Ex U.S. president, Donald Trump has rejected a request for him to testify at his Senate impeachment trial, calling the demand a political “stunt” by Democrats.
David Schoen, Trump’s lead defense lawyer, wrote in a letter to the 10 House impeachment managers that their request for sworn testimony from Trump, now an ex-president, proves his claim that the trial is unconstitutional.
“We are in receipt of your latest public relations stunt,” Schoen wrote.
“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. The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games.”
On January 6, Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, were killed in the bloody attack on the Capitol that supporters of Trump launched in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.
The attackers stormed the Capitol after Trump urged them at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell” to stop the certification while regurgitating his false claims about the election being “stolen” from him.
The House impeached Trump a week after the assault on a single count of “incitement of insurrection.”
The Senate will now decide whether to convict Trump. Even though he’s out of office, a conviction would allow the Senate to separately vote to bar him from ever holding or running for public office again.
The impeachment managers, led by Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, said in their voluntary request to Trump that refusal to testify would give senators reason to draw a “strong adverse inference regarding his actions” during, before and after the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which the former president stands accused of inciting.
But Schoen replied saying;
“As you certainly know, there is no such thing as a negative inference in this unconstitutional proceeding,” he wrote to the managers.
Schoen made clear early this week that Trump’s defense will state that the trial itself is unconstitutional because he argues the Constitution only allows the Senate to try current occupants of the Oval Office.
The managers had proposed that Trump testify and undergo cross-examination next week between Monday and Thursday at a place of his choosing and he should have no legitimate excuse for refusing to testify since he has now left office.
“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,” they wrote to Trump.
After Schoen’s reply, Raskin suggested Trump’s refusal to testify evinces a weak defense strategy.
“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,” Raskin said.
“We will prove at trial that President Trump’s conduct was indefensible. His immediate refusal to testify speaks volumes and plainly establishes an adverse inference supporting his guilt.”
The Senate could vote to subpoena Trump for testimony.
However, a subpoena would require at least 51 votes and even some Democratic senators oppose the idea of giving Trump a platform.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Asked why, Coons replied, “Have you met President Trump?”