DAVOS: US President Donald Trump shakes hands with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prior to their meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday.-AFP

DAVOS: US President Donald Trump said at a meeting yesterday in Davos with new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that they were discussing a trade deal. Trump, accompanied by top economic advisors including Wilbur Ross and Robert Lighthizer, met with von der Leyen on the sidelines of the Davos economic conference. “We’re going to talk about a good trade deal. We’ll be discussing other things also,” he told reporters.

Von der Leyen said she was looking forward to working with Trump, saying Americans and Europeans were “good friends”. Trump said he’d heard von der Leyen is “a very tough negotiator”. The talks came shortly after Paris announced a truce in its tussle with Washington over plans for taxing US technology companies earning revenue in France. Trump had threatened to hit back with tariffs.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, speaking before a Brussels meeting with EU counterparts, said President Emmanuel Macron and Trump had talked and “agreed to avoid all escalation between the US and France on this digital tax issue.” A French diplomatic source said the French and US leaders, who spoke by telephone on Sunday, agreed to give negotiations a chance to avoid “a trade war that will benefit no one”.

Meanwhile, Democrats yesterday blasted the top Senate Republican’s proposed rules for US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, saying its failure to guarantee witnesses or that evidence gathered by investigators would be allowed into the record was tantamount to rigging the proceedings. Trump’s trial on charges approved on Dec 18 by the Democratic-led House of Representatives accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress begins in earnest in the Senate yesterday in a rare use of the constitutional mechanism for ousting a president.

On Monday, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed rules that would execute a potentially quick trial. He unveiled a resolution that would give House Democratic prosecutors and Trump lawyers 48 hours, evenly split, to present their arguments over a maximum of four days.

Under the resolution, lawyers for Trump could move early in the proceedings to ask senators to dismiss all charges, a senior Republican leadership aide said, a motion that would likely fall short of the support needed to succeed. “That is not a fair trial. In fact, it is no trial at all,” the seven House Democrats who will set out the case against Trump during the trial said in a statement yesterday.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN that Democrats would seek amendments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement, said the Republicans’ plan would force the trial into the “dark of night” and accused McConnell of choosing “a cover-up for the president, rather than honor his oath to the Constitution.” The proceedings are due to start at around 1 pm EST (1800 GMT) and the trial is expected to continue six days a week, Monday through Saturday, until at least the end of January.

At the heart of the impeachment trial is Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. Democrats accuse Trump of pressuring a vulnerable ally to interfere in US elections at the expense of American national security. Trump’s legal team says there was no pressure and that the Democrats’ case is based on hearsay. – Agencies