The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump began in the Senate on Tuesday, spearheaded by lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. The trial begins a month and three days after Trump loyalists swarmed the Capitol on January 6 and the resulting violence led to the death of several people, including the suicides of two Capitol Police officers in the days following.
After the Senate voted on the rules of impeachment and Raskin made a short speech, the House impeachment lead showed a video compilation of footage taken from phones and cameras from the January 6 attack, mixed with Trump’s remarks from before and after the Capitol breach.
“You will not be hearing extended lectures from me because our case is based on cold, hard facts,” said Raskin in his opening remarks. “[Former] President Trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced. Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offense in your last few weeks in office, you do it with Constitutional impunity.”
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The video is essentially a mini-documentary, showing the day’s events in roughly chronological order, and opens with footage of Trump that Wednesday morning egging on his followers at a rally in Washington, D.C. “We will stop the steal,” he said. “After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you…. We’re going [to] walk down to the Capitol.”
That rally was one in a long series of events in which Trump encouraged his followers to question the results of the presidential election. A timeline compiled by NPR shows that, for months, he told his followers that the election results were not to be trusted and that far right militants should “stand back and stand by” to help him keep his presidency.
These comments egged on supporters who, the video shows, were angry and ready to act on behalf of the then-president. “Take the Capitol,” the Trump supporters chant in the video footage shown on the Senate floor on Tuesday, as they march from Trump’s rally to the Capitol along Pennsylvania Avenue.
After the election, the impeachment managers say in the legal briefing filed last week, Trump could have accepted the result of the election gracefully and moved on. “Instead, he summoned a mob to Washington, exhorted them into a frenzy, and aimed them like a loaded cannon down Pennsylvania Avenue,” they wrote. At the rally, Trump did indeed tell them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue that day.
The video then shows Trump supporters violently clashing with law enforcement officers outside the Capitol and breaching fences set up around it as the law enforcement personnel retreat. One clip shows gallows that someone in the crowd set up. There are Trump flags scattered throughout the crowd, and they chant “fight for Trump,” “stop the steal,” “fuck you police,” and “fuck the blue” as they encroach on and eventually breach the building.
Over the past weeks, many Republicans have continually denied that the Trump supporters were even egged on by the then-president, but the footage shown is at odds with that claim. One exchange shows a Trump supporter inside the building yelling at a police officer. “You’re outnumbered. There’s a fucking million of us out there, and we are listening to Trump — your boss,” they say.
After Trump issued a tweet criticizing then-Vice President Mike Pence, supporters outside are shown yelling “traitor Pence.” Inside, the Trump supporters are shown trying to break down doors and shattering windows. One of the supporters, Ashli Babbitt, is shown being shot while trying to climb through a barricaded door. Babbitt was one of the seven people who have died as a result of the Capitol breach.
As video footage showed Trump supporters on the rampage inside the House chambers and lawmakers’ offices, videos of the scene outside showed an exchange that hints at the violence that Trump supporters had been planning to achieve their goals, as revealed by recent court documents. “That’s what we fucking need to have, 30,000 guns up here,” one Trump loyalist says. “Next trip,” replies another.
Though many of the Trump militants were posting plans about the day online in open forums, revelations about the content and violent intent behind their messages have been stunning. Several Trump supporters have been found threatening to kill Democrats prior to that Wednesday, including issuing direct threats toward Democratic Representatives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). A sitting congresswoman, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), has also since been found to have sympathized with similar remarks on social media.
A particularly stunning set of clips shows a crowd of Trump supporters crushing law enforcement officers in a hallway that leads into the Capitol. In a coordinated attempt, they are shown pushing as a crowd against a line of officers guarding the building as Trump supporters in the front are shoving law enforcement officers’ faces and grabbing their shields. Elsewhere, a Trump supporter is shown beating a group of officers with a hockey stick as the crowd roughhouses the officers.
One law enforcement officer died directly of injuries that he suffered on January 6 and two officers have since died by suicide after working at the Capitol that day.
The footage ends with a tweet that Trump sent after the breach. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he wrote that evening.
“Senators, the president was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 13th for doing that,” said Raskin after the video ended. “You ask what a high crime and misdemeanor is under our Constitution, that’s a high crime and misdemeanor. If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing.”