WASHINGTON - Going on one of his favorite news programs, President Donald Trump said Friday he is more than willing to undergo a trial if House Democrats vote to impeach him.
"I want a trial," Trump said during a bombastic "Fox and Friends" interview in which he attacked the ongoing impeachment inquiry and claimed his political opponents have always been out to get him.
"The hatred is incredible," he said at one point.
Trump spoke a day after some of his aides met with a group of Senate Republicans to start discussing the logistics of an impeachment trial that would be required if the House votes to impeach him.
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During a phone interview with Fox that lasted more than 50 minutes, Trump said "they should never ever impeach," but indicated that House Democrats may do it after what he called an unfair process.
Trump said he would want to see trial testimony from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has conducted five days of impeachment hearings, and the whistleblower whose complaint launched the investigation.
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Both of Trump's desired trial developments are unlikely; Schiff would probably be a prosecutor in an impeachment trial, while the identity of the whistleblower is protected by federal law.
Trump also predicted victory in the Republican-run Senate, telling Fox that his party "has never been more unified."
Democrats said they have made the case that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine into investigating U.S. political opponent Joe Biden by threatening to withhold military aid from the country.
Testimony "confirmed how Trump conditioned official White House acts on Ukraine's willingness to announce politically beneficial investigations," Schiff tweeted Thursday.
In another tweet, Biden wrote that "it's clear that Donald Trump has abused the power of the presidency. Full stop. He is the most corrupt president in modern American history."
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During the marathon interview on "Fox & Friends," Trump also:
- Dismissed rumors that he may replace Vice President Mike Pence with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as his running mate in the 2020 election.
"He's my guy, he's my friend," Trump said of Pence, adding that Haley would likely serve in some other capacity in the years ahead.
- Suggested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might want to leave the administration and run for a Senate seat in Kansas if he felt like another Republican might lose that race.
"He'd win easily in Kansas," Trump said of Pompeo.
- Said he is in good health, and that Saturday's unexpected visit to a hospital involved his annual physical.
Trump also spent most of the interview trashing the impeachment investigation that imperils his presidency.
At one point, he told Fox he got rid of Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch because "she wouldn't hang my picture in the embassy." Trump accused another witness of making up testimony about overhearing a telephone conversation between him and his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland.
Trump also spent time trumpeting a forthcoming report on the origins of the FBI investigation into certain Trump advisers and Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has notified the Senate Judiciary Committee that he intends to release the long-awaited report on Dec. 9. He is set to appear before the Senate panel two days later to discuss his findings.
Horowitz has been examining whether the FBI violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, when it sought a judge's permission to wiretap former Trump campaign aide Carter Page as part of its counterintelligence investigation into Russia and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
Horowitz also has been reviewing the FBI's relationship and communication with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was hired by a research firm working for the campaign of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and compiled a now-infamous "dossier" alleging links between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Republicans have complained that the FBI, in its applications to seek and renew surveillance on Page, concealed its reliance on Steele's findings. And it has fueled unrelenting criticism from President Donald Trump that the Russia inquiry was a "hoax" driven by his political rivals, the FBI and the broader intelligence community.
In his Fox interview, Trump cited news reports that a former FBI agent may have altered documents related to the Russia investigation.
Claiming "they were spying on my campaign," Trump said that "we're dealing at the highest levels of government" in the Barack Obama administration, but he did not name names.
Trump was referring in part to a CNN report that "a former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser." The report did not provide details of the allegation.
The Washington Post said in its story that the Justice Department inspector general has also "concluded that the conduct did not affect the overall validity of the surveillance application, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump tells Fox and Friends he wants a Senate trial if House impeaches