House Democrats prosecuting former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday showed disturbing, never-before-seen video footage of his supporters rampaging into the Capitol last month and searching for former Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to harm or even kill them.
In powerful images played for a silent, sober Senate chamber, the House managers put the horror of the Jan. 6 siege on vivid display as rioters smashed their way into the building, overwhelmed police officers and marched through the halls seeking to stop the counting of the Electoral College votes and hunt down those perceived as Mr. Trump’s antagonists.
The footage from Capitol security cameras showed Mr. Pence, who alienated Mr. Trump’s supporters by refusing to try to overturn the election, being rushed by Secret Service officers down a staircase to escape invaders calling for his death. Ms. Pelosi’s staff members were shown barricading themselves into an office just minutes before the mob arrived and tried to break down the door.
“They were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from the doors of this chamber where many of you remained at that time,” Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and one of the House impeachment managers, told the senators sitting as jurors.
She and other managers played police dispatch audio recordings and cited legal filings, social media postings and videos to make clear that the rioters posed a serious danger to Mr. Pence, Ms. Pelosi and other lawmakers as well as to police officers.
“Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” the crowd could be heard chanting. Outside the Capitol, where a gallows had been set up, others called out, “Bring out Pence!” One rioter taped a video saying, “He’s a total treasonous pig.”
They likewise were hunting down Ms. Pelosi, and the man famously photographed sitting at her desk was shown carrying a 950,000-volt stun gun. “Where are you, Nancy?” some called out. “We’re looking for you!”
“Again, that was a mob sent by the president of the United States to stop the certification of an election,” Ms. Plaskett told the Senate.
“President Trump,” she added, “put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The new footage came as the House managers formally opened their case that Mr. Trump incited an insurrection by arguing that his provocation began months before the day of the riot, as he propagated a “Big Lie” to persuade supporters that his re-election was being stolen.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Erin Schaff/The New York Times
“Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, told the senators.
“He told them to ‘fight like hell,’” Mr. Raskin added, “and they brought us hell that day.”
Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado and another manager, played clips of Mr. Trump asserting even before the election that “the only way we can lose” is if the other side cheated, priming his base to reject any result other than a victory for him and then egging them on with repeated phrases like “stop the steal” and “fight like hell.”
The managers showed the former president’s messages encouraging backers to come to Washington on Jan. 6 to protest the election results. They also methodically assembled online chats reportedly monitored by Mr. Trump’s operatives in which his supporters used aggressive language suggesting an intent to use violence to stop the Electoral College count.
After the retelling of the storming of the Capitol, the managers turned to Mr. Trump’s response that day, walking senators through his reaction during the siege.
With his Twitter account suspended, Mr. Trump remained silent on Wednesday and left his case to his lawyers, who did not impress senators in either party with their opening foray on Tuesday and under the bipartisan rules did not speak on Wednesday.
The lawyers have maintained that the former president’s language was protected free speech and hardly incitement of violence or insurrection.
“There is no set of facts that ever justifies abrogating the freedoms granted to Americans in the United States Constitution,” Bruce L. Castor Jr., one of the lawyers, said on Fox News on Wednesday.
Whispered, panicked calls from terrified staff members barricaded in an office. Violent scenes of smashed windows and kicked-open doors. Frenzied audio between Capitol Police officers.
On the second day of the impeachment trial, the House impeachment managers showed senators previously unseen Capitol security footage, offering a chilling portrait of the violence unleashed by the pro-Trump mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The new evidence was introduced by Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, who crafted a methodical narrative of the day, marking each new video with a time stamp. Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, continued the presentation.
As she began, Ms. Plaskett recalled the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and reports that a plane that was heading for the Capitol.
“Almost every day, I remember that 44 Americans gave their lives to stop the plane that was headed to this Capitol building,” said Ms. Plaskett, who was working as an aide at the time. “I thank them every day for saving my life and the life of so many others. Those Americans sacrificed their lives for love of country, honor, duty, all the things that America means. The Capitol stands because of people like that.”
As each new video and audio clip was introduced, a map of the Capitol remained at the bottom corner of the screen, where a red dot traced the progress of the rioters in the building as more violent images flickered across the screen.
In one scene, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was walking through a corridor where he encountered Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer, who appeared to warn him of the rioters’ progress. Mr. Romney broke into a run.
Security footage from inside the Capitol showed the mob first smashing through windows to breach the building, before turning to other doors to break them open from the inside, as rioters flooded in. Ms. Plaskett recalled the threats the rioters publicly made against the lives of Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Vice President Mike Pence.
“They were talking about assassinating the vice president of the United States,” Ms. Plaskett said. She added that Mr. Pence and his family never left the Capitol during the siege.
After playing scenes of lawmakers and their staff scrambling to safety, Ms. Plaskett played audio of terrified staff members from Ms. Pelosi’s office, who were barricaded in a room.
“We need the Capitol Police to come into the hallway,” said one, whispering into a phone in hopes that the rioters outside would not hear.
Mr. Swalwell introduced perhaps the most gruesome video, depicting the moment that Ashli Babbitt, one of the rioters, was killed, warning viewers before he played the clip that it would be graphic.
As the impeachment managers played videos and never-before-heard recordings of radio communications from Capitol Police on Jan. 6, senators from both parties sat in rapt silence. Many strained for a better view. In the back row on the Democratic side, Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Michael Bennet of Colorado stood up to watch.
On the Republican side, senators showed little emotion but were paying close attention. Many turned their heads from the video screens only to take notes.
An emotional second day of the trial ended in procedural chaos as a Republican senator objected to testimony that cited him as a source for a conversation former President Donald J. Trump had during the Capitol attack that is at the heart of the case.
In the final hour of arguments on Wednesday, Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and one of the impeachment managers, spoke of Mr. Trump mistakenly calling Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, in an effort to reach Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama. In describing the call, which was detailed in news reports, Mr. Cicilline asserted that Mr. Lee had stood by as Mr. Trump asked Mr. Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification of President Biden’s electoral votes.
As Mr. Cicilline spoke, Mr. Lee could be seen writing furiously on a notepad in large letters: “This is not what happened.” When Democrats concluded their arguments for the day, Mr. Lee invoked an impeachment rule that allows senators to raise questions during the trial, including about the admissibility of evidence, and asked that the statements about him be struck as false.
Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the presiding officer for the impeachment trial, ruled the request as out of order. Mr. Leahy, who consulted with the Senate parliamentarian, pointed to a rule specific to this impeachment trial that allows the House managers to include elements in their oral arguments that were not in their original pretrial submissions.
A visibly outraged Mr. Lee demanded an appeal.
“My point was to strike them because they were false,” he said.
As some lawmakers, including Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, demanded that Mr. Lee explain why the description was false, the murmuring and confusion among senators and staff temporarily derailed the final moments of the day’s proceedings.
After a series of intense huddles on the floor, where Mr. Lee could be heard insisting that he did not make those statements, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead impeachment manager, agreed to take back the words. But he reserved the ability to bring the issue up again and litigate it later in the trial.
“We’re going to withdraw it this evening and without any prejudice to the ability to resubmit it, if possible,” Mr. Raskin said. “We can debate it if we need it. But it’s not — this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in any way to our case.”
As Mr. Raskin spoke, Mr. Lee could be heard across the Senate chamber making a snide retort: “You’re not the one being cited as a witness, sir.”
Convicting former President Donald J. Trump will be a challenge for impeachment managers, but they were intent on using the big stage on Wednesday to achieve a concurrent objective: decisively discrediting his false claims about the election.
The managers labeled Mr. Trump’s long barrage of distortions “the Big Lie,” borrowing an expression from the Nazi era used to describe a falsehood so enormous and widely disseminated that it became difficult to deny.
“Let’s start with the Big Lie,” said Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado, arguing that Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election were at the heart of the case and led to the explosive reaction after his Jan. 6 rally.
Despite dozens of lawsuits and extensive recounts in many states, recent polls show that a majority of Republicans still believe the election was marred by irregularities — including a survey last month showing that 83 percent of Texas Republicans believed “widespread fraud” occurred in 2020.
To make their case against Mr. Trump, the impeachment managers first set out to recount his debunked claims, flooding the chamber with video of his unsupported pronouncements of a “rigged” election.
“The president realized really by last spring that he could lose, he might lose the election. So what did he do?” Mr. Neguse said. “He started planting the seeds to get some of his supporters ready by saying that he could only lose the election if it was stolen.”
Next, Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, dismissed arguments by Mr. Trump’s legal team that the former president was simply exercising his free speech rights, like any other American.
“A lie can do incredible damage and destruction. And that’s especially true when that lie is told by the most powerful person on Earth: our commander in chief, the president of the United States,” Mr. Castro said. He added that the riot “did not come from one speech, and it didn’t happen by accident.”
Most leading Republicans have publicly accepted the legitimacy of President Biden’s decisive election. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, recently accused Mr. Trump and his circle of feeding “lies” to loyalists.
But Mr. McConnell and other Republicans waited weeks after the election was decided to formally acknowledge the new administration, for fear of offending Mr. Trump.
The impeachment managers opened their argument for convicting former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday with a blunt charge that the pro-Trump mob responsible for storming the Capitol was, in part, motivated by racism.
Representative Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat leading the prosecution on behalf of House Democrats, concluded his opening remarks on the second day of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate by invoking the role played by rioters linked to white supremacist groups.
On the day of the attacks, Jan. 6, some of the rioters brandished Confederate flags inside the Capitol, something that never happened during the Civil War era, while some demonstrators outside the building set up a noose, a chilling echo of the intimidation tactics used against Blacks in the South.
And Mr. Raskin, as he did a day earlier, cast his assertion in deeply personal terms.
He quoted one of the Black officers who battled the mob that day describing his despair at being subjected to racist taunts from a crowd of attackers that was, according to witness accounts and video, overwhelmingly white.
“Afterwards, overwhelmed by emotion, he broke down in the rotunda. And he cried for 15 minutes,” Mr. Raskin said, referring to an article published last month in BuzzFeed News that quoted several exhausted defenders of the Capitol anonymously.
“And he shouted out, I got called an N-word 15 times today. And then he recorded, I sat down with one of my buddies, another Black guy in tears, just started streaming down my face, and I said what the F, man, is this America?” Mr. Raskin said, paraphrasing the account to clean up the language.
A day earlier, Democrats highlighted the heroism of Eugene Goodman, a Black Capitol Police officer, who diverted dozens of angry rioters from where legislators and journalists were hiding, putting himself at great risk. Footage of Mr. Goodman coaxing the demonstrators to follow him was featured in a graphic 13-minute video shown to the Senate on Tuesday.
But she assumed a front-and-center role at his Senate trial on Wednesday, narrating the first part of the presentation of the storming of the Capitol, which featured a string of videos, including previously unseen footage from security cameras.
Ms. Plaskett, 54, a Democrat, is one of nine House impeachment managers for Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial. Named last month by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they are serving as the prosecution team for the trial.
Born in Brooklyn, Ms. Plaskett served as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx, and she also worked at the Justice Department and as a congressional staff member. As part of her presentation on Wednesday, she recalled being at the Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001, when she was working as an aide there.
She was elected in 2014 as the delegate from the Virgin Islands and is now in her fourth term.
When Donald J. Trump was running for president in 2016, he pointed to some protesters at one of his rallies and told the crowd to “get ’em out of here.” The protesters, who said they were then viciously assaulted, sued him for inciting a riot.
Mr. Trump won the suit. A federal appeals court, relying on a case concerning the Ku Klux Klan, ruled that his exhortation was protected by the First Amendment. And now his lawyers are making the same argument at his impeachment trial, where he stands accused of inciting an insurrection.
But Democrats say that argument misses two key points. An impeachment trial, they contend, is concerned with abuses of official power, meaning that statements that may be legally defensible when uttered by a private individual can nonetheless be grounds for impeachment.
Equally important, they say that Mr. Trump’s statements on Jan. 6 should not be considered in isolation but as the final effort of a calculated, monthslong campaign to violate his oath of office in an effort to retain power.
Stacey E. Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager, said Mr. Trump’s statements were the culmination of a pattern of conduct that deliberately encouraged lawlessness. “Donald Trump over many months cultivated violence, praised it,” she said. “And then when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event.”
Mr. Trump’s call to the crowd in 2016 had none of that baggage, but Judge David J. Hale of the Federal District Court in Louisville, Ky., allowed a lawsuit against him to proceed, writing that incitement is a capacious term. Quoting Black’s Law Dictionary, he wrote that it was defined as ‘the act or an instance of provoking, urging on or stirring up,’ or, in criminal law, ‘the act of persuading another person to commit a crime.’”
But the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, reversed Judge Hale’s decision, ruling that the Supreme Court’s decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio protected Mr. Trump. “In the ears of some supporters, Trump’s words may have had a tendency to elicit a physical response, in the event a disruptive protester refused to leave,” Judge David W. McKeague wrote for the majority, “but they did not specifically advocate such a response.”
It was significant, too, Judge McKeague wrote, that Mr. Trump had added a caveat to his exhortation, according to the lawsuit. “Don’t hurt ’em,” Mr. Trump said. “If I say ‘go get ’em,’ I get in trouble with the press.”
Mr. Trump offered a similarly mixed message on Jan. 6. Even as he urged his supporters to “go to the Capitol” and “fight like hell,” he also made at least one milder comment. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” he said.
Ordinary courts might consider the speech in isolation and credit the occasional calmer passage. But the House managers are urging the Senate to hold a president to a different standard, one that takes account of the months of actions and statements leading to the speech and that holds him responsible for any call to violence or lawlessness.
In a 38-minute video, The New York Times uses former President Donald J. Trump’s own words to show how his persistent repetition of lies created an alternate reality in which he won re-election. A second video shows evidence of rioters mimicking and amplifying Mr. Trump’s language during the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
In hundreds of public statements on tape from Nov. 4 to Jan. 6, Mr. Trump repeatedly said he “won the election by a landslide” and that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” by the Democrats. Such assertions have been proven false by courts and election officials across the country. Mr. Trump’s language also signaled to his supporters that they needed to “fight” to “take back our country.”
Mr. Trump’s lawyers say the former president did not “direct” his supporters to storm the Capitol. However, according to Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale University, “you’re not usually going to find a leader telling you exactly what to do.”
Instead, there’s a “vague directive,” which followers sharpen and act on, said Professor Snyder, who has written extensively about similarities between Mr. Trump’s language and that of authoritarian rulers. “That is exactly what Trump did,” he said.
The gut-wrenching video aired by Democratic impeachment managers on Tuesday set the tone of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial by reminding senators — now jurors, then the quarry of a mob — of the raw violence that pervaded the Capitol on Jan. 6.
After a short opening statement, the lead manager, Representative Jamie Raskin, played a video. Running more than 13 minutes, it showed the riot in searing detail: a police officer crushed against a door, screaming in pain; lawmakers and journalists taking cover in the House chamber; Officer Eugene Goodman of the Capitol Police leading rioters away from the unsecured Senate floor. It also showed Mr. Trump telling his supporters: “Go home. We love you. You’re very special.”
Most legislative events, even impeachments, have a predictable cadence. But the video, edited by House Democrats to present the attack on the Capitol on a visual timeline coinciding with Mr. Trump’s statements and tweets, was one of the rare moments, common in cinema but rare on C-SPAN, that took the chamber by surprise.
There was an audible gasp in the room when the images appeared of a Capitol Police officer firing a single fatal gunshot at a protester who was trying to break into the House chamber. And the discordant sound of curses at the police that day drew looks of disdain in a chamber with strict rules against the use of profanity.
Senators remained impassive for the most part, but there were times when their emotions showed. Many of the reporters who covered the riot were deeply moved, fighting back tears as they watched the images of the building being overwhelmed by angry protesters. Some were seeing many of the images for the first time.
Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, put a hand over his eyes as he absorbed the video. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, took careful notes. A few looked away or gazed at their phones in discomfort.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri told reporters that it was “the longest time I’ve sat down and just watched straight footage of what was truly a horrendous day.” (Mr. Blunt, a Republican, still voted against continuing the trial.)
Michigan’s top elected Republican, Mike Shirkey, the State Senate majority leader, said on Wednesday that he stood behind previous remarks in which he called the attack on the U.S. Capitol a “hoax” and indicated he might challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to a fistfight.
Mr. Shirkey was heard speaking on an open microphone in the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday in what he apparently thought was a private conversation. “I frankly don’t take back any of the points I was trying to make,” he said, a reference to recent comments about the Capitol siege, which is the focus of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
At a restaurant last week, Mr. Shirkey told a group of Republican officials, “That wasn’t Trump people,” referring to the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. “That’s been a hoax from Day 1,” he added. “It was all staged.”
A video of the lunch was uploaded to YouTube. Mr. Shirkey also made offensive remarks that day about Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, saying he and fellow Republican lawmakers had “spanked her hard” in the Legislature. “I did contemplate inviting her to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn,” he added.
Mr. Shirkey, whom Mr. Trump pressured to reverse the election results in Michigan after President Biden won the state, has walked a line between demonstrating loyalty to fervid Trump supporters and not taking a torch to democracy. His comments during the lunch were made to officials of the Hillsdale County Republican Party one day before it censured him for not standing up strongly enough to Ms. Whitmer.
He apologized when the recording became public.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Shirkey’s hot mic comments cast doubt on his apology. He was recorded speaking to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, a Democrat, once again questioning who had instigated the Jan. 6 riot. Of more than 175 rioters arrested, many exhibited strong support for Mr. Trump on social media, and at least 21 had ties to far-right militant groups.
“The assignment of cause, it was planned months, weeks and months in advance by somebody that … unfortunately is getting blamed for it,” Mr. Shirkey said, according to The Detroit Free Press. He added that the F.B.I. had yet to determine “who was behind it.”
“Some of Trump’s people got caught up in the mob and did things that they shouldn’t have done,” he said.
It may be roughly 20 months away, but the political winds are shaping up for a narrow battle for the House in 2022.
The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday released a list of 47 House Democrats whose seats it is targeting in the midterm elections, including moderates like Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Conor Lamb, as well as Democrats who represent districts Mr. Trump carried in November.
Midterm elections often provide an opportunity for the party out of power in the White House to make gains in Congress, riding a wave of backlash while unseating members who were previously carried to victory by a presidential candidate at the top of the ticket.
But as the Republican Party continues to press hopes for wresting back at least part of Congress from Democratic control, their ranks appear to be thinning following the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
An analysis of January voting records by The New York Times found that nearly 140,000 Republicans had quit the party in 25 states that had readily available data (19 states do not have registration by party). Voting experts said the data indicated a stronger-than-usual flight from a political party after a presidential election, as well as the potential start of a damaging period for G.O.P. registrations as voters recoil from the Capitol violence and its fallout.
“Since this is such a highly unusual activity, it probably is indicative of a larger undercurrent that’s happening, where there are other people who are likewise thinking that they no longer feel like they’re part of the Republican Party, but they just haven’t contacted election officials to tell them that they might change their party registration,” said Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. “So this is probably a tip of an iceberg.”
But, he cautioned, it could also be the vocal “never Trump” reality simply coming into focus, with Republicans finally taking the step of changing their registration, even though they had not supported the president and his party since 2016.
Even if some of their voters are deserting them, Republicans do have one baked in advantage in 2022: Democrats will most likely lose some seats through redistricting alone.
— to www.nytimes.com