President Trump slammed the House impeachment managers prosecuting the case against him as “sleazebags” during an impromptu press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday -- while saying he'd "love" to attend his ongoing Senate trial back home.
In the hastily called press event before Trump was to return to Washington, the president delivered an unsparing assessment of impeachment proceedings, which moved into full swing a day earlier and will resume later Wednesday with opening arguments.
While making clear he's reluctant to approve any new witnesses to testify, he floated -- perhaps playfully -- the idea of personally attending the trial, if only to antagonize the Democrats.
“I’d love to go, wouldn’t that be great?” he said when asked whether he would attend. “Sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces, and I’d love to do it.”
The president joked that the press should not keep talking about his possible attendance or “you may convince me to do it.”
But Trump went on to slam the House impeachment managers—specifically House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is serving as the lead manager, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
“First of all, Jerrold Nadler, I’ve known him a long time, he’s a sleazebag. Everybody knows that,” the president said, adding that Schiff acts like he’s “so aggrieved.”
“I watched the lies from Adam Schiff,” he continued. “He’s a liar and he’s a fraud.”
“These are major sleazebags,” Trump said. “It’s a total hoax. It’s a disgrace. They talked about their tremendous case and it’s all done.”
He added: “They had no case….It’s a con-job.”
Floor proceedings on Tuesday became progressively heated as both sides traded charges. Democrats alleged that Trump's team had to resort to name-calling because Trump’s actions were indefensible.
“They have no witnesses to absolve the president of the facts,” Schiff said.
The president on Wednesday went on to touch on one of the most controversial issues surrounding the Senate impeachment trial: witnesses. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had held onto the articles of impeachment—charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—for weeks in a bid to extract favorable terms like a commitment to allowing witnesses and documents.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was not willing to negotiate, and she ultimately transmitted the articles to the upper chamber last week. McConnell's proposal, which was adopted by the Senate overnight, gives lawmakers the chance to request and debate calling additional witnesses after both the prosecution and the defense make their opening arguments, as in the Clinton impeachment trial.
Trump, on Wednesday, claimed that he would be open to endorsing witness testimony -- if not for national security issues.
“I can live either way,” Trump said. “I would rather go the long way…I would rather interview Bolton. I would rather interview a lot of people.”
The president was referring to his ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who said earlier this month that he planned to comply with any Senate-issued subpoena for his testimony as part of the impeachment trial.
“The problem with John is, it’s a national security issue,” the president explained. “What happens if he reveals what I think about a certain leader and it’s not very positive. You don’t like people testifying when they leave and it’s not on good terms.”
Bolton’s ouster from the White House last year was complicated—the president tweeted at the time that he fired Bolton, while Bolton said he tendered his resignation the night before.
The president said he would have also liked to see Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testify, as well as former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, but argued, again, it would be a national security issue.
After the press conference, the president took to Twitter to speak out regarding witnesses again.
“Their case was so “overwhelming” in the House that they need & demand Witnesses in the Senate!” Trump tweeted.
When asked why his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was not tapped to join his impeachment defense team, the president suggested that Giuliani could be called to testify.
“I don’t want there to be a conflict, he could be a witness at some point,” Trump said. “Rudy is on my team but I’d love to have him up there but he could have a conflict. But I think the press has been unfair to the greatest mayor in history in New York and greatest crime fighter…He hates to see what’s happening.”
The president’s defense is led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. Others representing the president include former independent counsel Ken Starr, constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, former federal prosecutor Robert Ray, and Jane Raskin, as well as Cipollone deputies Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin.
The president was asked about Starr’s presence on the team, due to his negative comments about him during the Clinton impeachment trial.
“He is a terrific man. I made that statement because I didn’t think Clinton should have been impeached,” Trump said. “I didn’t know Ken Starr but didn’t think he should be impeached and was vocal about that, but I knew Ken was smart, tough and talented, but I was sticking up for Bill Clinton.”
“I sort of still feel that way,” Trump said of Clinton’s impeachment. “What he did wasn’t good. A lot of lying, with me, no lying, no nothing, not even a crime, they said I’m the only one to be impeached with no crime.”
He added: “I didn’t commit a crime.”
“This is the greatest witch hunt,” he said. “Here’s the story: I did nothing wrong, it was a perfect conversation.”
At the center of the impeachment inquiry is Trump’s efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 phone call to launch politically related investigations—regarding former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine, as well as issues related to the 2016 presidential election.
The president’s request came after millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats argue shows a “quid pro quo” arrangement.