A former Watergate prosecutor is calling on the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to include the commander-in-chief as a witness, stating that the president doesn’t have any Fifth Amendment protections within the Constitution to prevent the Senate from compelling him to testify.
Nick Akerman, who was a former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor as well as a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote an op-ed within Newsweek demanding that Trump be called forth to testify — particularly because he’s the person with the most first-hand knowledge of what went down within the Ukraine scandal that Trump was impeached over.
“There is no dispute that the witness with the most material knowledge of the facts surrounding the alleged shakedown of Ukraine is Donald J. Trump,” Akerman wrote.
The president couldn’t do much to confuse or obfuscate the facts of the trial, Akerman maintained.
“In a trial, a cross-examined Trump could not run away from the facts as the Republicans did in the House. In a real trial, the House would, as is standard practice in traditional American jurisprudence, be able to subpoena from the executive branch relevant documents that could be used to devastate Trump’s alternative fact-based assertion of perfection,” Akerman wrote.
Akerman noted that in a normal criminal trial, a defendant cannot be compelled to testify against themselves. But impeachment, he said, wasn’t a criminal trial — “It is a civil case because the penalty is not imprisonment but removal from office,” Akerman said.
The Ukraine scandal and resulting impeachment were merely the culmination of a year of obstruction, cover ups, and disdain for the rule of law. I documented the President's four seasons of corruption and hope for accountability in 2020 in @usatodayopinion.https://t.co/aZoDa1bEBg
— Noah Bookbinder (@NoahBookbinder) December 30, 2019
“Here, Trump could refuse to testify in response to specific questions based on his 5th Amendment privilege but his refusal to do so would support the conclusion he is guilty,” much like it can in civil trials, Akerman added.
The state of the impeachment trial within the Senate is so far clouded due to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refusing to pass along articles of impeachment from the House to the upper chamber. Pelosi isn’t doing so, according to reporting from CNN, until the rules of the Senate trial are made clear, and include a fairer trial process than what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has implied will happen once the trial begins.
Early in December during a Fox News interview, McConnell implied he would be working with the White House to ensure the Senate won’t indict Trump.
“We’ll be working through this process hopefully in a fairly short period of time in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president,” McConnell said, per prior reporting from HillReporter.com.