Will Trump Testify?

[ Posted Thursday, July 1st, 2021 – 15:42 UTC ]

There's a lot of news in the legal world today, so even asking the question: "Will Trump testify?" needs further specification. I am not asking whether Donald Trump will testify in the upcoming case against his namesake Trump Organization and its top financial officer, because it's pretty obvious he would never take the stand in a case like that. Instead, what I'm wondering is whether the still-forming House 1/6 select committee will try to subpoena Trump -- and if they do, whether he'd actually appear or (as is more usual for him) fight it to the bloody end in the courts.

I think the odds are heavily on Trump fighting it, since it really is almost a knee-jerk reaction from him for any sort of legal trouble. Trump is the master of slowing the justice system down to a glacial pace -- he's been doing so with some degree of success or another for decades. So why should this be any different? I also think the chances are better than not that the committee tries to talk to everyone else around Trump, but never actually comes out and subpoenas Trump.

The risk inherent in trying to get Trump on the public record is that he might be eager to do so. And Trump doesn't operate under normal rules, so it's not so much a question of whether they can nail Trump in some legal way or another, but rather who wins the debate in the court of public opinion. Which Trump always has the chance of doing. I personally doubt it, but Trump knows television and its impact much better than I do, so who knows?

I say this mostly because it was reported at the time that Trump was seriously considering making a surprise appearance at his own impeachment trial in the Senate (the second one, from earlier this year). He was disappointed in his legal team and he thought he could fight off the accusations better, so he reportedly considered being the star witness at his own trial. Saner legal minds apparently talked him out of it, in the end.

But with the threat of impeachment off the table, and with the investigation not directly pointed at him, Trump might be even more amenable to getting his side of the story out in the way he felt it should be presented. Or, to put it another way, he might not be able to resist the urge to grandstand for the cameras, since he knows damn well the hearing would be carried live by just about every television network in the country. The way Trump sees it, at least part of the time he would have Republicans lob softball questions at him, and they'd just allow him to ramble on about whatever he felt like, unchallenged. He would indeed get to have his say, in other words, no matter how rambling or incoherent it might be.

Trump might also enjoy verbally sparring with the Democrats on the committee. Please remember, Trump follows no rules of decorum known to mankind. He would not stop speaking when he was supposed to, he would talk all over Democratic questioners, he would ignore the chair's gavel, and about the only way to shut him up would be to turn off his microphone. Even that might not work -- he might just keep yelling and hope the television microphones picked it up.

Anyone who doubts this should go back and watch any random 10 minutes from his first debate last year with Joe Biden. That was just in a political debate -- think how disrespectful he'd be in a partisan House committee hearing!

The way Trump thinks, he'd be "fighting back" and disrespecting liberal lefties, which his base has always loved about him. He'd probably be figuring out which clips would play best in his upcoming political ads, while sitting there screaming his head off at some geeky Democrat trying to silence him. So it'd definitely be a lively time, that's for sure. It'd be the made-for-television House committee hearing of all time, in fact. The ratings would surely go through the roof, and that's how Trump measures success in this realm.

Democrats would have to try to cut through the hurricane-force winds of hot air and hoopla emanating from Trump, in order to pin him down on exactly how complicit he was in the January 6th insurrection. And when it comes to getting his story straight, Trump doesn't do well in normal circumstances -- he lies and then immediately contradicts those lies with other lies, all without batting an eyelid. So tripping him up wouldn't be much of a challenge, really. Getting under his skin would be more amusing -- goading Trump into one of his epic temper tantrums would certainly be an interesting spectacle to watch, and might reveal all sorts of interesting things (when Trump's angry, he pays even less attention to what he's saying). There would even be a chance that Trump stands up and flees the room at some point, if he gets too hot under the collar.

Trump would be betting that no matter what he says, no matter what he actually admits, that the Justice Department is just never going to attempt to prosecute him for any of it. He might be right about that, too. Trying to convict a former president who is still very much in the running to get the Republican presidential nomination next time around would be an overtly political act, no matter the actual wrongdoing involved. Democrats would say: "No man is above the law," while Republicans scorned the effort as a partisan witch-hunt and compared the Biden administration to China or Iran or Russia, where political opponents are just not allowed to run for office.

Which is why Trump might feel like testifying, no matter what his lawyers tell him. He knows he'd at least have a shot of winning the battle for public opinion (although I personally doubt he'd have as good a shot as he thinks). So it is at least conceivable.

But, like I said, I think it far more likely that the Democrats on the committee will take a pass on trying to get Trump to testify. They can easily build a case against him even without watching him try to stumble through his answers to direct questions. When the truth comes out, it's going to be pretty obvious what Trump's role in everything was, that's my guess at this early date, at any rate. And even if they did decide to subpoena Trump, I think that would just grind everything to a halt, possibly forever. Trump will challenge the subpoenas in court, he will appeal any ruling he doesn't like, and he will take it to the Supreme Court where his own three hand-picked justices sit. And throughout this entire process, his lawyers will be stalling and gumming up the works with a passion. Months-long delays will be followed by months-long delays. One tiny facet of the case will be objected to and appealed and then perhaps ruled on by the Supreme Court, and the process will start all over again, as Trump's legal mouthpieces then challenge the next tiny little legal piece of it. They'll do this for as long as it takes -- they are professionals at doing so, if they work for Donald Trump. The entire subpoena appeal will drag on for years and then eventually an election will roll around which might just end the investigation entirely. If Trump was subpoenaed and was forced to testify after exhausting all appeals, my best guess is we'd get to see him answer questions somewhere around 2028 or 2029. If he's even still alive, at that point.

Democrats are fully aware of this. Which is why, in the end, although it is indeed fun to contemplate (for the sheer entertainment value alone), I would put my money on the select committee just not even bothering to make the attempt at getting Trump's testimony. The whole thing is already going to be a three-ring circus, and it's already going to have enough clowns as it is. Adding one more -- and one that would take forever to even get into the center ring -- would probably just not be worth the effort, in the end.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


25 Comments on “Will Trump Testify?”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I agree that it's in the committee's best interests to ignore Trump and not seek his testimony. And as the incriminating testimony of others rolls in, and Trump looks worse and worse (I'm assuming this will happen), he and his side may start to demand that he be allowed to tell his side. In such a case, there would not be the problem of running out the subpoenas. Imagine: Trump demanding his day in court! Eager to appear. Insisting he must appear.

    But the Dems should hold out, and still refuse. The committee should wrap up its case, with the pro-Trump case covered by the testimony of his allies and associates.

    And the reason they must give for not summoning the former president to testify? Simple.

    "The former president's word cannot be relied on for truth, even under oath. This man lies like a rug, as has been documented beyond debate over the four years of his administration. It would be a waste of the committee's time, and the American people's money, to invite him to lie hour after hour on national television. No purpose of fact-finding or intention would be served by his appearance."

    All the protests and shrieks of outrage would be hilarious, especially if the media joined in and pretended they didn't understand what the committee was talking about. And no matter what the pressure, the Dems should hold out both in its position and its reasoning. As you point out here, to allow him a seat and a mike and a camera is a losing game for them, for all of us, for the truth, and for the memory of our day of national dishonor on January 6.

  2. [2] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    . . . not to mention the fact that I loathe hearing his loathsome voice.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Won't this select committee be just political theatre and won't it, in the end, just be a joke and worse?

    If Democrats are concerned about democracy, then there are a million and one things they should be doing now instead of this complete waste of time.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In other words, will this select committee win more House and Senate seats for Democrats?

  5. [5] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Let Trump try to lie if he gets to testify before this commission. I am sure whoever is chairing the hearing that day will simply find Trump in contempt of Congress and call for the House’s Sergeant at Arms to take Trump into custody. He will commit perjury…of that we can rest assured!

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, yeah? I think you are all living in dreamland when it comes to Trump.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    As the Dems obsession over bringing Trump down continues, they will lose both the House and Senate.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    good point liz. i don't know if that's the actual outcome, but the extent to which one is true will probably determine the extent to which the other is true also.

  9. [9] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    If the House Democrats are smart, they won't make Trump the primary focus of the 1/6 investigation. A better plan would be to focus on the horror of the day and spotlight the numerous other Republican politicians who played a role in the insurrection, either through direct words and actions or through enabling the others. Trump's role was significant and horrible, but it's nothing anyone really didn't expect. The people knew what they were getting with Trump, they knew this was a likely outcome, and indeed, many of them wanted it. Trying to pin everything on Trump isn't going to change anyone's mind, because everyone already knows Trump was responsible.

    The problem is that most of Trump's supporters think he was right to do it, and that's what needs to change. Rather than focusing on Trump's role in the insurrection, go after the lies that other Republicans either spread or refused to contest that convinced people to support Trump's push for insurrection. That might actually have a chance at changing minds, and could help the Democrats in upcoming elections. If you can convince people that they were lied to by other Republican politicians, they may refuse to vote for them in the next election.

    Rather than trying to pin everything on the man who is currently out of office and has a cult following, go after the politicians who are still in office and have voters who can be swayed. Trump's base may never desert him, but the same can't be said of most other Republican politicians. And perhaps most importantly, it will allow the Democrats to at least partially avoid the accusations of "Trump Derangement Syndrome".

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, Don, what did you think of my [7]? :)

  11. [11] 
    Alin wrote:

    John [1] Agree - don't have Trump - for the reasons you state - and also ...
    Liz - I hear you, but, this isn't really about Trump. Yes, he recklessly egged them on, and Yes, he would have accepted it if the steal had worked. But I don't believe he was some kind of mastermind or puppeteer. He doesn't have the capacity IMHO.
    So ... forget Trump. These things happened - was there a conspiracy or did a bunch of yahoos get out of control? If there was orchestration, who was part of it? At the very least getting an official record of the day's events into the record seems pretty important given the Repubs current attempt to sweep the whole thing into the memory hole.

  12. [12] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:
  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    that's just absolutely brilliant!


  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You misunderstand. I have left Trump a long, long time ago. Unfortunately, most of your countrymen have not.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    left him behind, you understand :)

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    To be clear, Alin, I think the Dems are completely wasting their time on this so-called select committee. Time to move on!

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    with respect, liz - i strongly disagree about it being a waste of time. if the focus remains on the domestic terrorists who directly engaged in the attack (rather than the demagogue who inspired it), the committee could bring to light a whole world of crime that law enforcement hasn't had the ability (or perhaps not the desire, or perhaps just not the willpower) to address. making all of this part of the public record could empower citizens who don't want neo-nazis, klan, oath keepers, proud boys, and all those other domestic terrorists in their neighborhood. it could also help root out those groups' influence in local government and law enforcement.


  18. [18] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    I agree that this committee is an important element in our country's response to the attack. As nypoet says, law enforcement has its hands full just trying to catch and prosecute the rebels. Some official body with investigative power needs to find out just how pre-organized the group, or groups within the group, were - and by whom they were organized. People don't bring zip-ties and nooses to the party when their intention is just to observe and cheer on their own side during a congressional session.

    Secondly is the question of the weak preparation and ineffective initial responses to the attack. How many security agencies, starting with the FBI and Capitol Police and ending with the DC Police and the Pentagon, were hesitant to take the warnings seriously, or to prepare a defense and response of adequate force, because they perceived that doing so would anger the president, the Republican Congressional leadership, and the conservative media? How many were hesitant because they agreed with the agenda and mission of the attackers, at least at first if not after the full extent of the violence was clear?

    No one is going to get answers to these questions easily, and they are not going to answer themselves. But we the people need the answers and any other information that a good investigation may uncover, in order to support our constitutional republic and protect it from the next wave of such attacks, say in early 2025.

    This isn't just about Trump, and it's nowhere near time to "just move on" - as the Republican Party so desperately wants us to do.

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Guess I've just seen way too many of these circus-like select committee hearings to hold out much hope that it will proceed the way you imagine it might. And, this one has got a whole lot more working against it than any I have ever witnessed.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John M,

    It's time to move on to strategizing how to win seats in 2022, not lose them.

    It seems Dems don't have the ability to do that, though ... so, good luck to y'all.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What will Biden and the Dems do if they lose the House and Senate in 2022?

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, it looks like another liberal justice wishes to remain on the high court, no matter what. The notorious RBG, I suppose, was not lesson enough???

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Situation: Hopeless.

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John M,

    You say it's not about Trump and you are absolutely right.

    It's about half the American population that believes Trump is still president. How does a partisan select committee make that situation better?

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    John M,

    But we the people need the answers and any other information that a good investigation may uncover, in order to support our constitutional republic and protect it from the next wave of such attacks, say in early 2025.

    I think what we the people need to concentrate on between now and the midterms is how to get more voters registered and do an end run around Republican efforts to suppress the vote.

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