Trump ‘will not testify’ at impeachment trial as lawyers call request PR stunt

Former president's attorneys accuse Democrats of 'games' in their rejection of call for Trump to appear in Senate

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 04 February 2021 22:20
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Donald Trump will not testify under oath at his second impeachment trial, according to adviser Jason Miller, who said the former president won't appear in the US Senate for an "unconstitutional trial".

Attorneys for Mr Trump called Congressman Jamie Raskin's request for the former president's appearance a "public relations stunt" and said that Congress cannot prove the allegations against the president. He was impeached last month for inciting an insurrection at the US Capitol as lawmakers certified results of the presidential election that Mr Trump repeatedly falsely claimed was fraudulent and "stolen" from his supporters.

"The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games," attorneys David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr wrote in a brief letter to Congressman Raskin on Thursday.

In his letter to the former president's attorneys, the congressman said the president has "thus attempted to put critical facts at issue not withstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offence". 

House impeachment managers have requested that the president appear before or during the trial, subject to cross-examination, pointing to the testimonies of former presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton while in office.

"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 6 January, the date of the riots inside the halls of Congress, according to the letter.

The trial is set to begin next week.

House managers could subpoena the former president to appear if he will not do so voluntarily, but a request would require support from a majority of the Senate, already hoping to speed through a trial that its GOP membership wants to avoid entirely.

In filings this week, Mr Trump's lawyers denied that he incited the insurrection, and that his message moments earlier to "fight like hell" to overturn the election results "had nothing to do" with the attack on the Capitol.

His attorneys also continue to amplify his fraudulent claims that he believes he won the election "in a landslide" by shielding his lies as a form of First Amendment-protected speech.

"Under the convenient guise of Covid-19 pandemic ‘safeguards’, states election laws and procedures were changed by local politicians or judges without the necessary approvals from state legislatures," his lawyers wrote. "Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false."

In his letter, Congressman Raskin suggested that the president's refusal to testify could draw an “adverse inference” from his actions on 6 January, or use his silence to validate their allegations.

“As you certainly know, there is no such thing as a negative inference in this unconstitutional proceeding,” the former president's attorneys said in their response.

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