Trump won’t testify at Senate impeachment trial, his lawyers say

President Donald Trump answers questions from the news media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 11, 2019.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump won’t testify at his upcoming Senate impeachment trial, his attorneys said Thursday.

Bruce Castor, one of the attorneys defending the ex-president, told NBC News that a request from Democrats issued earlier in the day was a “publicity stunt” and that Trump’s case was a “winner.”

Castor’s comments came hours after the House Democrat leading the impeachment drive formally requested that Trump testify under oath on his own behalf at his upcoming trial in the Senate, and warned that a refusal to do so could be used against him.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., sent a letter to Trump asking that the former president testify “concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021.” Raskin, a former professor of constitutional law at American University, added that Trump’s testimony would be subject to cross-examination.

Castor and David Schoen, another attorney for the president, responded to Raskin in a three-paragraph letter calling the trial a “purported impeachment proceeding” and saying that it “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 impeachment trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Raskin wrote that Trump, who moved to Florida after departing the White House, could testify between Monday and Thursday.

Raskin’s letter cited arguments that Castor and Schoen put forward on Tuesday denying the House’s charges that Trump incited the mob of his supporters that stormed the Capitol last month, threatening lawmakers.

“Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment,” Raskin wrote. “You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.”

Castor and Schoen wrote in their brief: “It is denied that President Trump incited the crowd to engage in destructive behavior” and “It is denied that President Trump intended to interfere with the counting of Electoral votes.”

The House of Representatives impeached Trump last month by a vote of 232-197, with every Democrat and 10 Republicans backing the charge that he “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.”

Trump, the only U.S. president to face two impeachment trials, is expected to be acquitted by the Senate, which is divided evenly among Democrats and Republicans.

It requires a two-thirds vote to acquit. In a sign of Trump’s likelihood to prevail, 45 Republicans voted late last month that the impeachment trial itself was unconstitutional.

Trump did not provide testimony during his first impeachment trial, which ended a year ago.

Raskin called for Trump to respond to his letter by Friday at 5 p.m. ET and said that a rejection could be portrayed as a sign of guilt.

“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,” Raskin wrote.

Raskin added that he expected that Trump should be available to testify given that he is no longer the sitting president.

“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.

He added, “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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