Yesterday Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, sent Comrade Trump an email inviting him to testify at his impeachment hearing. The email was in response to Trump’s reply to the House’s trial memorandum (which I discussed earlier).
The email (which you can read here) began Dear President Trump, which I thought was nice. I doubt if Raskin really holds Trump dear, but the term is a traditional courtesy. And like my poor old momma always said, “It never hurts to be polite when you can.” Raskin then got right down to business. He wrote:
[Y]ou filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue.
You’re probably asking, “Greg, old sock, what critical facts would those be?” I’m glad you asked — although really, you need to stop calling me ‘old sock’. The trial memo basically said Trump “gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government” and “threatened the integrity of the democratic system” and “interfered with the peaceful transition of power” AND “imperiled a coequal branch Government.” He did all that by lying about the election results frequently and in public. Trump, in his response, basically said, “What? Me? No way. I didn’t do any of those things.”
Raskin, in his email, responded:
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.
Again, very nice. Very polite. Trump is offered the opportunity to present his side of the events and defend himself. He can explain how he actually won the election. He can explain his phone calls to the Georgia secretary of state; he can explain what he meant when he said he wanted to ‘find’ those extra votes. He can explain his call for Vice President Pence to “do the right thing” and refuse to certify the election results. All he has to do is show up and testify under oath.
But…and we all know that it’s what comes after the ‘but’ that really matters…Raskin also included a bit of iron fist inside that velvet glove.
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.
In other words, put up or shut up. Trump has the absolute right to present his side of the story. But in order to do that, he has to swear to tell the truth. If he refuses to take advantage of that opportunity — if he refuses to make, under oath, the same claims he’s been making in public speeches — then Raskin (and the Senate, and the public in general) is free to infer that Trump was, as we say in the justice system, a lying sack of shit.
A few hours after he received the email, to nobody’s surprise, Trump declined to accept Raskin’s polite invitation to testify.
You’re probably wondering, “Greg, old sock, can the Senate compel Mr. Trump’s testimony?” You bet your ass, they can. Once the trial starts, the Senate can vote to issue a subpoena to Trump (or any witness, for that matter). All it takes is a simple majority vote.
Let me amend that. I think he can be subpoenaed. Here’s the problem: in a criminal case, if the accused chooses to remain silent, the prosecution can’t call them as a witness; nobody can compel a criminal defendant to testify. In a civil case, defendants can be forced to testify. But an impeachment is neither a criminal nor a civil matter; it’s a legislative process. Trump hasn’t been criminally charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 2383, the federal crime of insurrection. But that IS the impeachment charge. So you bet your ass the Senate CAN subpoena him, but it’s not clear to me whether Trump could be compelled to actually testify.
My guess is that IF the Senate chooses to subpoena Trump (and I hope they do), his lawyers will do everything they can to quash the subpoena. That will require a hearing. Probably several hearings. And a lot of time — time that might be better spent passing President Biden’s legislative measures.
Would it be worth all that time and effort if Trump could be compelled to testify under oath? Historically, yes, absolutely. But is it worth it at the risk of disrupting Biden’s attempt to get the pandemic and the economy under control? Probably not.
I suspect we’ll be forced to settle for the ‘strong adverse inference’ that Trump’s refusal to testify under oath means he’s a lying sack of shit.