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White House spokesman: Trump 'not afraid of a fight' in impeachment trial

POLITICO logo POLITICO 1/14/2020 By Caitlin Oprysko
a group of people standing in front of a crowd: White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley. © Win McNamee/Getty Images White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is "not afraid of a fight" in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate and is, in fact, eager for witnesses to testify that "this man did nothing wrong."

The president could get his wish as soon as this week, with the House set to vote on Wednesday to send its articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate. Democrats, under the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have for weeks refused to deliver the impeachment articles to the Senate in an effort to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow witness testimony during the trial in his chamber. McConnell has thus far rebuffed those requests.

Trump has at times called for witness testimony during his Senate trial, pushing for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and former Vice President Joe Biden to be compelled to testify, while at other times demanding that the Senate immediately dismiss the case against him. Democrats' calls for witnesses have centered largely around former White House national security adviser John Bolton, who was part of the administration when the president allegedly withheld military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the Ukrainian government into launching an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

“I hate to talk about hypotheticals, but let's be clear: The president is not afraid of a fight,” Gidley said in an interview on Fox News's “Fox & Friends." “And if you or anyone within the sound of our voices have been falsely accused of a crime, with no proof, and no evidence, for more than three years, you'd want every witness to come forward too, and say this man did nothing wrong.”

He continued: “We are not afraid of a fight. We are prepared and whether this thing goes to a full trial, whether it's modified or whether it's just dismissed out of hand for the sham illegitimate scam it has become, we will be ready.”

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On Monday, several news outlets reported that the White House is preparing for GOP defections that would allow the Senate to call witnesses in the trial, potentially paving the way for what could be damning testimony from Bolton.

But other Senate Republicans, like Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have warned their colleagues that voting to have Bolton testify in the trial is not enough, and that they may force votes on calling former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who are at the center of the charges against Trump.

Trump has repeatedly indicated that he would have no problems with Bolton testifying but would invoke executive privilege to block his appearance for precedent-setting purposes.

Gidley reiterated that stance Tuesday, telling the "Fox & Friends" hosts "we don't really care who comes forward" because in the White House's view, any witness called by Democrats would only exonerate the president.

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