Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, day 2: Key takeaways

Democratic managers told the story of the January 6th riots in Trump’s own words

Jurors in the trial of former president Donald Trump were shown dramatic new footage from the January 6th riot, as Democrats accused Mr Trump of directly provoking and inciting the attack on the US Capitol. Video: CSPAN

 

House impeachment managers built their case against former US president Donald Trump on Wednesday, methodically using video and audio clips to argue that Trump was responsible for the deadly assault on the Capitol on January 6th. Throughout much of the day, the managers let Trump and his supporters do the talking, showing videos of Trump’s speeches, his Twitter posts and footage of his supporters answering his rallying cries that began months before the attack.

Here are some takeaways from the second day of the trial.

For a time on Wednesday, @realDonaldTrump was back.

In their efforts to prove that Trump was undeniably behind the attack, House impeachment managers let the former president tell the story in his own words, airing a Trump Twitter blitz worthy of the former tweeter in chief himself. This time, however, his posts were marked with a “PROSECUTORS’ EVIDENCE” stamp.

“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he wrote on December 19th, a post the managers repeatedly referred to throughout the day as a “save the date”.

And then, on December 26th, he wrote: “The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

It’s been a month since the world has seen a new Trump tweet, after nearly four years of Trump using the social media platform to build his base of supporters and blast out his unfiltered messages. Twitter banned Trump permanently January 8th, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” as its justification.

Seeing the collection of Trump’s posts was a reminder of just how much the former president had been silenced after losing his most powerful megaphone. By comparison, on the second day of Trump’s impeachment trial a year ago, Trump posted or reposted 142 tweets.

A still image from a video of US vice-president Mike Pence being evacuated from the Capitol building on January 6th. Photograph: Senate Television via AP
A still image from a video of US vice-president Mike Pence being evacuated from the Capitol building on January 6th. Photograph: Senate Television via AP

This week, Trump has been largely hidden from view at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. He was steaming after seeing his lawyers’ defence on Tuesday, people familiar with his reaction said.

‘This is now effectively a riot,’ one officer radioed

The House managers showed senators previously unseen footage of the attack that was captured on security cameras in the Capitol. They also played recordings of officers’ chilling pleas for back-up as the chaos unfolded around them, and they sometimes ducked metal poles flung in their direction.

“This is now effectively a riot,” an officer said minutes before the rioters stormed the building, pushing through police barriers and breaking windows.

Some of the attackers carried riot shields. In clip after clip, the impeachment managers broadened the view for senators of what was happening around them as they were running for cover on January 6th.

“You know how close you came to the mob,” said congressman Eric Swalwell of California, one of the House managers. “But most of the public does not know how close these rioters came to you.”

As the senators listened to radio communications among law enforcement officers and watched scenes of lawmakers and their staff racing to safety, many strained to get a better view. On the Republican side of the chamber, senators watched, emotionless, at times turning away to take notes.

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Democrats let Trump and his supporters make their case to convict.

House impeachment managers delivered multimedia arguments on Wednesday as they started building their case that Trump was in no way an innocent bystander to the events of January 6th, rebutting an assertion the former president’s defence team made a day earlier.

The managers flashed outlines of their arguments on video screens and fleshed out each point with examples from Trump’s months-long campaign to sow distrust in the country’s elections systems and his efforts to roil his supporters over what he repeatedly and wrongly called a fraudulent, stolen election.

Throughout the day, the managers let Trump and his supporters do much of the talking, showing footage of campaign rallies, screenshots of the president’s comments and clips of news interviews with supporters who said they went to Washington on January 6th in response to Trump’s call.

Rioters storm into the Capitol building on January 6th. Photograph: Senate Television via AP
Rioters storm into the Capitol building on January 6th. Photograph: Senate Television via AP

One of Trump’s comments made repeated appearances on Wednesday, underscoring how important House managers took these specific words to prove their case.

“We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told a crowd of his supporters just before he dispatched them east toward the Capitol.

The prosecution emphasised the role racism played in the riot and in the months before it

Over the course of the day, the impeachment managers raised the role racism played in the riot as well as in the preceding months. Confederate flags were carried inside the Capitol, which historians said did not happen even during the civil war.

The managers also identified rioters who had ties to white supremacist groups, including a far-right group, the Proud Boys, known for endorsing violence. Its members became loud supporters of Trump’s after the former president refused to denounce the group during a debate with Biden.

The lead House impeachment manager, congressman Jamie Raskin, quoted one of the black officers who battled the mob that day describing his despair at being subjected to racist taunts from a crowd of attackers that was, according to witness accounts and video, overwhelmingly white.

Trump’s affinity for groups like the Proud Boys and his refusal to condemn them publicly and forcefully at multiple points throughout his presidency has long made many Republicans bristle, a reaction the impeachment managers may have been hoping to elicit in the Senate chamber on Wednesday.

An incitement of insurrection in four acts

The impeachment managers laid out four efforts to subvert the election, each escalating as Trump’s desperation to retain his grip on the Oval Office grew. With each step, the managers said, he laid the groundwork for the violent mob attack on January 6th.

The first act, the impeachment managers said, dates to the campaign. “The president realised really by last spring that he could lose – he might lose the election. So what did he do?” said one of the impeachment managers, congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado. “He started planting the seeds to get some of his supporters ready by saying that he could only lose the election if it was stolen.”

After Trump lost in November, he turned to his next plan: filing legal challenges to the vote counts at the local and state levels, all the while rallying his base. And when that did not work, the president took the extraordinary step of pressuring Georgia elections officials to “find 11,780 votes” cast for him.

Senators then heard a recording of the shocking conversation between Trump and the top elections official in Georgia. (There is a criminal investigation into his attempts to overturn the state’s elections results.)

When the Georgia plan fell through, Trump saw one last opportunity to “stop the steal”: the bureaucratic counting of the electoral college votes on January 6th. “He incited this attack, and he saw it coming,” Raskin said. “To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness. But there was method in the madness that day.” – New York Times

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