant that his defense could also call people to testify, including Joe and Hunter Biden.

"I'm going to leave it to the Senate, but I'd like to hear from the whistleblower, I'd like to hear from shifty Schiff, I'd like to hear from Hunter Biden and Joe Biden," Trump told reporters following a White House event about building and infrastructure regulations.

Trump was responding to a question about whether there were circumstances under which he'd support the calling of witnesses in his impeachment trial.

The name "shifty Schiff" he used refers to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Republicans have called for him to testify to respond to questions about thereport he prepared that made the case for Congress to impeach the president.

"The whistleblower" is a reference to the anonymous CIA staffer who in August filed a whistleblower complaint about Trump's July phone call with the president of Ukraine in which he asked his foreign counterpart to look into why that country's top prosecutor apparently had ended an investigation of the business dealings of Joe Biden's son Hunter. The call and the complaint were at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

When asked whether he'd object to his former national security adviser John Bolton testifying in a Senate trial, Trump said that it would be up to the Senate, but that it would be critical to protect executive privilege. Bolton, a key figure in the impeachment saga who did not testify during the House inquiry, said earlier this week he would be willing to testifyin front of the Senate if subpoenaed.

"That's really going to be up to the Senate," Trump said. "I'd have to ask the lawyers because we do have to, to me, for the future, we have to protect presidential privilege. When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can't do that."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this week that he had enough Republican votes to start Trump's impeachment trial without the support of Democrats, who have been demanding witness testimony. But the announcement doesn't settle the issue of whether witnesses will be allowed to testify during the Senate trial. Rather, it postpones a vote on the issue until later in the trial.

Senate Democrats have said they want to call new witnesses, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.