Democratic House impeachment managers played previously unseen security video of the U.S. Capitol riot Wednesday as part of a graphic reconstruction of the attack that made for an emotional climax to a day they spent making their case for former President Donald Trump’s culpability and conviction.
The retelling, presented by two House impeachment managers, Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands’ nonvoting delegate to Congress, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., hours into Day Two of Trump’s trial, weaves together the new video with clips recorded by rioters. The managers showed striking scenes of violence faced by Capitol Police officers and video evidence of just how close some of the senators considering the evidence against Trump came to confrontations with a mob that had declared deadly intent.
“That was very powerful,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who unexpectedly sided with Democrats on a procedural motion Tuesday, told reporters. “Now, obviously, we’re going to hear some more. But again, very powerful.”
Over the course of hours, Democrats sought to persuade 67 senators to vote to convict Trump on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection” by laying out a three-part argument.
First, managers argued, Trump began inciting a violent attempt to overturn the results of the election not on the day of the Capitol attack but in the months beforehand by lying about his loss while condoning and encouraging his supporters’ violent tendencies. Managers then re-created the sequence of events on Jan. 6 — from that rally at which Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol, to an explicit video timeline of the siege — before arguing that Trump did nothing to stop the riot once it started.
Senators from both parties seemed shaken by the video presentation, which blared at high volume in the Senate chamber as if to ensure that all paid attention. But most Republicans are still expected to side with Trump and vote to acquit.
“Well from the start I’ve said … I think it’s a bad precedent to be convicting former presidents, private citizens,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters. “So that’s, I’m considering that as, you know, as I listen. I’m listening, I’m a juror.”
The managers argued that Trump had to the power to stop his supporters during the hourslong siege but didn’t do so. He didn’t call off his supporters or condemn their violence; neither did he activate the vast federal law enforcement powers quick enough, they said, even as Republican lawmakers and officials were pleading with him to act.
“President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” said one of the impeachment managers, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.
In a split-screen presentation, Castro played Trump’s tweets during the riot — which included an attack on Vice President Mike Pence, praise for his supporters and tepid calls for them to “stay peaceful” — alongside the violence that was occurring in the Capitol at the moment he sent them.
“The truth is he didn’t want them to stop,” Castro said. “He wanted them to stay and fight the certification” of the election.
The day’s proceedings kicked off Wednesday at noon ET, with the lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., methodically documenting a chronology of actions, by Trump and by the rioters, that he said proved that Trump was responsible for inciting the mob.
The managers said Trump’s instigation began months previously, when he stoked conspiracy theories about the election, told an extremist group to “stand back and stand by” and celebrated supporters who tried to force a Biden campaign bus off the road.
Raskin first pointed out Trump’s weeks of tweets that “aggressively promoted” the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, singling out his December missives to supporters to “be there, it will be wild.”
He noted that the event was scheduled to occur during “the exact moment” that Congress was holding a ceremonial event affirming that Joe Biden won the election.
Raskin pointed to Trump’s comments at the rally that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
“And they brought us hell on that day,” Raskin said.
Raskin also dismissed statements Trump’s defense team made Tuesday that the trial was merely a contest between lawyers or political parties.
Rather, Raskin said, the trial marked “a moment of truth for America.”
“The evidence will show you that ex-President Trump was no innocent bystander,” he said. “It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief,” in effect committing “the greatest betrayal of the presidential oath in the history of the United States.”
Managers then presented a barrage of evidence to connect the violence to Trump, most of which was Trump’s own words or those of his supporters.
That included detailing Trump’s repeated lie that the election was stolen, his tweets attacking Democratic and Republican officials who blocked his attempts to overturn the results, audio of Trump pressuring Georgia election officials to “find” more votes for him and his speech to supporters on Jan. 6 before they marched on the Capitol.
Managers showed video of those supporters shouting “invade the Capitol” as Trump spoke. Another video showed supporters standing on the steps of the Capitol, chanting that they had come to fight for Trump.
The emotional high point, however, was the new security video showing congressional staffers running for their lives and barricading themselves inside offices to escape the rioting mob, members of Congress being evacuated just feet from an attacker being held at gunpoint by police, and several previously unknown near-misses between senators and rioters.
“It was riveting,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is seen as a swing voter, told reporters. “Obviously I’m not going to make any final decision or any decision at all until I hear the other side, but the presentations were compelling.”
Panicked officers were heard on newly released audio recordings from police radios pleading for backup and urgent medical care as they reported that multiple officers had been injured. Managers also showed video of officers being beaten and sprayed with chemical irritants and one having his arm crushed in a door as he screamed for help while rioters pressed harder, shouting “heave!” to coordinate their push.
“As bad as it was,” Swalwell said. “We all know it could have been worse.”
Swalwell and other managers also presented video showing the rioters hunting for Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and missing them by mere minutes. Security video showed Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and his security detail rushing down a hallway before abruptly turning around because they encountered rioters.
Schumer nodded in agreement as Swalwell discussed that “near-miss with the mob.”
Rioters were seen rifling through the desks of senators on the empty Senate floor — the same desks senators sat at Wednesday as jurors in the impeachment trail — with the managers suggesting that any one of them could have been kidnapped, maimed or killed.
Another video, which Plaskett described as “chilling,” showed a helpless police officer as rioters broke into the building and Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman guiding Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to safety.
Goodman, in addition to his famous move to prevent a mob from entering the Senate chamber, caught Romney when he happened to run into him in the hallway just as Romney was unknowingly walking toward the rioters.
Romney said the presentation was “overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” and he said he had had no idea how close he had been to danger during the riot.
“I was very fortunate indeed that Officer Goodman was there to get me in the right direction,” Romney told reporters. “I look forward to thanking him when I next see him.”
Wednesday’s proceedings, which ended just before 8 p.m. ET, followed a riveting first day of the trial, which started with a chilling 13-minute video montage of the devastating events of the riot and ended with a vote declaring that trying a former president is constitutional and allowing the trial to continue. Trump is the first president to have been impeached twice by the House, and he is the first former president to have been put on trial in the Senate.
House managers will continue to make their case Thursday, with Trump’s defense to follow in the coming days.
Trump attorney Bruce Castor said the presentation by House managers didn’t reveal anything new.
“Yesterday we said we didn’t dispute that the breach of the Capitol is a terrible thing, and that mob violence is something that President Trump abhors,” Castor told the press pool. “So we didn’t learn anything today we didn’t already know. As a matter of fact, I wonder why we sat through eight hours of videos that aren’t under dispute.”
Romney, meanwhile, got his chance to thank Goodman before the trial adjourned.
“I expressed my appreciation to him for coming to my aid and getting me back into the path of safety and expressed my appreciation for all that he did that day,” Romney told reporters.
— to www.nbcnews.com