But Trump’s legal team was quick to respond by declining the invitation in a curt response to the House impeachment team and returning the Democrats a decision on whether to try to force Trump’s testimony with a subpoena.
Senior impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, sent a letter to Trump’s attorney on Thursday asking Trump to testify before or during the impeachment trial that begins Tuesday in Capitol.
“Two days ago you tabled a response denying many of the factual allegations set out in the impeachment proceedings,” wrote Raskin, a Maryland Democrat. “You have therefore attempted to question critical facts despite the clear and overwhelming evidence of your unconstitutionality. In light of your contestation of these allegations of fact, I would like to invite you to testify under oath of your conduct on May 6, before or during the impeachment proceedings against the Senate January 2021. “
Trump’s attorneys were quick to respond to Raskin’s request on Thursday, writing back in a three paragraph letter that the request was a sign that the House could not prove its allegations against Trump.
“Using our constitution to initiate an alleged impeachment is far too serious to attempt to play these games,” wrote Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen.
Trump’s adviser Jason Miller confirmed that Trump denied the motion, telling CNN, “The president will not testify in an unconstitutional trial.”
Senior aides advised Trump against going to the floor of the house to defend himself before his second impeachment in January, a similar tactic he considered when he was first indicted.
The swift denial of the testimony request raises the question of whether Democrats will attempt to summon Trump to testify for the trial. No subpoena was mentioned in the letter from the house. Raskin instead suggested that the impeachment managers use his disapproval against him, writing, “We reserve all rights, including the right to see in court that your refusal to testify supports a strong negative conclusion about your actions . “
Raskin declined to comment Thursday when asked if he would summon Trump if he refused to appear.
In the initial impeachment trial, Democrats sought testimony from Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, not Trump himself. However, the Democrats’ attempt to summon Bolton failed after Republicans voted against hearing witnesses in the trial before Trump was acquitted.
The question of whether the property managers would seek witnesses had arisen at the beginning of the second impeachment trial against Trump next week, as the senators of both parties had called for a speedy process so that the Senate can continue working on President Joe Biden’s agenda. But the caretaker and house spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi had remained silent on the question of the witnesses until Thursday’s letter.
Senators from both parties appeared to put the idea into practice on Thursday.
Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said it was a “dog and pony show.” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, called it a “terrible idea”.
“Have you met President Trump?” Coons told reporters when asked to explain his thinking.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who is a close ally of the former president, said it would not be “in anyone’s interests” for Trump to testify.
“It’s just a showboat political move to do this, and they didn’t call him around the house,” said Graham.
While Trump’s testimony at a Senate trial would create a televised moment in the trial, it is unclear whether that would change the outcome of the trial. Forty-five of the 50 Republican senators voted last week to support dismissal on the grounds that impeachment proceedings against a former president were unconstitutional.
When asked on Thursday whether the property managers were likely to get Trump acquitted because of this vote, Pelosi replied: “They don’t know.”
“Why don’t we just wait and let them take their case,” said Pelosi. “If we didn’t investigate, we might as well remove any punishment from the constitution.”
The House charged Trump last month with inciting the Capitol riot. In a pre-trial brief filed Tuesday, House impeachment executives accused Trump of being “solely responsible” for the deadly riots and said Trump’s actions, which spread false conspiracy theories about electoral theft, prompted his supporters to attack the Capitol and try to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power by preventing Congress from confirming the election.
Trump’s attorneys argued in a legal letter on Tuesday that the Senate impeachment process was unconstitutional because Trump was no longer president and that Trump did not incite the rioters. Trump’s legal team also argued that Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment, while Trump’s false claims about the election could not be proven inaccurate.
In Thursday’s letter, Raskin asked Trump to testify sometime between Monday and Thursday next week. The trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
This story was updated on Thursday with further developments.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.