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Trump invited to testify under oath as part of impeachment trial

The head impeachment manager has asked Trump to testify under oath next week at his own impeachment trial. Will he accept?
Image: FILE PHOTO: Article of impeachment against former president Trump delivered to Senate
Impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., right, deliver an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate on Jan. 25, 2021.Melina Mara / Pool via Reuters

The start of Donald Trump's latest Senate impeachment trial is just five days away, and the Republican's latest defense team claims to be ready for the proceedings. There is, however, reason for skepticism: the lawyer's formal brief in the case was filled with strange and false claims.

In fact, Team Trump's legal filing was so badly flawed, the House Democrats playing the role of prosecutors would like to follow up with the former president directly. NBC News reported this afternoon:

The head Democratic impeachment manager requested on Thursday that former President Donald Trump testify under oath next week at his own impeachment trial. Though Trump is not required to appear, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead impeachment manager, made the request as part of the preparations for the trial that will examine whether Trump incited the rioters in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath," Raskin wrote in a letter to Trump, seeking a response by tomorrow afternoon.

In theory, this wouldn't have to be a grand spectacle: the Maryland Democrat suggested to Trump and his team that they would conduct an interview "at a mutually convenient time and place" sometime next week.

So, how likely is this? The odds are clearly against it. The New York Times reported this afternoon:

Mr. Trump has never shied from defending himself, but it was unlikely that his lawyers would allow him to go on record in a case they already believe is headed for acquittal. Earlier on Thursday, an adviser to Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, said "no" when asked if the former president planned to testify. "I do not expect the 45th president to be in Washington next week," Mr. Miller told Newsmax — but he boasted that he thought Mr. Trump could "knock it out in about 15 minutes" if he did.

Given everything we know about the former president, it's a safe bet that Trump would want to participate in such a Q&A -- in part because it would generate fresh attention for himself, and in part because he's convinced of his own misguided ability to talk his way out of any problem.

But the Republican's lawyers know better. Let's not forget that Trump said he was eager to answer former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's questions under oath during the investigation into the Russia scandal, but his defense team forbade it -- because they were painfully aware of the likelihood that Trump, who lies reflexively about matters large and small, would perjure himself.

If Trump insisted on accepting Raskin's invitation, the former president would probably be in the market for new lawyers -- again.

Update: One of Trump's lawyers, as expected, wrote back to Raskin today, dismissing the invitation as a public-relations "stunt."

I won't pretend to know what might happen next, but it's worth noting that Raskin's original request to Team Trump included this sentence: "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."