Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the leader of the House impeachment managers for the upcoming second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, formally requested that Trump testify under oath in person next week. The president’s legal team shot back, calling the entire request a “stunt” to lend legitimacy to an “unconstitutional” trial. One of Trump’s advisors said he will not testify.
“The President will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding,” Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told Fox News Thursday.
The former president’s legal team condemned Raskin’s request. The Democrat had warned that if Trump refused to testify about “his conduct” on January 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol riot, such a refusal would support “a strong adverse inference” in the case.
“We are in receipt of your latest public relations stunt,” Trump’s attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen wrote to the Democrat. “As you certainly know, there is no such thing as a negative interference in this unconstitutional proceeding.”
“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 team added. “The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games.”
Raskin asked Trump to testify after the former president’s legal team sent a comprehensive and scathing response to the Democrats’ article of impeachment. In the response, Trump denied ever having committed high crimes or misdemeanors. “The 45th President of the United States performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people,” the lawyers wrote.
In his letter requesting Trump’s testimony, Raskin wrote that the former president has “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, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021,” Raskin wrote. “We would propose that you provide your testimony (of course including cross-examination) as early as Monday, February 8, 2021, and not later than Thursday, February 11, 2021. We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place.”
Raskin added: “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.”
In his defense, Trump argued that it is unconstitutional for the Senate to try a president after he leaves office. He also argued that the Democrats violated his free speech and due process rights in rushing to impeach him and that the article of impeachment is deceptively drafted in an unfair manner. He further claimed that disqualifying him from office would constitute a “bill of attainder,” which has been broadly interpreted to mean a legislative act against a class of people that inflicts punishment on them without a judicial trial.
Trump argued the article of impeachment is “facially and substantively flawed, and otherwise unconstitutional, and must be dismissed with prejudice.”
Trump’s response presented a very strong case in his defense. Not only did he make salient arguments for his innocence of the specific charge of “incitement of insurrection,” but he also warned against the dangerous precedent this impeachment would set for free speech and for due process.
The impeachment trial is scheduled to begin next Monday, February 8.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.