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Donald Trump impeachment trial | Chilling new security video shows police begging for help, senators fleeing

Bruce Castor, lawyer for former President Donald Trump, arrives for the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 in Washington.   | Photo Credit: AP

Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows and doors and searching menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help.

In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence," some equipped with combat gear and members of extremist groups among the first inside. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.

At one dramatic moment, the video shows police shooting into the crowd through a broken window, killing a San Diego woman, Ashli Babbitt.

The Vice President, who had been presiding over a session to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump — thus earning Mr. Trump's censure — is shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters. Ms. Pelosi was evacuated from the complex as her staff hid behind doors in her suite of offices.

Though most of the Senate jurors have clearly already made up their minds on acquittal or conviction, they were riveted on the video and audio as the rioters took over the chamber where the impeachment trial is now being held. Screams from the audio filled the chamber. At times, it almost seemed as if some senators were seeing and hearing Mr. Trump for the first time as he urged his supporters on.

"They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission," said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the Virgin Islands. "President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down."

The stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as the prosecutors argued Mr. Trump was no “innocent bystander” but the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot, a President who spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Mr. Biden’s victory.

 

The House Democrats showed piles of evidence from the former President himself — hundreds of Mr. Trump's tweets and comments that culminated in his January 6 rally cry to go the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. Mr. Trump then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee," they said, as the mob ransacked the iconic building. Five people died.

First viewing

The senators on Wednesday saw for the first time the detailed security video of the break-in and heard grim emergency calls from Capitol police.

“To us it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to the madness that day,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead prosecutor, who pointed to Mr. 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 reveled in it.”

Lead defense lawyer Bruce Castor said he shifted his planned approach after hearing the prosecutors’ emotional opening and instead spoke conversationally to the senators, saying Mr. Trump’s team would denounce the “repugnant” attack and “in the strongest possible way denounce the rioters.” He appealed to the senators as “patriots first,” and encouraged them to be “cool headed” as they assessed the arguments.

 

Mr. Trump's attorney David Schoen turned the trial toward starkly partisan tones, arguing the Democrats were fueled by a “base hatred” of the former President.

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

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

At one pivotal point, 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,” Mr. Raskin said through tears. “This cannot be the future of America.”

 

The House prosecutors had argued there is no “January exception” for a President to avoid impeachment on his way out the door. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., 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.

If Congress stands by, “it would invite future Presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability," he said.

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

Mr. Trump's second impeachment trial is expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated affair of a year ago. In that case, Mr. Trump was charged with having privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Mr. Biden, then a Democratic rival for the presidency.

This time, Mr. Trump's “stop the steal” rally rhetoric and the storming of the Capitol played out for the world to see.

The Democratic-led House impeached the President swiftly, one week after the attack.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 3:46:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/donald-trump-impeachment-trial-trump-inciter-in-chief-of-capitol-attack-allege-democrats/article33804608.ece

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