As House impeachment managers presented chilling footage of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, some of which had never been seen by the public, during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump this week, senators from both sides of the aisle sat at attention, watching the events from a myriad of different angles.
Though most of the senators had experienced what happened in the footage of that day in person, watching the videos was an intense experience for many of them. “It was reliving a horrible day,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said to USA Today after watching the footage on Wednesday.
“[The footage] just reinforces my belief that it was a terrible day for our country,” Collins told USA Today. Collins also described the videos as “riveting” and “compelling.”
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Collins, along with several Democrats, were visually shocked or upset by the footage shown on Wednesday. House impeachment managers showed a deluge of videos and audio showing that, not only were the Trump militants who stormed the Capitol that day violent and angry, they came very close to taking the lives of members of Congress and even possibly the life of then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) pointed at the screen and whispered to his colleagues as a clip showed Pence being evacuated. Lankford appeared to cry while watching the videos.
“It’s painful to see,” Lankford said, per reporting from Politico. “Who in God’s name thinks, ‘I’m going to show that I’m right by smashing into the Capitol’? Who would do that?”
On Thursday as the trial continued, House impeachment manager Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) emphasized the trauma of the day. Cicilline presented clips from fellow members of Congress who talked about how difficult January 6 was for them, and documented how others who work in the Capitol were affected too.
“There was some fear, to be sure, but overwhelmingly the emotion I experienced was one of anger,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-South Dakota) in one of the clips shown by Cicilline. “I could not believe that we had gotten to this point where so many of us sown these seeds of anger and division. We had built this powder keg, and we were beginning to see this powder keg light up and frankly, I was furious.”
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) described on Fox News how fellow House members had barricaded the door of the House chamber and prepared to use furniture as weapons if need be, Cicilline showed in another clip. Fallon called it “surreal” and “unbelievable.”
Both Johnson and Fallon did not vote to impeach Trump last month, and they may be joined by several fellow Republicans in the Senate to vote against conviction when the impeachment trial concludes. Indeed, many of the Republicans who had been so affected by the footage shown had voted against the constitutionality of the trial itself on its first day, including Lankford, Blunt, Portman and Rounds, in what some have said was a proxy vote for or against conviction.
The prevailing prediction among politicos going into the impeachment trial was that Trump would not be convicted — and many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), maintain that that’s still the case.
“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing after today,” tweeted Graham on Wednesday. “I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.”
After watching the footage, however, some Democrats expressed wonderment at how one could not vote to convict when the managers had so thoroughly laid out their case. “I don’t see how you can watch any of this and listen to their presentation and not conclude that Trump bears tremendous responsibility for what happened,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).