Chilling security footage of last month’s deadly insurrection at the US Capitol has become a key exhibit in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial as politicians prosecuting the case wrap up their opening arguments for why Mr Trump should be convicted of inciting the siege.
The House is continuing its case on Thursday, with Mr Trump’s lawyers launching their defence by the end of the week.
Democrats plan to use their remaining hours of arguments to lay out the physical and mental harm caused by the attack, discuss Mr Trump’s lack of action as it unfolded and do a final presentation on the legal issues involved, according to aides working on the impeachment team.
The footage shown at trial, much of it never seen before, included video of the mob smashing into the building, distraught members of Congress receiving comfort, rioters engaging in hand-to-hand combat with police and audio of Capitol police officers pleading for back-up.
It also includes footage of rioters searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and vice president Mike Pence, and underscores how close the rioters came to the nation’s leaders, shifting the focus of the trial from an academic debate about the constitution to a raw retelling of the January 6 assault.
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation shown to senators on Wednesday amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days.
It offered fresh details into the attackers, scenes of police heroism and staff whispers of despair.
The footage included rioters roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence”, some equipped with combat gear.
Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows. And in one wrenching moment, police were shown shooting and killing a San Diego woman, Ashli Babbitt, as the mob tried to break through doors near the House Chamber.
Mr Pence, who had been presiding over a session to certify Joe Biden’s election victory over Mr Trump — thus earning the former president’s censure — was shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters.
Ms Pelosi was seen being evacuated from the complex as her staff hid behind doors in her suite of offices.
Though most of the Senate jurors seem to have made up their minds, making Mr Trump’s acquittal likely, they sat riveted as the jarring video played in the chamber.
House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett said: “They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission.
“President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
Republican senator Mitt Romney saw himself in the footage, dashing down a hallway to avoid the mob.
Mr Romney said he had not realised that officer Eugene Goodman, who has been praised as a hero for luring rioters away from the Senate doors, had been the one to direct him to safety.
“That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” he said.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors laid out their case by methodically linking Mr Trump’s verbal attacks on the election to the violence that resulted when hundreds of loyalists stormed the building.
Mr Trump did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee”, the Democrats said, as the mob ransacked the building. Five people died.
The goal of the presentation was to cast Mr Trump not as an innocent bystander but rather as the “inciter in chief” who spent months spreading falsehoods about the election.
Thursday brings the second and final full day of House arguments, with the Trump legal team taking the lectern on Friday and Saturday for up to 16 hours to lay out their defence.
The difficulty facing Mr Trump’s defence team became apparent at the start as they leaned on the process of the trial, unlike any other, rather than the substance of the case against the former president.
On Wednesday, the prosecutors aimed to pre-emptively rebut arguments that Mr Trump’s lawyers have indicated are central to their defence, arguing for instance that there was no First Amendment protection for the president’s encouragement of the rioters.
His lawyers are likely to blame the rioters themselves for the violence, but the Democrats’ presentation made clear that they view Mr Trump as ultimately responsible.
Mr Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be impeached twice.
He is charged with “incitement of insurrection”, though his lawyers say his words were protected by the constitution’s First Amendment and just a figure of speech.
The prosecutors are arguing that Mr Trump’s words were not just free speech but part of “the big lie” — his relentless efforts to sow doubts about the election results.
While six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote to proceed with the trial on Tuesday, the 56 to 44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes needed for conviction.
Speaking on Thursday, President Joe Biden said he believed “some minds may be changed” after the videos of the assault on the Capitol were shown to senators.
Mr Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that he did not watch any of the previous day’s proceedings live but later saw news coverage.
The president has steadfastly refused to weigh in on the trial and said again on Thursday that his focus was on fulfilling his campaign promise to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
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