WASHINGTON: Chilling security video of last month’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, including of rioters searching menacingly for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence, has become a key exhibit in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial as lawmakers prosecuting the case wrap up their opening arguments for why Trump should be convicted of inciting the siege.
The House will continue with its case Thursday, with Trumps lawyers set to launch their defense by week’s end.
The footage shown at trial, much of it never before seen, has 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 underscored how dangerously 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 Jan. 6 assault.
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation shown to senators Wednesday amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nations 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.
Pence, who had been presiding over a session to certify Joe Bidens election victory over Trump thus earning Trumps censure was shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters. 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 Trump’s acquittal likely, they sat riveted as the jarring video played in the chamber. Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma bent his head at one point, another GOP colleague putting his hand on his arm in comfort.
They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission, said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the Virgin Islands, told them.
President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, saw himself in the footage, dashing down a hallway to avoid the mob. Romney said he hadn’t realized 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.