It may well be that President Trump wasn’t serious Monday when he tweeted, “I like the idea” in response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that he testify in the House impeachment inquiry, which he described as the “phony Impeachment Witch Hunt.” Even if he meant what he said, the idea is likely to be opposed by his lawyers.
But we can’t help but hope that it will happen, and that House Democrats will help make it possible. It could take place either in the current phase of the impeachment inquiry presided over by Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, or in subsequent proceedings before the House Judiciary Committee.
So far investigators have heard testimony that builds a powerful, if not yet conclusive, case that there was a corrupt connection between a delay of military aid for Ukraine and Trump’s desire for investigations by Ukraine that would benefit him politically, including a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to again hear, this time in open session, from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland probably will be asked about testimony by a U.S. diplomat who says he overheard a July 26 telephone call in which Trump asked Sondland if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “gonna do the investigation” — an apparent reference to the investigation of Biden that Trump had suggested the day before in his now famous telephone call with Zelensky.
If Trump wants to contest testimony by Sondland or any other witness about his words or actions, he should be willing to answer questions under oath from the House investigators. While he’s at it, he should drop the White House’s opposition to testimony of important witnesses such as acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton. The president’s unwillingness to allow testimony from the senior aides who repeatedly discussed Ukraine with him obstructs the impeachment investigation and makes the whole country wonder what exactly he’s got to hide.
In recommending that Trump answer questions about his actions, we acknowledge that his testimony might be neither decisive nor particularly credible. It’s also notable that in written answers to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, he repeatedly said he had no recollection of potentially important events or conversations.
Still, in an inquiry that is necessarily focused on his words and actions, Trump owes the House his account. If he fails to tell his side of the story, he and his defenders can’t credibly argue that the process is unfair.