Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo, a manager, opened the third day of Trump’s second impeachment trial by methodically documenting how rioters themselves echoed the exact words of Trump while they stormed the Capitol, and how, once inside, many of them said they were acting at Trump’s behest.
“They truly believed that the whole intrusion was at the president’s orders — and we know that because they said so,” DeGette said. “They were following his instructions. They said he invited them.”
DeGette cited words from a livestream taped from inside the Capitol that showed rioters saying, “Our president wants us here…We wait and take orders from our president…He’ll be happy, we’re fighting for Trump.”
DeGette also cited statements from attorneys of some of the insurrectionists, who’d said their clients broke into the Capitol specifically because Trump “told them to.”
She quoted a statement from the attorney of Jacob Chansley (also known as Jake Angeli), the so-called “QAnon shaman” who was seen wearing horns, a fur headdress and face paint, who said his client “was there at the invitation of the president.”
And she quoted a statement from the lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, a rioter and member of the right-wing Proud Boys extremist group, who said his client breached the building only because he felt Trump “invited us down.”
Managers went on to play a series of clips of times Trump explicitly called on his supporters to commit violent acts, or expressed support for violent groups, including his telling the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate last fall to “stand back and stand by.” They said such incidents proved Trump has exhibited a “pattern and practice of inciting violence.”
Later, DeGette, citing online communications within extremist groups, outlined how they had been “emboldened” by the insurrection, making the case that convicting Trump was a necessary action to respond to a growing threat.
“Impeachment is not to punish, but to prevent. We are not here to punish Donald Trump. We are here to prevent the seeds of hatred that he planted from bearing any more fruit,” she said.
At another point, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., another manager, said the fact that several of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries resigned and suggested they were doing so because they felt Trump contributed to the riot, also proved the former president had incited the insurrection.
Lieu quoted former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ statement that “there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation” and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s statement that the riot happened “following a rally he addressed.” Both resigned their Cabinet posts in the days following the riot.
Managers said before the proceedings kicked off that they were planning to spend their arguments providing additional evidence they say proves Trump’s impact on the Jan. 6 riots and focusing on what they describe as the president’s lack of remorse, senior aides on the impeachment manager team told reporters on a phone call.
The managers’ remarks came on their second and final day of opening arguments and one day after they played never-before-seen riveting and video footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot during their arguments.
That retelling, presented by two House impeachment managers, wove together the new video from inside the Capitol with clips recorded by rioters. The video showed striking scenes of violence faced by Capitol police officers and put on display just how close some senators came on Jan. 6 to confrontations with a mob that had declared deadly intent.
Trump is the first president to have been impeached twice by the House and he is the first former president to be put on trial in the Senate. He was impeached by the House on Jan. 13 on an article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the violent riot by a pro-Trump mob at the Capitol the prior week.
Senators from both parties seemed shaken by the video presentation, which blared at high volume in the Senate chamber.
The question remains, however, whether the footage and arguments will shift the views of any of the 44 Republican senators who voted Tuesday that the trial itself is unconstitutional. Unless 11 republicans who voted that the trial is unconstitutional turn around and vote to convict, Trump will be acquitted. It takes a supermajority — 67 votes — to convict. Anything less results in acquittal.
While 45 Republican senators voted last month in favor of a measure that argued that the proceedings were unconstitutional, some of them said they simply wanted a debate on the issue, so their votes may not indicate how they view the issue. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., was the only senator among the 45 Republicans to vote in favor of the trial’s constitutionality on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden, however, said Thursday morning that the case that managers had built so far could be changing some Republican minds on whether to convict the ex-president.
“I think the Senate has a very important job to complete and my guess is some minds may have been changed but I don’t know,” Biden told reporters inside the Oval Office Thursday morning.
Trump’s attorneys will present their opening arguments, likely beginning Friday, and when opening arguments for both sides are done, senators will be able to question the two sides for four hours by submitting written questions to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate president pro tempore, who is presiding over the trial and who will read them aloud.
Frank Thorp V and Lauren Egan contributed.
— to www.nbcnews.com