Jamie Raskin is playing impeachment chess while Donald Trump plays checkers
The House Impeachment Managers have invited former President Donald John Trump to testify at his Senate impeachment trial. This could conceivably take place as early as Monday. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig commented to CNN, “No reasonable attorney would allow their client to do that. If he was my client I would tackle him before I allow him to go into the well of the Senate, take an oath and testify.”
The key words there are ‘reasonable attorney’ and ‘take an oath.’ Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) is leading the House Managers and knows two things. First, the question as to whether Trump has has reasonable attorneys is open to debate. The second and more important point is the prospect of Donald Trump answering questions real time while under oath. If he tells the truth, he’s in trouble. If he lies under oath, he’s in bigger trouble.
Rep. Raskin no doubt factored in those outcomes when he made the invitation to testify. But he also recognized that legal intricacies are not the only considerations here. He knows Donald Trump never met a speaking opportunity he didn’t covet. Trump will want to tell his story, believing he is so convincing an orator. He will also crave yet another chance to reinforce his “stolen election“ mantra. That would put GOP Senators on the hot seat by changing their defense from “unconstitutional procedure” to having to vote on “whether he did or did not incite sedition.” If Trump declines the invitation, Rep. Raskin might also then subpoena him. Rejecting the opportunity to appear is, of course, grounds to make an inference of guilt.
And so Mr. Raskin’s chess moves force Team Trump to make decisions which will amount to merely playing checkers. Trump’s team announced this evening that he won’t testify. We’ll see if that changes.