House Democrats on Thursday called on Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging the former president to respond to their charge that he incited last month’s riot at the Capitol.
In response, a Trump adviser said Trump won’t testify.
The request in a letter from House impeachment managers does not require Trump to appear, but it does warn that any refusal to testify could be used at trial to support arguments for a conviction.
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 broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count.
If he is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from running for office again.
In the letter, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked Trump to provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and no later than Thursday, Feb. 11.
In a legal brief earlier this week, Trump’s attorneys denied that Trump had incited the riot and 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 Trump had 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.
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.”
The impeachment managers no longer have the authority to subpoena witnesses since the House has already voted to impeach Trump. The Senate could vote to subpoena Trump, or any other witnesses, on a simple majority vote during the trial.
On Thursday, senators in both parties made it clear they would be reluctant to do so.
Shortly after Raskin’s letter was made public, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said it would be a “terrible idea” for Trump to testify.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he thinks the letter is a “political ploy” and notes that Democrats didn’t invite or subpoena Trump to testify before the House voted to impeach him on Jan. 13.
Asked if he thinks Trump will testify, Graham said it would be a “bad idea.”
“I don’t think that would be in anybody’s interest,” he said.