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Trump backtracks on support for Senate impeachment trial witnesses

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The US President has immediately withdrawn his comments supporting witnesses being called in his impeachment trial – a request made by Democrat prosecutors.

US President Donald Trump has said he's open to new witnesses at his impeachment trial - a major demand by Democratic prosecutors - before immediately backtracking by suggesting it could never happen.

Separately, Trump's lawyers let a deadline pass without filing a motion to outright dismiss the articles of impeachment, ensuring that the trial will continue.

Trump, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for an economic conference, seemed at one point to break with Republican opposition to Democratic motions to immediately call witnesses and subpoena documents.

He said he'd like to see top US aides, including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, testify as witnesses.

In fact, his administration is citing executive privilege as a reason they cannot be forced to testify, and he said today that there are "national security" reasons for them to be kept out of the trial.

"The Senate is going to have to answer that," he said.

Republicans have resisted the idea of additional witnesses, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there could be votes on the subject late in the trial.

READ MORE: Republicans take upper-hand on first day of impeachment trial

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.

As for outright dismissal, Trump has taken both sides. He has said the charges are groundless and should be thrown out, but he also has said he wants a full trial to vindicate him.

The first daylong session started yesterday with a setback for McConnell and the president's legal team — agreement to give prosecutors more days to make their case — but it ended near 2am (local time) today with Republicans easily approving the rest of the trial rules largely on their terms.

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Former White House Director of Events gives impeachment analysis

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 withholding aid to the country, and for obstructing Congress' ensuing probe.

Source: 9News

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