Will the Chilling Video Evidence Do it for the GOP?

Members of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff, who were barricaded in a conference room and terrified for their lives during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, watch video from that day during the US Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump on Capitol Hill on February 10. (Photo by Erin Schaff/via Instagram)

The first two days of the impeachment trial for Donald Trump have made a few things glaringly apparent: the mob at the US Capitol came incredibly close to capturing and possibly killing members of Congress; and Trump’s legal team is even more incompetent that we could have imagined. I’m going to let the video speak for itself by posting the more important highlights so far, but I encourage you to watch the full day on Tuesday and Wednesday (by clicking each of these underlined days), because it is truly packed with information and important evidence. I promise you, it will captivate your attention, and at times be difficult to watch.

On Tuesday, the case was focused on determining if the US Senate had the Constitutional right to hold a trial on impeachment — both sides would have four hours, and then the chamber would vote on whether they would proceed to hear the case. Lead Manager Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD) showed a 13 minute compilation video of the events from Jan. 6 — this might be the most important piece of evidence presented. Watch it here, but be warned: it has scenes that are disturbing and may be difficult to watch.

The House Managers proceeded to explain the law and methodically lay out all of the evidence as they bolstered their persuasive case for why the US Senate could still hold an impeachment trial for a president who was no longer holding office. We were given explanations of Constitutional Intent by Raskin, who is a Constitutional Law professor, and there were great discussions about the intention of our Founding Fathers.

Raskin closed out the presentation on Constitutionality for Democrats by explaining what happened to his family, who was there with him in Congress on Jan. 6 and he was overcome with emotion when he explained that his daughter never wants to return to the Capitol. The case made by the Democrats was so strong, that Sen. Cassidy (R-LA) ended up voting to move forward with the case, and he told reporters that he did so because of the excellent presentation and arguments made by Democratic House Members.

Then there was the Trump legal team. The performances of Bruce Castor and David Schoen were so terrible that I had a difficult time live-tweeting what was happening. At one point, I had to text someone just to confirm that Castor was even speaking English — the reply, from another lawyer, was, “I can’t confirm that at this point.”

David Schoen made some odd threats against Senator Leahy (D-VT) and tried to place all of the blame on Speaker Pelosi (D-CA). Schoen seemed to pull his case together at the end, but he saved his most salient points for the last minute and this was a big mistake. He would have done better to just read that portion, directly from his script, and then yield his remaining time.

The Senate ultimately voted to move forward with hearing the case, voting 56-44, that putting Donald Trump on trial, after he has left office and is no longer a sitting president, is constitutional. This is the vote where Democrats were able to pull six Republicans over to vote with them and where Sen. Cassidy was the only surprise vote. While it does not bode well for getting to that number of 17 Republicans voting with Democrats that are needed for a conviction, Democrats seem to be slowly chipping away at the bizarre GOP resolve each day, by showing more and more intense videos of the actual events.

The second day of the impeachment trial involved Democrats making their case in an effort to prove that Donald Trump did incite the riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021. As impressive as day one was for the House Managers, day two was even more captivating. Democratic House Managers, who are also attorneys, took turns making critical legal points, while showing Trump’s own tweets as evidence of his intent to incite. Again, if you did not watch this entire presentation from Wednesday, I urge you to watch it here, but I will include some critical clips of the legal presentations from Reps. Neguse (D-CO), Castro (D-TX), Lieu (D-CA), Swalwell (D-CA), Dean (D-PA), Plaskett (D-VI) and Cicilline (D-RI).

Reps. Neguse, Castro and Swalwell took care to emphasize, through footage, that Trump had laid the groundwork for violence months earlier by falsely claiming the election was stolen through fraud. They pointed out that Trump’s words in his speech at the Jan. 6 rally were carefully chosen to incite his supporters, and that his team knew about plans to attack the Capitol, because it was all circulating online.

Footage showed a pro-Trump rioter, who could be heard demanding to know where lawmakers, who were counting the Electoral College votes, were located. Video of Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, holding the mob at bay and directing them away from the location where Pence and Senate members were sheltering, was also shown. Rep. Plaskett showed chilling security footage of just how close the mob came to capturing Mike Pence. She showed footage of staffers for Speaker Pelosi, who had to to barricade themselves in an office to escape rioters who were trying to break down the door.

Plaskett also showed video of Officer Goodman running from the mob and directing Sen. Mitt Romney, who did not know he was running toward the mob, to run the other way. Romney did not know that Goodman had saved his life that day, until he saw the video with the rest of the world, yesterday. Rep. Swalwell showed a video that had been recorded by Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) that day, from the inside of the Senate chamber, as they could hear the gunshot that killed rioter Ashli Babbitt.

There is still a long way to go for Democratic House Managers to get Senate Republicans to acknowledge any kind of proper emotion involving the events of Jan. 6. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) seemed to pretend to be clueless (likely so that she could find a way to legitimize a vote against conviction) and told reporters after yesterday’s session: "I don't see how Donald Trump could be re-elected to the presidency again." On the flip-side, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Susan Collins (R-ME) both called the case, presented by Democrats “compelling,” and Thune went on to say that Democrats had “done a good job of connecting the dots.”

Democrats need 17 Republicans to vote to convict at the conclusion of this case. While we can’t definitively say that members of the GOP are prepared to do that now, it is clear that the video being shown and the strength of the case Democrats are presenting is having an effect. On the first day of presentations, during the 13 minute tragic video shown by Raskin, Sens. Rubio (R-FL), Cotton (R-AR), Paul (R-KY) and Scott (R-FL) refused to look up at the screen and pretended to focus on something that kept their heads down.

If the video footage of a violent attack on the US Capitol, that could have taken their lives and/or the lives of their colleagues is not enough to persuade Republican Senators to chose country over party, then it is up to the voters to make their voices heard by calling the offices of their Senators to demand they convict. The best way to force movement is to apply constituent pressure, en masse, to let the GOP know that the tides are turning and an assault on democracy will not stand now, and can never happen again. The best remedy for apathy is action, and the best type of action for today is to make two phone calls to your senators.

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Amee Vanderpool is an independent journalist and attorney, who lives in Washington, DC. In addition to writing the SHERO Newsletter, she is a contributor to newspapers and magazines, and an analyst for BBC radio, often appearing in podcasts and radio interviews. You can follow Amee on Twitter under @girlsreallyrule and she can be reached at avanderpool@gmail.com.

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