Democratic House impeachment managers unveiled previously unseen security video of the Capitol riot Wednesday as part of a graphic reconstruction of the attack on the Capitol, offering an emotional crescendo to a day spent laying out their case for former President Donald Trump’s culpability and conviction.
The retelling, presented by House Impeachment Managers Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., on Day Two of Trump’s trial, weaves together the new video with clips shot by rioters of striking scenes from the assault, highlighting in particular the violence faced by Capitol Police officers and how close many of the senators now considering the evidence against Trump came to confrontations with a mob that had declared deadly intent.
“That was very powerful,” Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who unexpectedly sided with Democrats on a procedural motion in the trial Tuesday, told reporters. “Now obviously we’re going to hear some more. But again, very powerful.”
Over the course of hours, Democrats sought to convince 67 senators to vote to convict Trump on a single article of impeachment by laying out a three-part argument.
Managers spent hours laying out their case that 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 prior by lying about his loss while condoning and encouraging his supporters’ violent tendencies. Managers then recreated the sequence of events on Jan. 6 — from Trump’s rally in which he told his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol to an explicit breakdown 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 the violence as it was unfolding, and did not. He didn’t call off his supporters or condemn their violence, nor 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.
“The truth is he didn’t want them to stop,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. “He wanted them to stay and fight the certification” of the election.
The emotional high point, though, 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 away from an attacker being held at gunpoint by police, and several previously unknown near-misses between senators and insurrectionists.
Panicked officers were heard on newly released audio recordings from police radios pleading for backup and urgent medical care as they reported multiple officers 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 instead 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 former Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and missing them by mere minutes. Security video showed now-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer 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 riffling through the desks of senators on the empty Senate floor — the same desks at which senators 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 one helpless police officer as rioters broke into the building and Officer Eugene Goodman guiding Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to safety.
Goodman, in addition to his now-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 the Utah Republican was unknowingly walking towards the rioters.
Romney said the presentation was “overwhelmingly distressing and emotional” and said he had no idea how he close was 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.”
The managers said Trump’s instigation began months earlier when he stoked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, told an extremist group to “stand back and stand by” and celebrated supporters who attempted to force a Joe Biden campaign bus off the road.
“He fanned the flame of violence,” said Plaskett earlier in the day. “The violence was what he deliberately encouraged.”
Managers presented a barrage of evidence attempting to connect the violence to Trump, most of which was Trump’s own words or those of his supporters.
That included his tweets attacking Democratic and GOP lawmakers who stood in his way, 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 Capitol.
In that speech outside the White House, the then-president urged his audience to “fight like hell” and told them they were “allowed to go by very different rules.”
Supporters shouted “invade the Capitol” as Trump spoke. Standing on the steps of the Capitol, they chanted that they had come to fight for Trump.
“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.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., another impeachment manager, choked up as she concluded her presentation.
“This was clearly not just some march or rally or protest. This was about Donald Trump trying to steal the election for himself,” Dean said. “This attack never would have happened were it not for Donald Trump.”
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 Trump was responsible for inciting the mob.
Raskin first pointed out Trump’s weeks of tweets that “aggressively promoted” the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, singling out the president’s 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 November election.
Raskin pointed to Trump’s comments to his supporters 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 pointed to Trump’s video — tweeted while the riots were ongoing — repeating his false claims that the election “was stolen from us,” which the Maryland Democrat said meant Trump was “still promoting the big lie that was responsible for inflaming and inciting the mob in the first place.”
And he singled out Trump’s tweeted videos and statements later in the day on Jan. 6, saying, “We love you” and “you’re very special” to his supporters and that they should, “remember this day forever.”
“This is a day that will live in disgrace in American history,” Raskin said.
Earlier, Raskin dismissed statements made the president’s defense team a day earlier 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 added. “It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief,” effectively committing, “the greatest betrayal of the presidential oath in the history of the United States.”
Next, Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., another manager, said that chronology proved that Trump’s statements were a “call to arms” and “not rhetorical” statements.
The managers have 16 hours over two days to make their presentations and then Trump’s attorneys begin their defense with the same amount of time allotted — proceedings that will take the trial into the weekend and likely beyond.
House managers, however, aren’t likely to use the full 16 hours, the senior aides on the impeachment manager team said.
When opening arguments are done, senators will be able to question the two sides for a total of four hours by submitting written questions to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate president pro tempore, who is presiding over trial and who will read them aloud.
Wednesday’s proceedings follow a riveting first day of the trial that started with a chilling 13-minute video montage of the devastating events of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and ended with a vote declaring that trying a former president is constitutional and allowing it to continue.
That 56-44 vote capped debate that took up much of the first day of arguments from the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team. Six Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in the vote to proceed: Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Mitt Romney of Utah; Ben Sasse of Nebraska; Collins of Maine; and Cassidy of Louisiana.
Hours earlier, the proceedings began with a jarring video reel that forced senators to relive some of the most intense moments of Jan. 6, some of which occurred at the very desks at which they were sitting.
The video showed rioters smashing windows and overrunning barriers until they breached the Capitol, hurling expletives at Capitol Police officers and stalking lawmakers in the chamber. Those images were interspersed with scenes of Trump encouraging his supporters while speaking at the rally before the assault on the Capitol and in a video posted to Twitter.
The riot left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Two more officers died by suicide in the weeks after the violence.
After Tuesday’s emotionally charged arguments and video, the House managers are again expected Wednesday to use videos to weave a narrative of what happened in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The real question, however, will be whether those arguments will shift the views of any of the 44 Republican senators who voted Tuesday that the trial itself is unconstitutional. Unless 11 of those Republicans turn around and vote to convict, Trump will be acquitted. It takes a supermajority — 67 votes — to convict. Anything less leads to acquittal.
Trump’s defense on Tuesday kicked off with a meandering, nearly hourlong speech from attorney Bruce Castor, which failed to address the crux of the House managers’ arguments. Trump is extremely displeased about his legal team’s first showing at the trial, three sources familiar with his thinking said, and he was especially disappointed with Castor.
Trump is the first president to have been impeached twice by the House, and he will be the first former president to be put on trial in the Senate. He was impeached by the House of Representatives 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 U.S. Capitol a week earlier.