WASHINGTON – The main impeachment official in the trial of former President Donald J. Trump issued a warning as proceedings began on Wednesday: not suitable for young children.
“We urge parents and teachers to take a close look at what young people are watching here,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, before showing a video of what he called “shocking violence, the bloodshed and pain ‘inflicted by the violent mob on Capitol Hill on January 6th.
Mr. Raskin’s message was apparently intended for parents watching at home. But the subtext was not lost on those in the Senate chamber, where Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial was taking place: House administrators who fell victim to the attack were speaking to senators who had themselves survived the violent assault. Around them were their collaborators who had curled up behind the desks as the crowd raged through the building. Above them on the balcony, scribbling in notepads, were equally traumatized journalists and security guards who were there to ward off the attackers.
Capitol Hill’s buzzing rhythms don’t easily allow for long moments of reflection, let alone following an insurgency. But video evidence obtained by impeachment officials turned the country’s most powerful lawmakers into a captive audience, forcing them to absorb the enormity of the attack and judge whether Mr. Trump deserved to be blamed. for what they had witnessed.
“We have to relive it,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, although he predicted that some staff would probably avoid watching video of the deadly attack again. “It’s painful. It conjures up a very traumatic moment. But it also helps bring it to an end, so I think it’s something we have to go through. But it reminds us of what a day it has been. tragic.
The senators mostly watched in silence the images of the rioters, the sound of their profane taunts and threats echoing on the walls. As the footage was released, some senators appeared to unwittingly chart the path they took to leave the chamber as it became clear how close they were to the crowd.
Included in the presentation were unseen footage of Officer Eugene Goodman, who has been widely hailed as a hero, redirecting Utah Senator Mitt Romney away from the crowds; rioters approaching Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader; and others knocked on the door of an office in which members of the staff of President Nancy Pelosi had barricaded themselves.
- A trial is underway to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a murderous mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on January 6, violently violating security measures and sent lawmakers went underground as they gathered to certify President Biden. victory.
- The voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the United States government” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting to remove him.
- To condemn Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to agree. That means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to be sentenced.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with the Democrats in pushing back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided on whether to condemn Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate condemns Mr. Trump, convicting him of “inciting violence against the United States government,” then senators could vote on whether to prevent him from performing his future duties. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it were party lines, Democrats would win with Vice President Kamala Harris voting for the tiebreaker.
- If the Senate does not condemn Mr. Trump, the former president could again be eligible for public office. Public opinion polls show he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
“I was very fortunate indeed that Agent Goodman was there to point me in the right direction,” Romney told reporters afterwards.
Ms Pelosi’s staff watched the video together and later recounted how the sounds of the attack accompanied them: the screams in the rotunda and the force with which rioters knocked on the door.
“You were only 58 steps” from the crowd, Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat of California and one of the impeachers, told senators.
Calls from overwhelmed police officers filled the marble room, the noise almost deafening in a room where the click of a pen is often audible.
Sitting in the room, several senators looked visibly distressed: there were heavy breaths during footage of rioters insulting Ms Pelosi, fingers clenched on the armrests and, in Mr Schumer’s case, a slow nod. as he watched himself flee the crowd. Several senators left for a recess with red eyes, visibly emotional and avoiding questions.
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, called the video evidence “heartbreaking.”
“The historic weight of the insurgency has resonated today for many members,” said Schatz. “Frankly, I think there were colleagues across the aisle who didn’t quite understand the threat to us physically and the real peril to American democracy. If that results in votes, I have no idea. But you could feel the weight in the air and you feel the emotion in the room.
Even videos that have long been available to the public were new to many senators. And while it’s easy, in the midst of the rush of government affairs, to miss the latest video or scroll through graphic details, the trial rules have kept most senators frozen.
“We saw it in some ways, and in many ways we weren’t – we weren’t watching it live on TV like other people did,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican from Missouri, after the first day of the work ended Tuesday. “This is probably the longest time I have spent watching videos on this topic. It reminded me of what a horrible day it was.
The effects of the breach of January 6 are still being felt. This week, 27 Democratic senators, led by Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, called for additional resources to address the mental health needs of employees working in the Capitol complex.
Senators wrote in a statement that “demand for existing mental health programs has increased” since the attack, and called for expanding the emotional and behavioral health services and resources available to congressional staff. , the concierge and catering employees, the press, the Capitol police.
Mr Cardin recalled his personal experience on January 6, when he was taken to a safe place and his family became “very concerned” about his safety. He said no one was supposed to know where his hiding place was, but his granddaughter found him using a phone tracker app.
“She told all of my family where I was,” Mr. Cardin said.
“It was one of the most difficult days of our lives,” he said. “We didn’t know how much we were at risk. You knew we were in danger, but we didn’t know it was that much. I mean, literally, we could all have been wiped out.
Nearly 140 police officers from two departments were injured in the violence, including officers who suffered brain damage, shattered spinal discs and one who is likely to lose his eye. Five people died during the riots.
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford, who had planned to question the election results before backing down after the mob attack, appeared to get emotional in the bedroom as he watched the video of a crushed officer in a door. Then he called the video “painful to see”.
“Who in the name of God thinks, ‘I’m going to show that I’m right by smashing into the Capitol’?” Asked Mr Lankford.
Revisiting the horrors of the day, Senators said they would not be swayed by emotion and would let facts and logic dictate their decisions – all while acknowledging the visceral impact of the images.
Susan Collins of Maine, one of six Republicans who joined 50 Democrats to move the trial forward, said the presentation “reinforces my belief that this has been a terrible day for our country and that there is no doubt that it is was an attempt to disrupt the count. electoral votes. “
She added that she was “proud of the fact that we came back that night and completed our constitutional duty – we did not let the rioters accomplish their goal of disrupting the vote.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat No. 2, said the videos shown in the Senate were “more explicit than anything I have ever seen on television.”
But Mr Durbin said no video would ever be more emotionally draining on him than attending the service last week of Brian D. Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died from injuries sustained during the riot. .
Mr Durbin spoke to Constable Sicknick’s parents after the service to let them know how much he appreciated their son’s service.
“I can tell you that no part will be more difficult than the memorial service for this officer,” he said.