Trump rejects Democrat bid to have him testify under oath at impeachment trial

Donald Trump's lawyers say the former president will reject a request by U.S. House Democrats on Thursday to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial.

Trump adviser Jason Miller said former U.S. president 'will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding'

U.S. House impeachment managers have asked former president Donald Trump to testify under oath at his trial next week. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

U.S. House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, saying the former president must explain why he and his lawyers have disputed key factual allegations at the centre of the case.

A Trump adviser said Trump won't testify.

The request from House impeachment managers does not require Trump to appear — though the Senate could later subpoena him — but it does warn that any refusal to testify could be used at trial to support arguments for a conviction.

Even if Trump never testifies, the request nonetheless makes clear Democrats' determination to present an aggressive case against him even though he has left the White House, and it challenges him to personally explain the words of his attorneys.

Trump adviser Jason Miller said that "the president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding." Separately, Trump's lawyers dismissed the request as a "public relations stunt."

The Senate impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump is charged with inciting a mob of supporters that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Donald Trump speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results on Jan. 6, minutes before many in the crowd proceeded to storm the Congress. (Jim Borgi/Reuters)

Aim to disqualify Trump from ever running again

Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability. They are also aiming to disqualify him from ever seeking office again.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump provide testimony "either before or during the Senate impeachment trial," and under cross examination, about his conduct on Jan. 6, as early as Monday and not later than next Thursday, Feb. 11.

The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump's own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot but also asserted that he had "performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people."

With that argument, Raskin said, Trump had questioned critical facts in the case "notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offence."

"In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021," Raskin wrote.

Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats "cannot prove your allegations" and that an impeachment trial is too serious "to try to play these games."

If Trump refuses to testify, Raskin said the managers will use his refusal against him in the trial — a similar argument put forth by House Democrats in last year's impeachment trial, when many Trump officials ignored subpoenas.

"Indeed, whereas a sitting president might raise concerns about distraction from their official duties, that concern is obviously inapplicable here," Raskin wrote.

Trump can decline the request to testify, and the impeachment managers do not have the authority to subpoena witnesses now since the House has already voted to impeach him. The Senate could vote to subpoena him, or any other witnesses, on a simple majority vote.