WASHINGTON – New video footage presented by House impeachment managers shows how close United States Capitol rioters came to members of Congress on Jan. 6 as the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump began Wednesday.
Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, introduced Capitol security camera footage showing former Vice President Mike Pence and his family being rushed out of danger by the Secret Service, fleeing a mob only 58 feet away that was chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”
The House managers at the Senate trial essentially argued that Trump encouraged an assassination attempt on his own vice president.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told the Senate that this hostility toward Pence came from Trump himself. During his Jan. 6 midday speech to a crowd of his supporters, Trump mentioned Pence in less than flattering terms 11 times. He also tweeted at 2:24 p.m. – over an hour into the attack on the Capitol – that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution…”
Castro then showed a video of a mob member reciting Trump’s exact words into a bullhorn so the rest of the crowd could hear it.
“Some of these insurgents were heard saying they hope to find Vice President Mike Pence and execute him by hanging him from a Capitol Hill tree as a traitor,” Castro said, followed by a picture of a gallows with a noose that was made by the rioters for Pence. “This is what Donald Trump incited.”
Other footage showed the insurgents searching feverishly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. At one point, members of the mob could be heard calling for “Nancy, Nancy!”
More previously unseen security footage showed Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, known now for leading a mob away from Senate chamber doors, warning Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, about the incoming rioters. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, was just two yards from the mob, Swalwell said, before he was rushed back to safety.
Capitol Police Officer Daniel Hodges was also shown being attacked by the mob. Hodges recalls struggling to breathe as the insurrectionists hit him in the head with a metal object, knocking him down before proceeding to hit him from all sides. He was then wedged into the doorway, bleeding from the mouth and blinded by his mask being held up over his eyes.
Hodges’s experience, Swalwell said, reminded him of what many other officers went through on Jan. 6, as well as of the three officers who lost their lives.
“On January 6th, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” Castro said.
Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence, impeachment managers argued, aided in the rioters’ determination to continue the assault.
“President Trump once again failed us,” Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, said. “He could have immediately and forcefully intervened and stopped the violence…he alone had that power.”
Video footage was just one part of the multimedia presentation that the House impeachment managers used to argue that Trump incited the attack on the Capitol.
“The evidence will show you that President Trump is no innocent bystander,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, said as he opened the day’s proceedings. The lead House manager for the unprecedented trial, Raskin was the first of many House managers who followed a similar strategy: using Trump’s own words as key evidence.
Raskin highlighted three of Trump’s tweets: a Dec. 12 message saying “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT”; another on Dec. 12 alerting followers of a protest on Jan. 6, saying “Be there, will be wild!”; and one from that fateful day, Jan. 6, telling his supporters “And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
On Tuesday, Raskin revealed his own personal experiences of the Capitol riot. Raskin brought his daughter and son-in-law to work with him that day, so they could be together in their grief after losing his son, Tommy, just a few days earlier. Instead of observing a peaceful transfer of power, Raskin’s family ended up trapped, hiding in an office just off the House floor.
Raskin’s trauma was mirrored by his fellow House managers, all of whom said they were grateful to have been able to walk back into the chambers after the Capitol had been secured, adding a raw and emotional element to the trial. Most of the senators, acting as the jury, went through similar experiences, which the House Democrats sought to remind them of during their presentations. Some senators even saw themselves fleeing danger in the new videos.
Neguse and other House managers presented evidence to support the contention that the attack on the Capitol was not an isolated incident. Instead, they said, it was incited by Trump’s continuous insistence that if he were to lose the 2020 election, it would be as a result of a rigged election.
Video compilations showed Trump at rallies across the country before the November election, claiming that the Democratic Party was trying to steal the election. On election night, Trump went so far as to say that he had already won the election — a statement Trump has never withdrawn.
Post-election, Trump disputed the results of the election, first turning to the courts. After over 60 courts said his lawsuits were without merit, Trump did not end the “stolen election” narrative.
The Trump campaign released advertisements calling the election fraudulent, reportedly spending millions of dollars on them and scheduling them to run up until Jan. 5.
“They use the same words and phrases Trump had been using for months,” Swalwell said.
During this time, Trump’s direct line of communication with his supporters was through social media. Alongside his own posts, his supporters took to their own platforms to assert his claims and aid in the planning of events. The House managers said Trump’s team actively monitored the sites in which his self-proclaimed “cavalry” made plans for Jan. 6.
“Truth is truth, whether it is denied or not,” Plaskett said, presenting evidence that Trump’s team was aware of the role he played in his supporters’ plans.
“And the truth is,” she said, “President Trump has spent months calling his supporters to a march on a specific day, at a specific time, in specific places, to stop the certification in leading up to the event. There were hundreds of posts online showing his supporters took this as a call to arms.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, delivered a harrowing timeline of the day’s events, her voice sometimes cracking with emotion.
At noon, Trump started his so-called “Save America” speech, in which he repeated that he would not concede the election and called his supporters to march to the Capitol. In this speech alone, he said the word “fight” 20 times, according to Dean.
At 12:30 p.m., segments of the rally crowd began to march to the Capitol. At 12:53 p.m., the northwest barricade of the Capitol was breached while Capitol Police struggled to force the violent throng back to the steps. By 1:45 p.m., the mob was able to surge past the officers. Shouts of “This is a revolution!” could be heard from the crowd.
Just after 2:10 p.m., insurrectionist mobs overwhelmed security and entered the halls of the Capitol. By 2:30 p.m., Dean said she could hear the “terrifying” banging on the House chamber doors – a sound that she said she would never be able to forget.
Rep. David Cicilline, D- Rhode Island, and Castro detailed Trump’s actions after his speech and as the assault proceeded. At no time did the president try to halt the deadly attack, they said.
After sending his supporters to the Capitol, Trump was silent until 1:49 p.m., when he tweeted a video using footage from his speech that day about “stopping the steal” of the election.
“He could have commanded those to leave, but he didn’t,” Cicilline said.
Instead, Cicilline said, Trump’s sole focus was on ensuring that the electoral votes were not certified. And, despite tweets that he wanted things to remain peaceful, Trump did not call on the National Guard to help the outnumbered Capitol and Metro police forces. It was Pence, Castro said, that reportedly made the call while still under threat.
The last thing Trump said in a tweet on Jan. 6, at 6:01 p.m., was: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremonious & viciously stripped away from great patriots…”
“Donald Trump abdicated his duty to us all,” Cicilline said. “We have to make this right. And you can make it right.”
The trial continues Thursday at noon.