TRUMP TURNS DOWN SURPRISE REQUEST TO TESTIFY AT HIS OWN TRIAL
In Washington, US House impeachment managers issued a surprise request on Thursday for Donald J. Trump to testify in his Senate trial next week, making a far reaching attempt to question the former president under oath about his conduct on the day of the DC riot, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman reported for The New York Times.
It was quickly rejected by his lawyers. In a letter to Mr. Trump, Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment prosecutor, said the former president’s response this week to the House’s charge that he incited an insurrection on Jan. 6 had disputed crucial facts about his actions, and demanded further explanation.
“Two days ago, you filed an answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment,” wrote Mr. Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.”
He proposed interviewing Mr. Trump “at a mutually convenient time and place” between Monday and Thursday. The trial is set to begin on Tuesday.
But Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor Jr. and David Schoen, wasted little time in swatting away the invitation. They said that Mr. Trump wanted no part of a proceeding they insisted was “unconstitutional” because he is no longer in office, and called Mr. Raskin’s request a “public relations stunt.”
They also cited that Mr. Trump was protected by the First Amendment and flat-out denied that he incited the attack to curtail Congress's counting of the electoral votes in order to overturn the results.
“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,” they wrote in a letter to Mr. Raskin.
Mr. Schoen and another adviser to Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, later clarified that the former president did not plan to testify voluntarily before or after the trial begins. Instead, his defense team intends to argue that the case should be dismissed outright on constitutional grounds, and that Mr. Trump is not guilty of the bipartisan “incitement of insurrection” charge in which the House asserts he provoked a mob with baseless voter fraud claims to attack the Capitol in a bid to stop Congress from formalizing his loss.
The decision, if it holds, is likely to be helpful for both sides. With Senate Republicans already lining up to acquit Mr. Trump for the second time in just over a year, testimony from a famously impolitic former president who continues to insist falsely that he won the election risks jeopardizing his defense.
Democrats might have benefited from Mr. Trump’s testimony, but his silence also allows the House managers to tell senators sitting in judgment that they at least gave Mr. Trump an opportunity to have his say. Perhaps more important, they quickly claimed — despite the defense’s protests — that his refusal established an “adverse inference supporting his guilt,” meaning that they would cite his silence as further proof that their allegations are true.
“Despite his lawyers’ rhetoric, any official accused of inciting armed violence against the government of the United States should welcome the chance to testify openly and honestly — that is, if the official had a defense,” Mr. Raskin said in a statement Thursday evening. “We will prove at trial that President Trump’s conduct was indefensible.”
Mr. Raskin could still try to subpoena testimony from Mr. Trump during the trial. But doing so would require support from a majority of the Senate and could prompt a messy legal battle over claims of executive privilege that could take weeks or longer to unwind, snarling the agenda of President Biden and Democrats. Members of both parties already pressing for a speedy trial signaled skepticism on Thursday to calling Mr. Trump.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and one of Mr. Biden’s closest allies, said of Mr. Trump taking the witness stand. Asked to clarify his reasoning, he replied, “Have you met President Trump?”
“I don’t think that would be in anybody’s interest,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the president’s allies. “It’s just a nightmare for the country to do this.”