Trump impeachment: Chilling footage shows how close rioters got to senators

Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 12:26PM

Trump impeachment: Chilling footage shows how close rioters got to senators

Publish Date
Thu, 11 Feb 2021, 12:26PM

Donald Trump's impeachment trial has entered its second day with prosecutors arguing that Trump was no "innocent bystander" but rather the "inciter-in-chief" of the deadly attack at the US Capitol that aimed to overturn his election loss to Joe Biden.

House Democrats methodically presented evidence from the former president himself — hundreds of Trump tweets and comments that culminated in his January 6 rally cry to go the Capitol and "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat.

Trump then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with "glee," they said, as the mob ransacked the iconic building. Five people died.

Senators, many with minds already made up, nevertheless sat riveted as jurors. They met in the same chamber the rioters stormed that day, battling through police barricades moments after the lawmakers had been rushed to a secret shelter.

For the first time, the senators saw detailed security video of the break-in and heard grim emergency calls from Capitol police pleading for back-up as they were overwhelmed.

"To us it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to the madness that day," said Democrat Jamie Raskin, the lead prosecutor, who pointed to Trump as the instigator.

"And when his mob overran and occupied the Senate and attacked the House and assaulted law enforcement, he watched it on TV like a reality show. He revelled in it."

Prosecutors today played security footage from inside the Capitol that shows Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman warning Republican Senator Mitt Romney that rioters were headed his way. After encountering Goodman, Romney turns around and runs.

Goodman later led the rioters away from the Senate chamber, where Vice President Mike Pence was nearby with his family. The rioters were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" as they made their way through the building. Goodman was has been honored by Congress for his heroics.

Democrats also played audio recordings of police officers begging for more help against the rioters, the fear and panic apparent in many of their voices. As the mob breached the Capitol, one officer told dispatch, "We're still taking rocks, bottles and pieces of flag and metal pole."

In another recording, an officer says, "We have been flanked, and we've lost the line."

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney said today they are deeply disturbed by the evidence. Speaking to reporters during a break at today's trial, Murkowski said the Democrats' presentation was "pretty damning." She added: "I just don't see how Donald Trump could be reelected like this to the presidency again."

Romney said he was brought to tears watching the video of Eugene Goodman directing him away from the mob. He called the video "overwhelmingly distressing and emotional".

Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be impeached twice. The riot followed a rally during which Trump urged his supporters to "fight like hell", words his lawyers say were simply a figure of speech.

The former president's impeachment trial in the US Senate began yesterday with prosecutors presenting graphic videos of the insurrection. Senators, many of whom fled for safety on the day of the attack, watched the footage of Trump supporters who battled past police to storm the halls, Trump flags waving.

Trump's team argues that the Constitution doesn't allow for impeachment at this late date. That's a legal issue that could resonate with the Senate Republicans who are eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behaviour. The former president spent yesterday fuming after his attorneys delivered a meandering defence and failed to halt the trial on those constitutional grounds. Some allies called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

Republicans made it clear that they were unhappy with Trump's defence, many of them saying they didn't understand where it was going — particularly the opening of lead defence lawyer Bruce Castor. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, who voted with Democrats to move forward with the trial, said that Trump's team did a "terrible job". Maine Senator Susan Collins, who also voted with Democrats, said she was "perplexed". Senator Lisa Murkowki of Alaska said it was a "missed opportunity" for the defence.

Six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote that the trial of the former president was constitutional, but the 56-44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes that would be needed for conviction.

The House prosecutors had argued there is no "January exception" for a president to avoid impeachment on his way out the door. Democratic Representative Joe Neguse referred to the corruption case of William Belknap, a war secretary in the Grant administration, who was impeached, tried and ultimately acquitted by the Senate after leaving office.

At one pivotal point in the trial, Raskin told his personal story of bringing his family to the Capitol that day to witness the certification of the Electoral College vote, only to have his daughter and son-in-law hiding in an office, fearing for their lives.

"Senators, this cannot be our future," Raskin said through tears. "This cannot be the future of America."

It appears unlikely that the House prosecutors will call witnesses, and Trump has declined a request to testify. The trial is expected to continue into the weekend.

The prosecution argues that the insurrection at the Capitol was the final culmination of Trump repeatedly and baselessly alleging that the election had been "stolen" from him. Today a Georgia prosecutor announced that she has opened a criminal investigation into "attempts to influence" last year's general election, including a call in which Trump asked a top official to find enough votes to overturn Joe Biden's victory in the state.

Security remains extremely tight at the Capitol, fenced off with razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not be watching the trial.

"Joe Biden is the President, he's not a pundit, he's not going to opine on back and forth arguments," she said.

- AP