Trump trial shown disturbing footage of lawmakers 'hunted' by Capitol mob
Democrats revealed disturbing new recordings of the mob attack on the US Capitol last month as they presented their case on Wednesday in the historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Impeachment managers for the party constructed a timeline which they said showed that the former president was “singularly responsible” for the deadly assault on the US Capitol that brought a violent mob within footsteps of the nation’s political leaders. The new footage showed just how close some lawmakers were to the violent mob who were gathered in the Capitol that day to formalize Joe Biden’s victory.
Senators, seated as jurors in the chamber that was the scene of the invasion on 6 January, silently watched and listened as the security videos and police dispatches painted a fuller picture of the afternoon.
In previously unreleased security footage, Mike Pence, the former vice-president, and his family were seen being evacuated from a room near the Senate chamber, nearly 15 minutes after rioters breached the Capitol.
Chants of “hang Mike Pence” reverberated through the marbled building, while outside other constructed a makeshift gallows. At one point, the mob came within 100ft of the room where Pence was sheltering, the managers said.
They were led away by Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman, who was seen in another extraordinary video leading Senator Mitt Romney away from the rioters, potentially saving his life. In another recording, senators are rushed from the building, narrowly missing the insurrections by just “58 steps”.
Romney, one of Trump’s biggest Republican critics, told reporters he had no idea he was so close to danger: “It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional.”
In another security video, Pelosi’s staffers rushed into her office and barricaded themselves in a room, moments before the rioters arrive. The staffers could hear them calling menacingly for the speaker as they marauded through her office. One of the men who posed for a photo of himself with his boots atop Pelosi’s desk was carrying a stun gun that could have caused serious harm if it had been used, the managers said.
“President Trump put a target on their backs,” Stacey Plaskett, an impeachment manager and a delegate of the Virgin Islands, said in closing. “And his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The House Democrats – called impeachment managers during the trial – methodically traced Trump’s months-long campaign to overturn his election defeat to argue that the former president was not an “innocent bystander” swept up in the mayhem of 6 January, but the “inciter in chief”.
The impeachment managers used their first full day of arguments to make the case that the Capitol invasion was not a random act of chaos, but one “assembled, inflamed and incited” by Trump over the course of several months.
In previously unseen security footage, they argued, Trump violated his presidential oath of office by not acting to stop the violence, claiming that he instead watched with “glee” as his supporters stormed the seat of American government. Five people died.
“Trump committed a massive crime against our constitution and our people, and the worst violation of the presidential oath of office in the history of the United States of America,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager.
Managers weaved their reconstruction of the afternoon with chilling dispatches from the Metropolitan police department. In one unreleased audio recording, an officer frantically calls for assistance after insurrectionists charged past the barricades toward the Capitol.
At 13.49, the responding officer declared the violence to be a riot. Then later, in another exchange, an officer shouts repeatedly: “We lost the line. All MPD pull back.”
Congressman Joe Neguse, another impeachment manager, dissected Trump’s speech during a 6 January rally, making the case that Trump intended to rile up supporters there to attack the Capitol as electoral votes were being counted and for his supporters to prevent Biden from being certified the winner of the presidential race.
He noted Trump publicly invited supporters to Washington on that specific day and planned the rally at the exact time Congress was meeting to count electoral votes. When Trump spoke, Neguse said, he encouraged them to “fight” – language that unmistakably signaled to them to attack.
“Those words were carefully chosen. They had a specific meaning to that crowd,” Neguse said. “He didn’t just tell them to fight like hell. He told them how, where and when. He made sure they had advance notice.”
Democrats pointed to months of false statements Trump made about the election being stolen leading up to 6 January. Those lies, they said, represented a deliberate effort to sow distrust of the election that exploded in the attack on the Capitol. They played clips of television interviews and speeches in which Trump repeatedly refused to commit to accepting a peaceful transition of power.
“He built this mob over many months with repeated messaging until they believed that they had been robbed of their vote said congressman Eric Swalwell of California, another impeachment manager. The impeachment managers played video of Trump claiming as early as May that the only way he would lose the 2020 election was if it was stolen.
When it was clear Trump had lost the election, his team turned to the courts. All but one of the 62 legal challenges were defeated or dismissed. Trump then ramped up his pressure on election officials to overturn the election results, publicly berating them when they refused. Senators heard audio of Trump’s conversation with the Georgia secretary of state, during which he implored him to “find” enough votes to reverse Biden’s victory in the state.
“Senators, we must not become numb to this,” said Pennsylvania congresswoman Madeleine Dean, an impeachment manger. “Trump did this in state after state so often, so loudly and so publicly,”
Trump was impeached while still in office by the US House of Representatives on one charge of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the 6 January attack.
Raskin dismissed an argument raised by Trump’s attorneys that the former president’s speech at the rally was protected by the first amendment. While an ordinary citizen’s anti-government speech is protected by the first amendment, Trump had an obligation to protect the nation, Raskin argued. He compared Trump to a fire chief who sent a mob to burn down a theater and then did nothing to stop it.
Democrats, however, will need to convince 17 Republican senators to join them in order to convict Trump, which seems extremely unlikely to happen.
“The managers are going to go in and they are going to move the hearts, minds, and, I think, the consciences of 100 jurors, none of them have voted yet,” an aide to the House impeachment managers told reporters before the Senate convened as a court of impeachment. “And we fully expect to prevail in the end.”
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