I was just reading the editorial Trump Should Be Removed from Office in Christianity Today, and I was struck by this quote (emphasis mine):

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

However, my reading of the situation was that the Trump White House stonewalled the impeachment proceedings, for example, this New York Times article, Trump's Lawyers Won't Participate in Impeachment Hearing:

Lawyers for President Trump said on Sunday that they would not participate in the House Judiciary Committee’s first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday, airing a long list of complaints that they said prevented “any semblance of a fair process.”

What is the justification for the claim that Trump didn't have an opportunity to offer his side of the story when he ordered aides to defy subpoenas and didn't have his lawyers participate when invited?

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    4 people voted to close this question because it "promotes or discredits a political cause". I don't see how this question does that. Could one of the people who voted to close please tell us why they decided to do so and how the question could be rephrased to fix those issues?
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 9:39
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    @Philipp: I'd say the question is primarily opinion based... The Republicans seem to hold the opinion that the House process was stacked against Trump, e.g. they could not call the whistleblower to testify and so forth... so by their (R) assessment Trump didn't have a serious opportunity to present his case... (See also a R claim that "Jesus had more rights".) Since the question doesn't clearly ask for details on a particular viewpoint but asks the answers to decide which is right, I'm voting to close a primarily opinion based. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 11:36
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    @Fizz (corrected) the question is asking for justified, evidence-based facts, not opinions. There may be a disagreement on what those facts are, but that's not a reason to pretend that facts don't exist. Instead of voting to close, you could expand your comment into an answer.
    – Foo Bar
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 11:45
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    Partisans are undermining the usefulness of this site by VTC questions that seem to counter their preferred political narrative. The OP asks a question that can simply be answered with a YES or NO, what the VTCers are objecting to is the answer that explains that YES or NO.
    – BobE
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 14:32
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    As one of the ones VTC, the "Serious" part is too partisan to lead to useful answers, resulting in a partisan vote fest, rebuttals in comments followed by repeated comment wipes. Nothing good comes from that. That's why I VTC. (And given the current answers, I stand by that VTC)
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 18:31

5 Answers 5


Absolutely Not – the White House had ample opportunities to present a defense

The House Judiciary Committee gave The White House the opportunity to present a public defense from either Trump or his lawyers:

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee asked President Trump on Friday whether he intends to mount a defense during the committee’s consideration of impeachment articles, setting a deadline of next Friday for Mr. Trump and his lawyers to decide if they will present evidence or call witnesses.

In a letter to the president, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the committee chairman, said Mr. Trump has the right to review the evidence against him, ask questions of his accusers during public hearings that begin next week and present evidence and request witness testimony.

“Please provide the committee with notice of whether your counsel intends to participate, specifying which of the privileges your counsel seeks to exercise,” Mr. Nadler wrote.

House Judiciary Panel Asks Trump if He Will Present Impeachment Defense

However, Trump turned them down, calling the whole process "unfair":

Calling the impeachment proceedings “completely baseless”, the White House on Friday dismissed a Democratic invitation for Donald Trump to participate in hearings in the House of Representatives, which the president has framed as a partisan escapade.

In a letter addressed to the House judiciary committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, gave no indication that Trump planned to send a lawyer to represent him or attempt to call witnesses.

Trump’s non-participation is unprecedented. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the two presidents to face impeachment proceedings in the 20th century, both deployed lawyers and submitted testimony and documents in their defense.

White House dismisses invitation to take part in key impeachment hearing

The White House also took pains to block testimony by the people who had the most information about his alleged crimes.

Central to Trump's defense is the claim that the evidence against him is "second-hand" or "hearsay", yet the White House officials who could have pointed out errors in this evidence were blocked from testifying by the White House:

The former national security adviser [John Bolton] refused to appear for his scheduled deposition Thursday morning, a House Intelligence Committee official said, and his lawyer informed the panel that Bolton would take the House to court if he is subpoenaed. ...

“We regret Mr. Bolton’s decision not to appear voluntarily, but we have no interest in allowing the administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months,” the official said. “Rather, the White House instruction that he not appear will add to the evidence of the president’s obstruction of Congress.” ...

The White House has claimed that current and former top presidential advisers, like McGahn and Kupperman, are “absolutely immune” from congressional testimony, and White House lawyers have stepped in to prevent senior officials from complying with requests and subpoenas seeking their testimony. Several of those current and former officials have defied those orders and testified anyway.

Bolton is not alone in abiding by the White House’s directives. Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, will also not appear for his scheduled deposition on Friday, according to an administration official. ...

Impeachment investigators pressing forward without John Bolton

Bolton, Mulvaney, and other officials who were blocked from testifying by the White House were intimately involved in these events, and would have been ideal witnesses in Trump's defense if they had any information that could exonerate him:

Bolton and Mulvaney have intimate knowledge of efforts by Trump and his associates to pressure Ukraine to launch public investigations into the president’s political rivals, as well as the decision to withhold critical military aid to Ukraine. Impeachment investigators are examining whether the hold on military aid — in addition to refusing to arrange a White House meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s president — were tied to the investigations sought by Trump. Already, several witnesses have testified that they believed the issues were linked.

Impeachment investigators pressing forward without John Bolton


Whether Trump had a serious* opportunity to present "his side of the story" or whether he had the opportunity but refused to use it (by e.g. ordering subpoenaed officials not to testify), is going to be a matter of opinion. What is, I think, an unarguable fact is that under the Constitution and past practice there is no requirement that he be given one, and quite a bit of legal precedent that says he (or any person in the process of being impeached) shouldn't have such an opportunity YET.

The impeachment process is analogous to a criminal prosecution. When the police are investigating a possible crime, or the district attorney is deciding whether to bring charges, suspects don't necessarily get to weigh in. They can be questioned, of course, have lawyers, and refuse to answer questions, but they don't get to question other witnesses &c. It's only in the actual trial that the accused person has a right to bring in their own evidence, question witnesses, and so on.

Now (or whenever the Senate trial begins) is when Trump very properly should have the opportunity to call his own witnesses & present arguments.

*Edit: Meant to say "serious opportunity" as in the question title, rather than just opportunity. Thus it's a matter of opinion whether the opportunities were "serious" or not.

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    Either Trump had or did not have "an opportunity" to have his side of the "story" be told, so I dispute your assertion that it is a matter of opinion. However, whether he OUGHT to have been given that opportunity, you have made a reasonable argument. OTOH, the police, during the investigation stage of suspected wrongdoing, do offer an opportunity for alibi witnesses to come forward. However, in the investigation stage, the police can't compel that testimony.
    – BobE
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 15:28
  • @BobE: if we are using the criminal investigation analogy, should not the police be, e.g. Muller and his team of investigators, with the House being a Grand Jury?
    – sharur
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 7:23
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    I’m not sure what your point is, but keep in mind that mueller were only authorized to investigate the possibility of 2016 election conspiracy
    – BobE
    Commented Dec 23, 2019 at 12:55
  • @sharur: Do people being investigated by a grand jury have any particular right to call witnesses &c? Just from casual observation, it seems that a grand jury indictment can sometimes come as a complete surprise to the people indicted.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Dec 24, 2019 at 17:37

This didn't happen in a vacuum. The inquiry had gone on for weeks already at that point, and the Democrats had shown to disregard the Republican's requests at many opportunities.

As several Republican committee members wrote to Chairman Schiff on November 9th:

Speaker Pelosi promised the "impeachment inquiry" would "treat the President with fairness." You have failed to honor the Speaker's promise. During the Committee's last open hearing, you fabricated evidence out of thin air to portray President Trump's telephone conversation with President Zelensky in a sinister light. During your closed-door proceedings, you offered no due process protections for the President. You directed witnesses called by the Democrats not to answer Republican questions. You withheld deposition transcripts from Republican Members. You selectively leaked cherry-picked information to pain misleading public narratives about the facts. You misled the American people about your interactions with the anonymous whistleblower, earning you "Four Pinocchios" from the Washington Post. Your actions have greatly damaged the integrity of the Intelligence Committee and any legitimacy of your "impeachment inquiry."

The letter also names several witnesses the Republicans want to hear in an open setting, including Hunter Biden, Alexandra Chalupa, and the whistleblower. Those were all denied by the Democrats.

We expect that you will call each of the witnesses listed above to ensure the Democrats' "impeachment inquiry" treats the President with fairness, as promised by Speaker Pelosi. [..] Your failure to fulfill Minority witness requests shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process.

Given this history of disregard for the Republican's wishes, there was no basis of trust that the President would be treated fairly during the House' hearings.

In the President's own words:

More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.

The President has indicated he will be present during the Senate trials.

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    It’s probably true that there was a lack of trust here, but it’s hard to take this argument as a good faith one (I’m taking about the Republican’s argument, not yours). The rejected witnesses were either unrelated to defending Trump’s conduct (like Hunter Biden) or protected by anonymity (like the whistleblower). Relevant Republican witnesses, like Morrison, Volker, and Hale were all allowed to testify. And it’s a bit disingenuous to complain about a lack of due process and then, when offered it, reject it because you didn’t have it before.
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 20:54
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    I mean, sure, it’s partisan in that Democrats and Republicans disagree on it. But do you honestly believe that Hunter Biden and Alexandra Chalupa, for example, were good-faith witnesses and not attempts to make unrelated political attacks?
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 21:14
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    @Sjoerd: in what way is Hunter Biden able to testify on Trump's conduct, for example, if he didn't witness it? Trump is the one on trial now. The DOJ can deal with Hunter Biden, IF they can find evidence.
    – nomen
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 22:19
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    Was he standing in the room with Trump? Was he involved in negotiating with Ukraine? Was he involved with the Ukrainian prosecutor? Ask the Ukrainian prosecutor why they didn't prosecute, if you want to know why they didn't prosecute. Hunter Biden will have NO ANSWER to that question. By the way, Ukraine already had investigated him and DID NOT PROSECUTE.
    – nomen
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 22:53
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    This is a terrible answer that literally only repeats what Republican politicians say about the process as if it was fact. Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 3:11

There are no provisions for a president to defend himself

From Five Thirty Eight:

It’s easy to see a presidential impeachment as something akin to a criminal prosecution — evidence is marshaled, a trial is held, and the president’s fate hangs in the balance. But impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. As a result, it has entirely different rules that make certain protections that are reserved for criminal defendants — like due process — irrelevant. “As a matter of law, a president has essentially no claim to any kind of participation in the impeachment process,” said Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri and the author of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump.”

The fact that the process may or may not have been "unfair" has no bearing on the process itself. The House has sole discretion to investigate and craft articles, the Senate has sole power to convict.

That's it.

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    That covers what is required by the constitution. It does not cover the actual opportunities made available in practice during the proceedings. Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 17:04

The president was barred from calling witnesses, asking certain questions, and presenting evidence.

The fact that he told his lawyers not to participate is irrelevant.

The answer is no he was unable to present his side of the story in the house impeachment proceedings.

Calling and questioning of witnesses

(j)(1) Whenever a hearing is conducted by a committee on a measure or matter, the minority members of the committee shall be entitled, upon request to the chair by a majority of them before the completion of the hearing, to call witnesses selected by the minority to testify with respect to that measure or matter during at least one day of hearing thereon.

Trump and the Republicans were continuously denied this.

H.R. 660 which outlines the committee procedures to be used in impeachment hearings. Vital for this purpose, section 4(c)(1) of the resolution states that the ranking member of the committee is authorized to choose witnesses for testimony, but with a critical caveat: the chair of the committee must concur with the ranking member’s choice. That is, without agreement from the Democratic chairman, the ranking member’s prerogative in this matter is effectively null.

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    Can you provide sources and details? Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 22:29
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    That’s false. The witnesses that the Republicans requested which were relevant, like Morrison, Volker, and Hale were all allowed to testify. A few were denied for being irrelevant to the case at hand (such as Hunter Biden who certainly knew nothing about Trump’s actions in this case) or protected by anonymity (like the whistleblower). The idea that Republicans could not call witnesses, ask questions, or present evidence is provably false.
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 0:19
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    @divibisan That most of the Republican's requests were denied, is provably true. You admit as much - whether the denial is justified or not, doesn't change the fact that they were denied.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 0:21
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    @Sjoerd Fairness is about, to use a phrase the right is fond of, equality of opportunity. All Republican witnesses that were determined to be relevant to the case were allowed to testify, those that were simply about scoring political points were blocked – the same as with the Democrats (I’m sure that many would have loved to bring up all sorts of people who could talk ill about Trump, but they didn’t). It’s key that, when these witnesses were denied, the right pivoted to generic “unfair” claims, rather than argue for why these witnesses would be useful.
    – divibisan
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 0:28
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    @Sjoerd as far as I can tell there is unlikely to be any 'show' at all in the Senate. It seems the whole thing will be called, voted and dismissed in an hour or so without calling witnesses.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 21, 2019 at 15:56

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