WASHINGTON (AP/NewsNation Now) — House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging the former president to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. In a response, a Trump adviser said Trump won’t testify.
The request in a letter from House impeachment managers does not require Trump to appear, though the Senate could later force a subpoena, it does warn that any refusal to testify could be used at trial to support arguments for a conviction.
Even if Trump never testifies, the request nonetheless makes clear Democrats’ determination to present an aggressive case against him even though he has left the White House.
Hours after the letter was released, Trump adviser Jason Miller said that “the president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.” Separately, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the request as a “public relations stunt.”
The Senate impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If he is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.
In a letter to Trump and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his lawyers have disputed key factual allegations at the center of their charge. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11.
The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump’s own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot, but also asserted that he had “performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people.”
Raskin said that Trump questioned critical facts in the case “notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He said Trump should be able to testify now that he is no longer president.
“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,” Raskin wrote.
Raskin wrote that if Trump refuses to testify, the managers will use his refusal against him in the trial – a similar argument put forth by House Democrats in last year’s impeachment trial, when many Trump officials ignored subpoenas.
“Indeed, whereas a sitting president might raise concerns about distraction from their official duties, that concern is obviously inapplicable here,” Raskin wrote.
Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats “cannot prove your allegations” and that an impeachment trial is too serious “to try to play these games.”