Donald Trump will not testify in the Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial, a spokesman for the former president said Thursday, explicitly rejecting a request from House Democrats.
Jason Miller, a spokesperson for the former president, said Trump “will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding,” echoing the central theme of Trump’s defense in the trial.
In a letter to Trump earlier Thursday, the House’s lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said Trump’s testimony was necessary because his lawyers’ first official response to the impeachment charge “denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment.”
“You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” Raskin wrote. “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.”
The request from House Democrats comes just five days before Trump is set to be put on trial on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which left five people dead.
Raskin specifically asked that Trump testify sometime next week, between Monday and Thursday. The trial is slated to begin on Tuesday and is expected to last around one week.
“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.
Bruce Castor and David Schoen, Trump’s lawyers for the trial, called Raskin’s letter a “public relations stunt” and said it confirms that “you cannot prove your allegations” against Trump.
“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games,” Castor and Schoen wrote.
In response, Raskin said Trump’s refusal to testify showed that he had no legitimate defense.
“We will prove at trial that President Trump’s conduct was indefensible,” Raskin said in a statement. “His immediate refusal to testify speaks volumes and plainly establishes an adverse inference supporting his guilt.”
A senior aide on the House impeachment team said the request for Trump’s testimony came in response to claims by Castor and Schoen earlier this week that the former president never “intended to interfere with the counting of Electoral votes” on Jan. 6, and never “made any effort to subvert the certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
Trump for weeks lodged unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud in swing states where Biden won, culminating in his speech to supporters the morning of Jan. 6, when he urged them to “fight like hell.”
The Senate could vote to subpoena Trump during the trial, but it’s unclear if there would be enough support in an evenly divided 50-50 Senate. GOP senators, and even some Democrats, balked at the idea of hauling in Trump for testimony.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the effort was aimed at “partisan retribution” and “shows that what they're looking for is a show trial.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “political ploy” and noted that the House never conducted witness interviews before moving to impeach Trump.
“They expect the Senate to do their work,” added Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “I don't know why we have to pick up the pieces for the inadequacy of the House of Representatives.”
Some Democrats, too, took issue with the idea of seeking testimony from Trump. “I think it’s a terrible idea,” Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said, quipping: “Have you met President Trump?”
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said it would be “a dog and pony show.”
The House impeachment managers have remained tight-lipped about their plans for potential witness testimony as part of the trial, while many Senate Democrats have suggested in recent weeks that witnesses are not necessary in order to prove that Trump deserves to be convicted.
But conviction, which requires the support of two-thirds of the chamber, will be a tough sell for the impeachment managers, especially after 45 GOP senators voted last week to declare that putting a former president on trial is unconstitutional.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have said repeatedly that they do not consider Trump’s acquittal to be guaranteed, as they continue to apply pressure on Senate Republicans.
“They don’t know that. They haven’t heard the case,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday when asked about Trump’s likely fate. “We’ll see if it’s going to be a Senate of cowards or courage.”
Pelosi also firmly rejected arguments from some observers, who have asked why Democrats should bother with a trial after Trump is already gone from office.
“‘Why bother?’ Ask our founders why bother,” Pelosi told reporters. “We cannot go forward until we have justice.”
The group of Democratic managers — handpicked by Pelosi to make the case against Trump — have been meeting almost daily for weeks to hone their arguments. Those Democrats have been notably silent on the case they plan to present, aside from an initial pre-trial filing earlier this week.
Pelosi herself deflected questions about witnesses earlier Thursday, telling reporters: “The world were witnesses to this, so we’ll see. I have no idea how our managers will proceed.”
In its filing earlier this. week, the House managers said Trump bears “unmistakable” responsibility for the violent attack on the Capitol, which came while lawmakers were voting to certify Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
“President Trump’s pursuit of power at all costs is a betrayal of historic proportions,” the managers wrote. “It requires his conviction.
Gabby Orr contributed to this report.