Impeachment trial: Will Trump refuse to testify under oath before the Senate? Today’s update – CNET

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial in the Senate.


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Donald Trump has been asked to testify under oath before the Senate during his second impeachment trial next week. After the former president this week denied “many factual allegations” in the article of impeachment, Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment trial managers, sent a letter Thursday asking Trump to provide testimony and submit to cross-examination between Feb. 8 and Feb. 11 — but Trump’s legal team quickly labelled the request a “public relations stunt.”

Trump’s response to the article of impeachment earlier this week argued the Senate does not have the jurisdiction to decide an impeachment trial, as Trump is no longer president. The response also “denied that President Trump incited the crowd to engage in destructive behavior” and “denied that the phrase ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore’ had anything to do with the action at the Capitol.”

“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,” Raskin’s letter said. A refusal to testify will be taken by the Democrats as “strong adverse inference” about Trump’s actions and inaction on Jan. 6. 

“There is no such thing as a negative inference in this unconstitutional proceeding,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in response, making it highly unlikely Trump will agree to give testimony.

Trump is expected to stand trial beginning Feb. 9, where he faces a single impeachment article for incitement of insurrection, regarding his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol. To convict Trump, 17 Republicans would need to vote in favor. Just five voted with Senate Democrats against last week’s motion to declare the trial unconstitutional.

More than 350 congressional staffers on Wednesday implored the Senate to convict Trump, describing the traumatic events that unfolded within the Capitol on Jan. 6 and saying Trump “broke America’s 230-year legacy of the peaceful transition of power when he incited a mob to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes.”

The House Democrats impeachment managers laid out their case to the Senate Tuesday, arguing the trial must go ahead “to protect our democracy and national security, and deter any future president” from provoking violence. President Joe Biden joined the calls to move the trial forward, saying doing otherwise would “make a mockery of the system.”

“He was impeached by the House and it has to move forward, otherwise it would come off as farcical what this was all about,” Biden said. “I don’t know what is likely to happen … it’s probably not likely that you get 17 Republicans to change their view and convict on impeachment.”

The siege of the Capitol building sought to overturn the 2020 election results and halt the process of confirming Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Biden was confirmed after the riot and later inaugurated on Jan. 20. In a historic moment, 10 House Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of impeachment.

Dramatic pretrial events have seen Trump name a new legal team over the weekend; a vote by Republican senators to have the trial declared “unconstitutional”; and the presiding officer for the trial, Sen. Patrick Leahy, 80, briefly hospitalized for several hours last week after unspecified “tests.” While Leahy is set to carry out his duties, the hospitalization, along with these other events, underscore the unusual nature of Trump’s impeachment trial — both in terms of the timing and against the broader backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll explain what we know about how the impeachment trial could progress, what it takes to convict or acquit, what’s at stake and where the situation stands now. This story continues to be updated with new information.

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Current schedule of Trump’s impeachment trial

The trial is scheduled to unfold as follows:

  • Jan. 25: Article of impeachment was presented to Senate
  • Jan. 26: Senators were sworn in, summons for Trump issued
  • Feb. 2: Trump’s answer to article of impeachment due
  • Feb. 8: Trump’s pretrial brief due
  • Feb. 9: House’s pretrial rebuttal brief due; trial begins

What would happen if Trump is convicted, or acquitted

If the former president is convicted in the Senate, there will be an additional vote to bar him from running again (per the US Constitution Article 1, Section 3), which would prevent a possible presidential run in 2024. This vote would only require a simple majority, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if required.

Trump could also be disqualified from the benefits given to former presidents by the Post Presidents Act, including a Secret Service security detail, pension and yearly travel allowance.

According to the US Constitution, impeached presidents also can’t be pardoned.

If acquitted, Trump would have access to all the benefits of a former US president, including the option to run for public office.

What could happen during Trump’s impeachment trial?

The US Constitution lays out clear guidelines for impeaching a sitting president and other officers for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Trump’s trial is an unusual case, however. With his second impeachment, Trump, who as of Jan. 20 is a private citizen, is the first president to be impeached twice and the first to be tried after leaving office.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice would normally preside over the impeachment trial of a president. But because it’s not a trial of a sitting president, it will instead be presided over by Leahy, the new Senate President Pro Tempore, who as a senator is also still expected to be able to vote in the trial, too.

The House will prosecute the case, and the Senate will sit as jury and ultimately vote to convict or acquit. 

To convict Trump, 67 senators — or two-thirds of the Senate — must vote in favor. Following Biden’s inauguration, the Senate is now made up of 48 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans, for an even 50-50 split.

Why was Trump impeached in 2019?

Trump was impeached in December 2019 by the House, but the Republican-majority Senate acquitted him at the beginning of 2020.

His first impeachment involved articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The issue was Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, including a July 2019 phone call in which he appeared to be using US military aid as a bargaining chip to pressure Ukraine into investigating alleged ties between his political opponent Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and a Ukrainian gas company. The articles also charged Trump with interfering with a House inquiry into the Ukraine matter.