Trump Rejects Request for Impeachment Testimony Under Oath
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during an event in Washington. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Rejects Request for Impeachment Testimony Under Oath

Attorneys for Donald Trump rejected a request from House impeachment managers for the former president to testify under oath about his conduct on Jan. 6 when a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, calling it a stunt.

The lead impeachment manager, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said in a letter to Trump released Thursday that the former president has disputed “factual allegations” and put “critical facts at issue,” and that he should agree to testify.

But Trump impeachment lawyer Bruce Castor told NBC “no” when asked whether Trump will testify. Castor and David Schoen, another Trump lawyer, released a letter responding to Raskin, dismissing the request for testimony as “your latest public relations stunt.”

“Your letter only confirms what is known to everyone: you cannot prove your allegations against the 45th president of the United States, who is now a private citizen,” the attorneys said in their letter.

Raskin, in his letter, had requested Trump’s testimony either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, set to begin Tuesday. He was given until 5 p.m. Friday to respond.

“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 Jan. 6, 2021,” the letter says.

Raskin said the initial impeachment answer that Trump’s lawyers filed on Tuesday disputed several facts about his actions on Jan. 6, including the charge that he provoked the violent assault on the Capitol when he told his supporters at a rally beforehand that “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country any more.”

Raskin wrote that Trump has “thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.”

“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath,” he added.

Raskin said in his letter there’s no doubt that Trump can testify, pointing out that former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton both provided testimony while in office and that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Trump was not immune from the legal process while serving as president.

“Indeed, whereas a sitting president might raise concerns about distraction from their official duties, that concern is obviously inapplicable here,” Raskin added. “We therefore anticipate your availability to testify.”

But Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close Trump ally, said it would be “just a nightmare for the country” if the former president agreed to testify. He dismissed the letter from the impeachment managers as a “political showboat.”

“Obviously, it’s a political ploy on their part,” Graham said of the request. “They didn’t call him in the House.”

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware agreed that having Trump testify was “a terrible idea.” When asked why by reporters, he said, “Have you met President Trump?”

The House voted to impeach Trump Jan. 13 on a single charge of inciting an insurrection related to his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s Nov. 3 victory with baseless claims that the presidential election was stolen.

Constitutional Question

Trump’s legal team is arguing that the Senate has no constitutional authority to hold an impeachment trial now that he’s out of office, and that his speech to the crowd on Jan. 6 was protected by the First Amendment and didn’t cause the insurrection that followed. Trump’s rights also were violated by the snap impeachment, his attorneys said in their filing.

“There was thus no legal or moral reason for the House to act as it did,” the lawyers said in their 14-page reply. “Political hatred has no place in the administration of justice anywhere in America, especially in the Congress of the United States.”

Raskin and the other eight House impeachment said in their almost 80-page brief filed Tuesday that the trial is constitutional because Trump was still in office when he was impeached by the House, and he can’t escape a trial because he left office. They also rejected claims that the impeachment violates Trump’s free speech and due-process rights.

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