House Democrats ask Donald Trump to testify under oath for impeachment case

4 February 2021, 19:06

Donald Trump has been asked to testify under oath
Donald Trump has been asked to testify under oath. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

House Democrats have asked former president Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial.

A Trump adviser did not immediately return a message seeking comment about the letter from House impeachment managers.

The Senate impeachment trial starts in earnest on February 9. Mr Trump is charged with inciting a mob of supporters that stormed the US Capitol in Washington.

Though a conviction is unlikely, Democrats are aiming to present a damning account that links Mr Trump's encouragement of his supporters to "fight like hell" against the results of his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden to the violence and chaos.

Mr Trump is the first president in American history to be impeached twice. He was acquitted at a Senate trial last year over his contacts with his Ukrainian counterpart.

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In the letter, Rep Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Mr Trump provides testimony "either before or during the Senate impeachment trial", and under cross examination, about his conduct on January 6, as early as Monday and not later than February 11.

Mr Raskin said that Mr Trump questioned critical facts in the case "notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense".

"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," Mr Raskin wrote.

Mr Raskin wrote that if Mr Trump refuses to testify, 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," Mr Raskin wrote.

Earlier this week, one of Trump's lawyers accused Democrats of using the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial as a political "weapon" to bar the former president from seeking office again and of pursuing a case that is "undemocratic" and unconstitutional.

On the eve of expected legal briefs from lawyers for both sides, Trump attorney David Schoen forecast some of the arguments he plans to make at the trial, calling the case unconstitutional - though many legal scholars disagree - as well as "undemocratic" and needlessly divisive.

"It's also the most ill-advised legislative action that I've seen in my lifetime," Mr Schoen said in an interview with Fox News.

He alleged the case was an effort to bar Mr Trump from ever running for office again, "and that's about as undemocratic as you can get".

Impeachment, Mr Schoen said, "is the weapon they've tried to use against him".

Mr Schoen, an Alabama attorney, and Bruce Castor, a former county prosecutor in Pennsylvania, were announced as Mr Trump's lawyers on Sunday evening, a day after it was revealed the former president had parted ways with another set of lawyers.

In a separate interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mr Schoen said he did not plan to argue Mr Trump lost the election because of fraud, as Mr Trump has repeatedly insisted, and would instead argue the trial itself was unconstitutional since Mr Trump had already left office, and that he did not incite a riot.