Impeachment Trial Day 2: Democrats Highlight How Close Rioters Came To Encountering Senators
BY BARBARA SPRUNT, RYAN LUCAS & ALANA WISE
House impeachment managers showed chilling new footage to senators during Day 2 of Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, highlighting just how close the violent mob got to then-Vice President Mike Pence and congressional lawmakers on Jan. 6.
Video from the U.S. Capitol’s security cameras shows members of Congress evacuating their chambers, including one clip in which Sen. Mitt Romney is warned of a nearby mob and darts the other way. In another video, a rioter is heard looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the rioter paces down a hallway.
Also shown was a police officer’s body camera footage, from more than two hours after the Capitol was breached, of officers brutally assaulted by the mob. One officer screams in anguish as he is crushed in a doorway by the rioters.
Two impeachment managers — Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands and then California Rep. Eric Swalwell, both Democrats — presented the footage Wednesday, pausing to share context on the timeline of the events as well as a model that tracked the progression of rioters as they entered and moved within the Capitol.
After the presentation, Romney told Capitol Hill reporters that viewing the footage was an emotional experience.
“It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes,” the Utah Republican said. “That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional.”
WATCH IN FULL: Impeachment Trial Day 2
He said he’d never seen the video of himself before and had no idea how close he was to the rioters. “I was very fortunate indeed,” he said.
The managers also included never-before-heard audio communication among law enforcement officers pleading for reinforcements and reporting multiple injuries.
“They’re throwing metal poles at us,” one officer can be heard saying.
At one point that afternoon, Plaskett emphasized, the mob got dangerously close to Pence and his family.
“As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family,” she said. “They were just feet away from one of the doors to this chamber, where many of you remained at that time,” addressing the senators in the room directly.
She pointed to footage of the mob erecting a gallows complete with a noose outside the Capitol, along with continued chants of “Hang Mike Pence.”
“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.
She added that Capitol Police deemed the threat so severe that they evacuated Pelosi to an off-site location.
“The insurrectionists’ intent to murder the speaker of the House is well documented with charging documents that are now available,” Plaskett said. “We know from the rioters themselves that if they had found Speaker Pelosi, they would have killed her.”
She said one man who entered Pelosi’s office — captured by photos infamously with his feet on her desk — was carrying a 950,000-volt stun gun walking stick.
“The weapon could have caused serious pain and incapacitated anyone,” Plaskett said.
Footage shows Pelosi’s staff members barricading themselves in a room; a rioter bust through an outer door before moving on down the hallway.
Plaskett laid the blame for the attack at the feet of Trump.
“[Lawmakers] 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,” she said. “President Trump put a target on their backs, and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
Videos used to charge rioters
The scenes of violent mayhem were a centerpiece of House managers’ case on the opening day of their arguments in the impeachment trial of Trump.
Videos and pictures posted on social media have played a central role in the federal investigation into the insurrection. Many of the people who stormed the Capitol took the images themselves and posted them online to brag about their role in the events.
That has come back to bite them since authorities were able to easily identify them, arrest them and charge them.
The FBI and its partners have meticulously gone through a huge amount of digital evidence to identify the insurrectionists. The bureau says it has received more than 200,000 digital tips so far and receives more every day.
The FBI says investigators have identified more than 500 individuals believed to have been involved in the Capitol riot, although not all of those people have been identified by name — some of them are just faces in photographs taken at the riot.
So far, officials have charged around 200 people in connection with the violence at the Capitol. The charges include everything from unlawful entry and disorderly conduct to assaulting a federal officer.
Some of the alleged insurrectionists, including members of right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, are facing more serious conspiracy charges.
Sen. Mike Lee objects
As Wednesday’s proceedings came to a close, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah grew upset at Democrats’ use of quotes Lee said were wrongly attributed to him.
Impeachment manager David Cicilline said former President Trump had called Lee during the Jan. 6 insurrection, meaning to reach Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Managers said they based their comments on press reports. Cicilline didn’t say what his source was but some media outlets, including CNN, reported that Trump asked Tuberville to make additional objections to the certification process on the call.
Lee appeared visibly upset when moving to have the quotes about him withdrawn.
“Statements were attributed to me repeatedly, as to which I have personal knowledge because I am the source. They are not true. I never made those statements, I ask that they be stricken,” Lee said of the remarks.
The matter was resolved fairly quickly, with House Rep. Jamie Raskin saying he would withdraw the remarks.
“This is much ado about nothing because it’s not critical in any way to our case,” Raskin said.
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