Washington – Impeachment prosecutors Wednesday aired terrifying, never-before-seen footage of senior U.S. politicians fleeing for their lives during the January assault on Congress by Donald Trump supporters on day two of the former president’s Senate trial.
With painstaking, graphic presentations, Democratic impeachment managers walked senators through hours of video, some of which came from security cameras and police body cameras and was being aired for the first time.
The aim was to remind senators — and watching Americans — just how bad Jan. 6 got when a mob stormed Congress after Trump told a rally near the White House that his failure to win re-election was due to vote rigging.
The ensuing mayhem left five people dead, including one woman shot after breaking into the Capitol and one policeman killed by the crowd.
Video played on the Senate floor showed then vice president Mike Pence — who was in the Capitol at the time of the raid to preside over certification of Joe Biden’s defeat of Trump — being hurried down back stairs by security officers, along with his family.
The top Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer, is seen narrowly dodging a rampaging throng of pro-Trump rioters. And Mitt Romney, a Republican senator who often opposed Trump and was turned into a hate figure by the president, is seen being steered away by an officer at the last moment before a crowd approaches.
In another segment, the mob can be seen smashing into the offices of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives and another frequent target of Trump’s most violent rhetoric.
“Nancy, where are you Nancy?” protesters call as they search, not knowing that eight of her staff are barricaded behind a door in the same corridor. Pelosi herself had already been urgently evacuated.
“We know from the rioters themselves that if they had found Speaker Pelosi, they would have killed her,” impeachment manager, Stacey Plaskett said.
Trump’s defense lawyers, who will present their arguments later this week, say that Trump cannot be personally blamed for the riot and that the entire trial is unconstitutional because he has already left office.
But impeachment managers said the links between Trump, his lies about election fraud, and the violence are clear.
Congress members “were put in danger because President Trump put his own desires, his own need for power, over his duty to the Constitution and our democratic process,” Plaskett said.
“President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The lead impeachment manager, Jamie Raskin, said Trump “completely abdicated his duty.”
“Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the inciter-in-chief of a dangerous insurrection.”
Holed up in his luxury Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Trump has been gone from power for three weeks.
But the trial has put the flamboyant and deeply polarizing Republican once more at the center of the national conversation — and underlined his still powerful hold over the base of the Republican electorate.
Although some Republican senators have expressed disgust with the pro-Trump riot and openly blasted Trump’s refusal to accept defeat to Biden, it remains highly unlikely that enough will join the Democrats to secure conviction in the impeachment trial.
This requires a two thirds majority, meaning 17 Republicans would need to go along with the 50 Democrats.
Forced off Twitter and other social media platforms in the wake of his unprecedented attempt to foment a conspiracy theory about his election defeat, Trump has fewer outlets where he can vent.
But it is also believed that advisers are pressing him to keep back, fearing his reappearance could turn Republican senators against him.
According to U.S. media reports, Trump was privately furious on the opening trial day Tuesday at his own lawyers’ lackluster performance.
They’ll get another chance later this week, with 16 hours total allotted to each side.
Unlike Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago, which took three weeks, this one is expected to be over within days.
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