Updated: February 18, 2021 2:44:40 pm
On the second day of former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, House Democrats unveiled chilling new security footage of the angry mob that had broken into the US Capitol last month. In the videos, supporters of Trump are seen wreaking havoc in the historic building and threatening to cause physical harm to top leaders, while police scrambled to contain the violent uprising.
House impeachment managers on Wednesday showed the harrowing video footage along with audio recordings of the police officers present at the Capitol on January 6 when the violence broke out, to recreate a nearly minute-by-minute timeline of the insurrection. The videos were played before a stunned and silent audience of lawmakers to drive home the argument that President Trump was responsible for encouraging the violent mob behind the attack.
“This was a deliberate, premeditated incitement to his base to attack our Capitol while the counting was going on,” Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat and one of the impeachment managers, said. “And it was foreseeable, especially to President Trump, who warned us he knew what was coming.”
What did the footage show?
The new footage, captured on Capitol security cameras positioned around the complex, showed how the rioters smashed windows and kicked open doors to break into the building in an attempt to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral votes. The mob is also seen marching through the halls in search of top lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who they believed were Trump’s antagonists.
In police dispatch audio recordings and videos from social media, the mob is heard jeering and threatening to cause physical harm to the two lawmakers. “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” the crowd chanted. Outside the Capitol, too, supporters of the former President called for Pence to be brought out.
The footage from the Capitol security cameras showed Pence, who faced criticism from Trump supporters after he refused to overturn the election, rushing down a staircase to escape the angry mob. Another video showed staffers of House Speaker Pelosi barricading themselves inside an office, moments before the rioters attempted to break down the door.
Sharing a picture of the man who was infamously photographed sitting at Pelosi’s desk in her office, House impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett revealed that FBI later discovered he was carrying a 950,000 volt stun gun. “President Trump,” Plaskett said, “put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
With each video and audio recording, Plaskett reconstructed the events as they had unfolded. A map of the Capitol remained at the bottom of the screen, a red dot tracing the path followed by the rioters on January 6, the New York Times reported.
One scene showed Republican Senator Mitt Romney calmly walking down a hallway in the Capitol, when he crosses Police Officer Eugene Goodman. Goodman immediately warned him about the incoming mob and directed him to go in the other direction. Romney is then seen breaking into a run.
Goodman was widely touted a hero for his efforts in containing the violent mob last month and received a standing ovation when he escorted Vice-President Kamala Harris at the presidential inauguration ceremony.
The videos also included footage of police officers being beaten by the mob as well as the killing of Ashli Babbitt, one of the rioters. The impeachment managers also showed footage of senators fleeing their chamber, as police officers attempted to keep the angry rioters at bay.
Why is Trump being blamed for the violence?
During the impeachment proceedings, the House Democrats argued that the Capitol Hill attack was no random act. It was the product of Trump’s relentless efforts to reverse the results of the presidential election. The Democrats claimed that it was “assembled, inflamed and incited” by Trump over the course of several months.
Several lawmakers, including members of the Republican Party, have blamed Trump for the violence that broke out in and around the Capitol. At a rally held in Ellipse Park on January 6, lawmakers and critics have pointed out, the president directed his followers to head to Capitol Hill.
“And after this, we’re going to walk down there, and I’ll be there with you, we’re going to walk down…to the Capitol and we are going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women,” he said. “And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.”
He repeated his claims that the election had been “rigged” by “radical democrats” and the “fake news media”, urging his supporters not to accept the results of the election. “We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved,” he said.
The President faced backlash yet again when he shared a message on social media and appeared to justify the violent mob’s actions while telling his supporters, “it’s time to go home now”. “I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us,” he said in the video, which has since been removed. “It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side.”
What was the response to the footage?
While Plaskett and the other impeachment managers presented the ‘evidence’, senators from across the aisle watched in stunned silence. Several members said that they were shaken by what they saw in the videos. However, experts say that it is still unlikely that the Democrats will be able to convince 17 Republican senators to join them in voting to impeach Trump.
“I think [the House impeachment managers] were very effective. And I’ll see what kind of arguments the defense put out. But, yeah, I’m going to listen and draw conclusions when it’s all done,” Republican Senator John Thune told NPR.
But not all Republican leaders believed that the videos were enough to implicate Trump. “They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the president doesn’t come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement,” Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz told reporters.
If convicted, the senate could vote to ban Trump from ever running for office again.
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