Graphic Footage Of Capitol Riot Captivates Senate During Second Impeachment Trial Of Donald Trump

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Ted Johnson
·10 min read
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3rd UPDATE, 6:45 PM: The focus of the impeachment trial on Wednesday is rightfully on the footage of the Capitol siege. Some of it — like the security footage of senators racing to evacuate the chamber — had not been shown publicly before. Other clips took on new meaning as impeachment managers built a timeline of Trump’s call to “fight like hell” and the subsequent insurrection at the Capitol.

But as interesting was the way that the impeachment managers focused on Mike Pence. There were multiple references and clips of rioters who could be heard chanting “hang Mike Pence.”

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“Mike Pence is not a traitor to this country. He is a patriot,” said impeachment manager Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). He and Pence don’t agree on much, but his point was turned on one of Trump’s biggest defenders when he wouldn’t do what the then-president wanted him to do: Overturn the election results, even if there was no legal way for him to do it.

As the riot situation was worsening at the Capitol, Trump tweeted that Pence “didn’t have the courage” to do so, Castro noted. Then, Castro ran footage of a rioter reading the president’s tweet over a megaphone.

By then, Pence had been evacuated. Some of the security footage that was shown shows the then-vice president being ushered away.

Trump, Castro said, tweeted his supporters to “stay peaceful,” even as it was clear that a riot had broken out at the Capitol. Only later that evening did Trump tell them to go home.

“The truth is he didn’t want them to to stop. He wanted them to stay and stop the certification” of the electoral college vote.

“He never said, ‘stop the attack,'” Castro said.

2ND UPDATE, 3:01 PM: As impeachment managers presented clip after clip Wednesday of video and audio from the Capitol riot on January 6, what was most striking in the chamber was the contrast in sound.

The room was an eerie silence as senators, even those who seemed bored earlier in the day, were transfixed on the audio-less security footage from around the chamber that day. But that silence was a contrast to other clips, many of them taken from iPhones, of the mobs’ screams and shouting, including one moment when they called to “hang Mike Pence.”

One particular moment to watch came when Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) showed the clip of a Metropolitan Police officer, Daniel Hodges, as he was being crushed by a door. His screams seemed to be amplified in the chamber, as senators sat silently after the clip was shown. Hodges survived.

The footage might not make a difference in the ultimate result of this trial, but they are getting extra attention in the media coverage of Day 2. Swalwell noted that the events of January 6 could have been a lot worse but made his point by showing security footage of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) trying to evacuate with an entourage down a hallway, only to frantically turn back when they saw that they were headed in the direction of the mob.

“Most of the public does not know how close these rioters were to you,” Swalwell told the senators. He said that he paced the hall and found that the rioters were 58 steps away from the chamber when many of the senators were still present.

He said that one of the rioters who was a member of the group Oath Keepers actually received a message regarding the location of members, with the note, “Turn on the gas. Seal them in.”

Swalwell also played footage of what was happening on the House side, including a clip taken by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) in which they take cover on the House floor and members are instructed to take off their lapel pins. Another video showed the police shooting of Ashli Babbitt, the demonstrator who was killed as she tried to get through a broken window on the door to the House Speaker’s Lobby. As difficult as the video is to watch, the sound of the rioters pounding on the doors is what stands out to a number of those who were in the Capitol that day, barricading themselves in various parts of the complex.

Another piece of security footage shown was the moment that officer Eugene Goodman stopped Mitt Romney (R-UT) as he unknowingly headed toward the mob.

UPDATE, 1:36 PM PT: “They were talking about assassinating the vice president of the United States,” said Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) as she went through sometimes graphic footage of rioters breaking through the windows of the Capitol and on a rampage to find the Senate chamber.

Plaskett, who is one of the Democrats’ impeachment managers, went through the events of January 6 to a group that experienced it themselves that day. She ran footage of Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman directing the mob away from the chamber, where Pence and senators were still present, while introducing clips from security cameras.

UPDATED, 12:55 PM: As impeachment managers presented their case, some Republican senators shifted in their seats, read papers and appeared to be bored, but most did pay attention when a pre-election video was shown in which supporters of Donald Trump tried to run a Joe Biden bus off the road on a Texas highway.

Then Rep. Stacey Plaskett, representing the Virgin Islands, showed the Senate Trump’s response. He tweeted out video of the incident with “fight” music attached to it. “I love Texas,” Trump tweeted. Even after the FBI opened an investigation of the incident, Trump defended his supporters. “In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” he wrote.

Plaskett also pointed to Trump’s remark about the Proud Boys, made at the first presidential debate, to “stand back and stand down.”

The point of Plaskett’s presentation was to show how the then president “cultivated” even his supporters who had a track record of violence, speaking of them as patriots rather than condemning their actions.

She also focused on a Dec. 12 “stop the steal” event in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the election, in which Trump surrogate Katrina Pierson told a crowd, “We are the cavalry.” Later that night, violent clashes broke out in the city, and 33 were arrested.

Plaskett said that the same people who organized the Dec. 12 event also organized the Jan. 6 rally. Originally, she noted, the permit for the event at the Ellipse stated that it did not include permission to march to the Capitol. But when Trump’s team got involved, that changed.

“This was deliberate,” she said.

She also cited media reports on the likelihood that Trump’s team was monitoring Reddit and other sites calling for storming the Capitol, including posts that included blueprints of the complex.

“They would see a clear roadmap of what happened,” she said, pushing back against the idea that the attack was spontaneous. She said that there were “hundreds of posts” that proved to be “chillingly accurate,” as well as stories about the threats that appeared in mainstream news outlets including FoxNews.com.

Later, Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) summed up the crux of the prosecution: “This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump.”

PREVIOUSLY: The second day of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began with Democrats again turning to vivid video to make the case that the now-former president incited a mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The impeachment managers — acting as prosecutors in the case — are leaning in heavily on the sites and sounds of that day, and have even warned that some of the videos they plan to show will require viewer discretion.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) presented clips of Trump repeatedly claiming over months the “big lie” that the election was stolen. That culminated in the rally at the Ellipse, when Trump told the crowd, ‘if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

He followed with clips of rioters saying that they were following what Trump wanted. But even after the attack, Trump continued to incite, Neguse said, tweeting to the mob, “We love you.” Neguse then read through indictments of some of the rioters to make the case that they sought to kill Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The House impeached Trump a week after the insurrection, charging him with inciting the riot. Although it is unlikely that Trump will be convicted and barred from running for office again, the impeachment managers are seeking to present a case that triggers the emotions of senators, themselves witnesses to the attack, as well as viewers on TV and social media who otherwise may not have been watching the trial proceedings.

The focus on Wednesday afternoon was to make the case that the Capitol riot was not some freak event, but something that was foreseeable. They repeatedly pointed to Trump’s tweets and the post-election slogan “stop the steal,” and even ran a clip from a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo in which Trump said, “This election was rigged.”

“The evidence will show you that Donald Trump saw it coming and was not surprised by the violence,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), lead impeachment manager, said as he opened arguments, adding that there was “a method in the madness that day.”

“This case is much worse than someone who falsely shouts ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Raskin said. “It’s more like a case where the town fire chief, who is paid to put out fires, sends a mob not to yell fire in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire.”

He described a Capitol police officer who fought against the rioters for hours, only to break down crying in the Rotunda later in the day. Raskin said that he said, “I got called an N-word 15 times today.”

Democrats reportedly plan to show security footage from Jan. 6 as they highlight the scale of the violence that day. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the first day of the trial on Tuesday was a 13-minute video of Trump’s speech before the riot and the chilling aftermath, as crowds breached Capitol security and went on a rampage looking for lawmakers.

Inside the chamber, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), also facing criticism for inciting the attack that day, watched the proceedings from the galley, not from his desk on the floor, and went through a series of files. Most senators, wearing masks, listened intently as Raskin opened the proceedings. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Trump’s steadfast supporters, shifted in his seat, looking around the room at points and down at his hands. He later took notes and showed one to the senator next to him, John Barrasso of Wyoming.

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