Naturally I can’t find the links now, but I remember reading at least two news reports over the past month alleging that Trump wanted to plead his case on impeachment before Congress. One claimed that he considered heading to the House floor on the day of the impeachment vote before being dissuaded, an historic tragedy given the spectacle that would have resulted. Imagine him bursting through the wall like Kool-Aid Man as Pelosi was reading the article of impeachment, shouting, “Rigged election!”
The other story was more recent, claiming that he wanted to testify at his Senate trial but had once again been talked out of it by his lawyers. But … has he really been talked out of it? His defense is in flux, after all. His original lawyers flew the coop, supposedly because they wouldn’t accede to his demands to present a defense based on election fraud. His new lawyers have also ruled out vote-rigging as an element of their case, which must be intensely frustrating for Trump. They’re going to give him one last big platform in front of the cameras to have his surrogates rant insanely about the election having been stolen — and none of his attorneys intend to seize the opportunity?
House Dems know a soft target when they see one. With just a little goading, they might be able to bait him into throwing caution to the wind and testifying before the Senate in person. The drama, the spectacle, the promise of tens of millions of viewers, and the chance to once again ventilate his darkest theories about how the presidency was stolen from him must be almost irresistible to a narcissist of his degree. In the end I think his lawyers will succeed in convincing him not to do it but he’s gotta be tempted to have his very own Col. Jessup moment in front of the Senate. Especially knowing they’re a bunch of craven wimps who’ll vote to acquit even if he admits to everything.
From the letter sent to him today by lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin:
I feel like the threat about drawing an adverse inference of guilt isn’t much of a threat when like 98 out of 100 votes on Trump’s guilt are foreordained by partisanship.
A few days ago Tim Miller encouraged Democrats to do exactly what they’re doing today: Dare Trump to testify.
1) The fact pattern around Trump’s attempt to overthrow our democracy is long and damning and anytime Republicans are asked about it they like to elide the details, pretending they weren’t really on board for the particulars. But Trump was serious and literal about the coup, then and now. This tension makes things awkward for Republicans.
2) Most Senate Republicans aren’t in a position to disavow Trump’s stolen election lies because their voters think that they are eternal truths provided to them by the Mango Moroni on gold lamé tablets. They want their representatives to Fight for Trump, not nitpick his narrative.
And thus the best way to force the impeachment conversation to be about Trump’s actions and lies—and congressional Republicans’ complicity in them—is to demand he testify at the scene of the crime.
Imagine him suddenly getting to be the star again of the reality show we call American politics. “Trial of the century!” the media would say. “Trump testimony a drama unlike any other,” the press would crow. It’d be the greatest moment of his life.
And I wonder if the Dems are fully prepared for his testimony. To argue effectively with a conspiracy theorist, you need to know the ins and outs of their theories. Someone who spends hours obsessing about anecdotal reports of hacked voting machines or whatever can present a superficially compelling case to an uninformed viewer. If they call Trump to the stand and give him a forum to repeat allegations about specific instances of supposed vote-rigging, they’re going to have to call witnesses afterward to debunk those claims. Suddenly the trial would begin to grow longer and start spinning away from the core question of his role in the insurrection. Are they prepared for that?
And even if Dems stayed away from conspiracy stuff in their questioning, Trump would insist that his own lawyers ask him about it in their examination. What other reason would he have to testify except to articulate his core conviction that he was robbed?
Sounds like he’s so starved for human contact with his former political foes that he might show up just to try out some of the putdowns he no longer gets to air publicly:
But due to Twitter’s banning of the @realDonaldTrump account following the Capitol riot that Trump instigated, he has not been able to personally trash Cheney via his once widely read tweets. He has written out insults and observations, several of them about Cheney, but with no ability to tweet them himself, he has resorted to suggesting put-downs for others to use or post to their own Twitter, according to a person with direct knowledge of this new habit.
How else is he going to get his licks in against “Lousy Liz” if he doesn’t seize the opportunity to testify?
It can’t be stressed enough: He’s going to be acquitted no matter what. There’s zero risk that he’ll say anything on the stand that will lead the Senate to convict and disqualify him from future office. The risk would be that he says something so damaging about his intentions at the rally on the morning of January 6 that Biden’s DOJ might feel obliged to start looking at him for criminal incitement. But that’s unlikely. Incitement cases are hard to prove and the DOJ wouldn’t want to try an ex-president unless it had a slam-dunk case. And even Trump wouldn’t be so careless as to admit to any violent designs, knowing that that would be a key prong of a criminal case against him. On the contrary, he’d point to the videos he recorded after the attack discouraging his fans from violence. “How can I have supported the insurrection if I was telling them afterward to act peacefully?” he’ll say. The truth is that he’s at very little risk legally from testifying. So why doesn’t he do it? It’ll be an amazing exhibit for the “Only President To Be Impeached Twice” exhibit in the Trump Presidential Library.
Update: Total bummer.
Trump adviser Jason Miller says he won’t testify in the Senate impeachment trial. In a letter to Raskin, Trump’s lawyers called the invitation a “public relations stunt.” pic.twitter.com/3hBJPQS5h2
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) February 4, 2021
— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) February 4, 2021