Trump, Truman, Testimony, and the Truth

Can — and should — Congress force an ex-president to testify?

George Dillard


Harry Truman in 1951 (public domain)

On November 14, Donald Trump is scheduled to appear before Congress to testify about his actions on and around the January 6th insurrection.

“Scheduled” is the operative word here, because Trump almost certainly won’t obey the subpoena. Yes, he’s made noises about appearing. Credulous articles in the media have contained sentences like this:

The former president has indicated privately to aides that he would be willing to testify to the House panel, but only if he could do so live, according to a person close to him.

But all of us, including the reporters who wrote this story in the New York Times, know this is almost certainly false. We have all learned the Trump playbook by now (it’s only a few pages long, after all). Trump will, either himself or through anonymous sources, vaguely dangle the idea that he might testify if only the committee will agree to X or Y. He’ll say this because he knows the media will feel like they have to report his lies, and the lies will make it look like he’s a reasonable actor, willing to cooperate.

But Trump has no intention of appearing under oath because that would result in him having to submit to questioning by people he reviles, and he…