UPDATE 2/4 5:38 p.m. ET: Former President Donald Trump refused Democrats’ invitation to testify in a brief letter signed by his lawyers on Thursday afternoon.
“We are in receipt of your latest public relations stunt,” the lawyers, Bruce Castor and David 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 play these games.”
Democrats just dared Trump to take the stand.
House impeachment managers invited former President Trump on Thursday to testify at his own Senate impeachment trial under oath next week, setting the stage for potentially explosive courtroom drama.
Trump could testify either during the trial or beforehand, on any date between Monday, February 8, through the following Thursday, February 11, lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin wrote in a letter sent to Trump. The trial officially starts on Tuesday, February 9.
“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,” Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, wrote. “I would request that you respond to this letter by no later than Friday, February 5, 2021 at 5 p.m.”
Trump’s testimony would throw an unpredictable and volatile element into the proceeding. Trump was forced to replace his entire legal team last weekend after five lawyers quit on him, reportedly because he insisted they push forward his baseless argument that he didn’t actually lose the election.
If Trump accepts the offer to testify under oath, his habit of telling wild lies could get him into fresh legal trouble. Trump made over 30,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency, according to one tally by the Washington Post.
Trump’s was famously restrained from testifying before former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigators by his lawyers, who reportedly worried that he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from telling bold-faced lies that could get him charged with perjury.
Trump shouldn’t testify under oath because he’s a “fucking liar,” Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd once remarked, according to the famous Washington journalist Bob Woodward.
As of Thursday afternoon, Trump had yet to respond.
The House slapped Trump with a single article of impeachment for inciting the Capitol insurrection days before his presidency ended in January.
The move occurred after Trump held a rally on Jan. 6 and riled up a mob that assaulted the U.S. Capitol Building in a chaotic siege that resulted in five deaths. Moments before the violence began, Trump urged the crowd to “fight like hell.”
A majority of Senate Republicans have already voted to declare the Senate impeachment trial unconstitutional, because it’s occurring after his presidency ended. As a result, the Senate appears highly unlikely to be able to muster the two-thirds majority necessary for conviction.
But Democrats argue that the proceeding should still go forward, in part because if Trump’s convicted, he could be barred from ever holding public office again.