Graphic Video Shows Mob Storming Capitol, Stalking Pelosi, Pence
(Bloomberg) -- House impeachment managers played graphic video showing a violent mob of Donald Trump’s supporters rampaging through the U.S. Capitol and stalking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, portraying the siege as the culmination of the former president’s months-long campaign to stoke anger over the election.
Democratic Delegate Stacey Plaskett, one of the House members prosecuting the impeachment case against Trump, said the FBI and prosecutors found that rioters intended to assassinate Pelosi, Pence and others in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” Plaskett told the senators who are sitting as jurors in the impeachment trial.
Pence was targeted because he refused Trump’s demands to help overturn the results of the November presidential election. One unidentified member of the crowd says on video: “Pence lied to us, he’s a total treasonous pig.”
On the second full day of the trial in Washington, the House managers attempted to build a step-by-step narrative of Trump’s actions even before the Nov. 3 presidential vote to inflame his base with false claims of a stolen election.
“The evidence will show you that ex-President Trump was no innocent bystander,” Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House manager, said at the start of the Democrats’ case on Wednesday. “The evidence will show that he clearly incited the Jan. 6 insurrection. It will show that Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander-in-chief and became the ‘inciter-in-chief’ of a dangerous insurrection.”
Although six Republicans voted with all Democrats and independents on Tuesday to dismiss the defense’s argument that the trial is unconstitutional, the House team is far from winning the 17 GOP votes needed to reach the two-thirds majority to convict the former president. Trump was also acquitted in his first impeachment trial just over a year ago.
Democrats used previously unreleased video footage from Capitol security cameras that was combined with video recorded from within the crowd that showed them overwhelming police officers outside the building and breaking through windows to get inside.
At the time, lawmakers were meeting in a joint session to certify the Electoral College votes that ratified President Joe Biden’s victory.
House managers took turns saying that Trump’s efforts to sow doubt about the results before the Nov. 3 election and his weeks-long efforts afterward to overturn his loss to Democrat Biden with “the big lie” that the election was stolen was the drumbeat that inspired and ignited his supporters to storm the Capitol to stop the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.
“This was never about one speech,” Representative Eric Swalwell said. “He built this mob over many months with repeated messaging until they believed that they’d been robbed of their vote and they would do anything to stop the certification.”
Raskin said that even hours after the attack, Trump continued to spread the lie that he had won the election and commiserated with the rioters. Raskin said Trump violated his oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the country.
Democrats showed video footage of people who participated in the mob saying they believed Trump had called them to action that day.
At the start of the attack, audio of police radio calls captured officers citing “multiple law enforcement injuries” and saying that “they’re throwing metal poles at us.” Then the haunting message: “1349 hours. Declaring it a riot.”
Other video clips showed rioters smashing windows, banging on doors, attacking police and screaming. Some of them were in body armor, including members of the far-right Proud Boys. Democrats also showed security camera footage of Pence being evacuated after the rioters had already breached the building, even as some were hunting him to execute him, chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
The footage included Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola, who was arrested in connection with the riot. The attorney for Pezzola said in a court filing on Wednesday that Pezzola was responding to “the entreaties of the then commander-in-chief, President Trump.” It claimed that Pezzola was “misled by the president’s deception.”
House managers plan to use Wednesday and Thursday to lay out a story of how Trump’s efforts to overturn the election culminated in the Jan. 6 attack. They said the House managers plan to finish presenting their case on Thursday and may not use all 16 hours allotted for them. Trump’s defense team would then have 16 hours to argue their case.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s closest allies, says he spoke to Trump on Tuesday night after the first day of the trial and assured the former president that “the case is over” and the trial will end with his acquittal.
Graham predicted that more than the 44 Republican senators who voted against continuing the trial on Tuesday will vote to acquit Trump. It would take 67 votes to convict the former president when the trial ends.
“It’s just a matter of getting the final verdict now,” Graham told reporters.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is signaling to fellow Republicans that the final vote is a matter of conscience and that senators who disputed the constitutionality of the trial could still vote to convict the former president, according to two people familiar with his thinking. McConnell on Tuesday voted to dismiss the impeachment articles on constitutional grounds.
McConnell made no comment when asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether he’s open to conviction.
McConnell’s approach contrasts with his stance before Trump’s first impeachment trial a little more than a year ago when he said he was “not impartial” and predicted Trump’s eventual acquittal.
Besides arguing that the trial is unconstitutional, the defense team said Trump didn’t incite the assault on the Capitol or commit any crime. The impeachment is an illegal Bill of Attainder – a measure punishing a private citizen without a trial – and the quick impeachment by the House violates his free speech and due process rights, his lawyers said in their trial brief.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that the impeachment was a politically motivated attempt to remove him as a challenger to Democratic power rather than a remedy for wrongdoing.
“We are really here because the majority of the House of Representatives do not want to face Donald Trump as a political rival,” Trump attorney Bruce Castor told the Senate on Tuesday.
Castor said Trump’s incendiary rhetoric was protected by the First Amendment and that going forward would start a cycle of retaliation and serial impeachments by both parties.
The managers haven’t yet decided whether they will ask the Senate to call witnesses to testify in person, according to the aides. Trump rejected a request by Raskin that he testify at the trial though the Senate could subpoena him.
Senate Republicans and the Biden White House are both pressing to keep the trial short. It could wrap up as soon as this weekend. Republicans are anxious to avoid a prolonged focus on Trump’s role in the assault against the Capitol and Biden’s team is determined to secure quick passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package it considers essential to halt an economic slide.
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