WASHINGTON — Democrats played harrowing new video Wednesday of the riot that showed how close rioters intent on harming lawmakers came to finding them on Jan. 6, stoking raw emotions on the second day of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
As the House impeachment managers recounted their experiences on Jan. 6 in emotional terms, they sought to make senators relive their own near-misses with the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol.
It is unclear whether they swayed Republicans, and it remains unlikely that a two-thirds majority will vote to convict. But Democrats, who have charged Trump with being “singularly responsible” for inciting the assault, were determined to remind members of his party that their own safety and lives were in danger after he spoke to a crowd of supporters who soon turned violent and stormed the Capitol.
Here are the key takeaways from an emotional day:
The rawness of it all
Democrats spent three hours setting up the weeks leading to Jan. 6, building a narrative arc that was largely a retelling of recent history.
But then, the impeachment managers shifted tactics and began revealing new information.
It started with audio of distressed police in never-before-released radio communications pleading for help.
Delegate Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, narrated much of the new video, using a map of the Capitol to point out the locations of rioters in relation to lawmakers. In one video, a police officer faced down a mob alone. In another, police tried to keep the mob from entering the building, but then protesters who had already made it inside surrounded them from the other side.
The security video illustrated how close a violent group chanting “hang Mike Pence” came to finding the vice president, showing a brief moment when Pence ran down the stairs but paused to look over his shoulder.
The managers played video that was collected from public channels, including clips of rioters rooting through the same desks where the senators sat watching. The people in the Senate chamber were silent as the booming volume of the videos echoed across the room.
The Democrats held nothing back, showing graphic videos, including a clip of a rioter’s being shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to enter a room where House members were being evacuated.
Videos played laced with profanity, showing rioters shouting as they entered the Capitol. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., quoted Trump as reportedly calling House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a “p—y.” Plaskett read from online forums of Trump supporters referring to some Capitol Police officers as “useless fat asses or girls.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., narrated a clip of security video showing senators and their staff members running from the Senate chamber as rioters approached yards away. When the video was over, he told the senators that because none of them had seen it before, he would play it again.
Trump refused Democrats’ request that he testify, but even from about 1,000 miles away, he was a constant presence in the Senate chamber.
Democrats relied heavily upon Trump’s posts on his Twitter account, which has been shut off for weeks, displaying his tweets from before the election until the attack.
Using his words at rallies and news conferences, the Democrats argued that Trump had be priming his supporters for weeks before the election to believe that, regardless of the outcome, he could not have lost.
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Then, the managers laid out Trump’s involvement in planning the rally where he spoke Jan. 6, showing that he repeatedly called on his supporters to attend even after he learned about violence at a rally in December.
The managers built a detailed timeline, repeatedly playing Trump’s telling his White House rallygoers to “fight like hell” to block the electoral vote count, along with their aggressive reactions. They showed him vowing to march with his supporters, who said they were acting on his behalf as they stormed the building.
“This attack never would have happened but for Donald Trump,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.
But then, Trump went silent.
The Democrats drew attention not to his words but to his silence as fellow Republicans publicly called on him to stop his supporters’ attacks. They played interviews with McCarthy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pleading with Trump to “call off” the attack.
Finally, they played the video Trump released hours into the siege, which praised his supporters and told them to return home “in peace.”
‘Reliving a horrible day’
While impeachment managers spoke to the whole Senate, it was apparent that Republicans, who will ultimately decide the trial, were their target.
“I just think it was a very traumatic experience for a lot of people here,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who promised to “listen and draw conclusions” after having watched the “harsh reminder” of the riot in the new video.
“I think they’ve done a good job connecting the dots,” he said. “The president’s Twitter feed is a matter of public record, and they’ve done, like I said, an effective job of going back several months and just showing that public record.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told reporters that it felt as though he was “reliving a horrible day” and that the video revealed that senators were “maybe not as protected as we thought we were.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead impeachment manager, tried to tug at conservative heartstrings when he quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“As Justice Scalia once said, memorably, you can’t ride with the cops and root for the robbers,” Raskin said, referring to a 1987 opinion Scalia wrote in Rankin v. McPherson, a First Amendment case.
The impeachment managers played video showing the mob nearing other lawmakers and coming within inches of the staff of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as well as video of rioters expressing in unapologetic terms their intention to harm lawmakers.
The managers repeatedly invoked Pence, a Republican who once served in Congress, seeming to push lawmakers to choose between Trump and his vice president.
“Vice President Pence was threatened with death by the president’s supporters because he rejected President Trump’s demand that he overturn the election,” Plaskett said.
Republicans grapple for a target
Republicans found little to complain about Democrats, praising their presentation and condemning the rioters.
There was no defending Trump. But the Republicans who were not inclined to side with Democrats went looking for another target.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had been a staunch ally of Trump’s, seemed to blame Capitol Police for not having killed more rioters.
And one of the impeachment managers, Swalwell, became a favorite target of the right for his outspoken criticism of Trump and his ubiquitous cable news presence.
He became the target of conservatives online as he spoke Wednesday, with frequent allusions to Christina Fang, who has been alleged to be a Chinese spy, who was recently reported to have been targeting him years ago. (Swalwell has said he cut off contact when he learned about it.)