Donald Trump is refusing to testify at his impeachment trial after House impeachment managers requested his appearance. Trump spokesperson Jason Miller said the former president “will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding,” the same argument many Republican lawmakers have made in the lead up to the trial.
But Trump’s refusal to testify is sure to anger House impeachment managers, who have argued that Trump needs to testify under oath.
In a letter to Trump earlier Thursday, the House’s lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Trump’s testimony was necessary because his lawyers’ first official response to the impeachment charge “denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment.”
“You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin wrote. “In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, who leads the House impeachment team, warned Trump in the letter that a failure to appear would have consequences.
“If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021,” Raskin wrote.
But Trump’s legal team was unpersuaded, arguing the call for Trump to testify was a “public relations stunt” that shows “you cannot prove your allegations.”
“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games,” Trump’s lawyers, Bruce Castor and David Schoene, wrote.
— Neil Cavuto (@TeamCavuto) February 4, 2021
Multiple Senators from both sides of the aisle seemingly took Trump’s side in the debate:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the effort was aimed at “partisan retribution” and “shows that what they’re looking for is a show trial.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “political ploy” and noted that the House never conducted witness interviews before moving to impeach Trump.
“They expect the Senate to do their work,” added Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “I don’t know why we have to pick up the pieces for the inadequacy of the House of Representatives.”
Some Democrats, too, took issue with the idea of seeking testimony from Trump. “I think it’s a terrible idea,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said, quipping: “Have you met President Trump?”
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said it would be “a dog and pony show.”
The argument that an impeachment trial is unconstitutional has gained traction with many Republican Senators, 45 of whom voted in favor of a Sen. Rand Paul led effort to declare the trial unconstitutional.
While that effort ultimately failed, it likely signaled where Republican votes are likely to land when it comes on voting for a conviction. Two-thirds of the Senate would have to vote to convict, and long shot given the amount of GOP Senators that do not believe the trial is legitimate to begin with.
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