Democrats call on Trump to testify

The House impeachment managers on Thursday formally requested that former President Trump testify under oath in his Senate impeachment trial, which kicks off next week. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the Democrats’ lead impeachment manager, sent a letter to Trump and his attorneys alleging that the former president’s defense — outlined Tuesday in a legal brief — denies irrefutable facts about Trump’s role in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

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

To clear up the alleged discrepancies, Raskin has asked Trump to testify, and face cross-examination, as early as Monday and not later than Feb. 11, suggesting that the testimony would not necessarily be in the Senate chamber or even in public. 

“We would be pleased to arrange such testimony at a mutually convenient time and place,” wrote Raskin, who has asked for a response by 5 p.m. Friday.

Trump’s camp did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon, but he did not testify during his first impeachment by the House in 2019, nor the Senate trial that followed early last year. 

Trump’s second Senate trial begins Tuesday.

Behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House impeached Trump last month for his role in stirring up a crowd of his supporters outside the White House on Jan. 6, many of whom subsequently marched to the Capitol at his request, overwhelmed law enforcement officers and stormed violently into the building. 

A Capitol Police officer was killed in the melee, as was a protester who was shot by another officer as she tried to access the House floor. 

The single impeachment article charged Trump with “inciting insurrection.” It passed on the House floor with the support of 10 Republicans on Jan. 13, exactly a week after the Capitol siege. 

On Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers issued a legal brief forecasting their defense when the trial begins next week.

It hinges on two primary arguments: First, that Trump is constitutionally ineligible to face an impeachment trial because he’s no longer in office. And second, that he had every right under the First Amendment to protest what he felt was a corrupt election process — and to encourage his supporters to join him in urging Congress to reject the outcome. If those supporters turned violent, the defense suggested, that was outside the realm of Trump’s influence.   

“If the First Amendment protected only speech the government deemed popular in current American culture, it would be no protection at all,” Trump’s attorneys wrote.

The Democratic impeachment managers offered their own legal brief, also on Tuesday, making the case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the Capitol attack. While their impeachment effort comes too late to remove Trump from the White House, they argue that it remains crucial to convict him, both to prevent him from holding public office again and to send a message about boundaries of conduct to future presidents. 

“If we were not to follow up with this,” Pelosi said, “we might as well remove any penalty from the Constitution of impeachment. Just take it out.”

In Thursday’s request to Trump, Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, pointed out that presidents have testified under oath while in office. While former President Clinton did not testify in his own impeachment trial in 1999, Clinton’s grand jury testimony from a year earlier was shown at the trial, which ended in acquittal.  

“Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton both provided testimony while in office — and the Supreme Court held just last year that you were not immune from legal process while serving as President — so there is no doubt that you can testify in these proceedings,” Raskin wrote. 

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

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