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Trump says no to Rep. Raskin’s invitation to testify in impeachment trial

“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games,” wrote Trump’s attorneys.

President Donald Trump speaking during a rally prior to the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
President Donald Trump speaking during a rally prior to the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Former President Donald John Trump, the first doubly impeached president in U.S. history, has continued to publicly dismiss as lies and falsehoods the allegations that underlie the impeachment case against him.

Therefore, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, the lead attorney (technically, the lead “impeachment manager”) for the House in prosecuting the impeachment case, generously wrote to Trump, offering him a chance to defend himself and the truth against the alleged lies and falsehoods.

Trump has rejected the invitation, according to his lawyers and aides, on the grounds that the entire impeachment process is unconstitutional.

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In his message to Trump, Raskin had called to Trump’s attention the obvious “inference” that can be drawn by the jurors in the case should the former president fail to explain, under oath, and be cross-examined about, the alleged falsehoods. That went like this, per the Raskin letter to Trump:

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. I would request that you respond to this letter by no later than Friday, February 5, 2021 at 5pm. I look forward to your response and to your testimony.

Next Monday is currently scheduled to be the first day of the impeachment trial. But Raskin had suggested the House managers would be willing to question Trump any time up to Feb. 11, which is next Thursday.

Trump did not speak publicly, but his lawyers and an aide replied, briefly and quickly, saying that asking Trump to testify indicates that the House impeachment team knows it cannot prove its allegations against Trump.

“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games,” wrote Trump’s attorneys, Bruce Castor and David Schoen.

That didn’t constitute a clear reply that Trump would refuse the request, but Trump adviser Jason Miller clarified to CNN that: “The President will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.”

Miller is no constitutional scholar, but this may refer to the argument, which many Trump allies make, that the constitutional impeachment trial process was not intended to deal with a president who has already left office.

As of this writing, it’s unclear what the House may say back, or whether Raskin might try to force the issue. My best guess is that Trump will get away with not testifying, the Democrats will use it as a talking point, and, considering that a two-thirds Senate vote would be necessary for conviction, the odds still heavily favor Trump, if the final verdict is what matters.