President Trump declined to say Thursday if he would bar his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, from testifying in a Senate impeachment trial but said his appearance could harm the executive branch.
Senate Democrats want GOP leaders to call Mr. Bolton in, once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clears the way for a trial on Mr. Trump’s removal by dispatching the articles of impeachment across the Capitol.
They say Mr. Bolton, who said he will appear if subpoenaed by the Senate, had a front-row seat to White House interactions with Ukraine that resulted in House votes to impeach Mr. Trump.
The president said it’s up to the Senate to decide whether to call his former aide, though he said there are legal questions at play.
“I don’t stop it. … I’d have to ask the lawyers because, to me, for the future, we have to protect presidential privilege,” he told reporters at the White House.
“When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that,” Mr. Trump said. “We have to protect presidential privilege for me, but [also] for future presidents.”
The House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in December on articles saying he abused his power and then obstructed Congress. It’s unclear when Mrs. Pelosi will release the articles to the GOP-led Senate, so a trial can begin.
Senate Democrats say it would be foolish to hold a trial without hearing from Mr. Bolton or acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, among others.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted on the Senate holding the same rules and procedures for Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial that the chamber held for President Bill Clinton.
During the trial in 1999, the House managers presented their case and the president’s legal team was able to respond before the issue of whether to call witnesses was decided.
Mr. Trump said he has a wish list of witnesses if the Senate chooses that path.
He wants to hear from the government official who first raised doubts about his interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment probe.
“I’d like to hear the whistleblower, I’d like to hear Shifty Schiff,” Mr. Trump said. “The whole thing is a hoax.”
The president also wants to hear from Hunter Biden, who is the adult son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a potential 2020 rival in the Democratic presidential primary.
Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to look into Hunter Biden, who had business ties in Ukraine while the elder Biden handled affairs in Kyiv for President Obama. The request played a major role in sparking the impeachment inquiry.