On the second day of the impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump, on Wednesday, House Impeachment Managers, used Trump’s own words and never-before-seen chilling videos to show the depth of the Capital riot and the role he played.
Acting as prosecutors, the House Managers used Trump tweets and words captured on video including at campaign grounds, to demonstrate how he incited rioters to attack the Capital in a bid to stop the certification of Joseph Biden’s win.
Using several public statements from Nov 2020 to Jan. 6, 2021, the House Managers showed that Trump repeatedly used phrases like “we won the election” and “won it by a landslide,” and that the election was “rigged” and “stolen” by the Democrats to incite the mob.
They presented excerpts of several court rulings including by Trump-appointed judges refuting these assertions. Trump’s election campaign filed over 60 cases in different courts in the United States including at the Supreme Court but the cases were shown to lack merit.
What is even worse is that while Trump claimed his election was stolen, giving life to the lunatic conspiracy that election machines were compromised by a former Venezuelan president who died in 2013, his lawyers merely argued that the election process was irregular in the swing states. Yet, right-wing media outlets including Fox news continued to lend a platform to these lies.
As his legal options to overturn the presidential elections thinned, the House managers proved that Trump began mounting pressure on local state election officials. He tried to pressure Georgian Republican state secretary Bradford Raffensperger to find him 12,000 votes. He pressured his Justice Department to investigate the election fraud and when there wasn’t any, a rift ensued between him and Bill Barr, his Attorney General who eventually resigned.
Trump’s language later signalled to his supporters that they needed to“fight” because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
“Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection,” Jamie Raskin, representative Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, told the senators.
“He told them to fight like hell,” Raskin added, “and they brought us hell that day.”
The house managers showed videos of Donald Trump’s persistent repetition of lies and calls to action over two months which emboldened his radicalized supporters into believing that they can reverse his election loss.
Trump’s words, which were echoed and amplified by the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, are a central focus of his second impeachment trial.
To prove a history of inciting violence, Plaskett showed an incident last year where supporters of the president tried to run off the road, the campaign bus of Joe Biden with some staff in it. Trump went on Twitter to praise the perpetrators, calling them patriots.
Videos of Trump’s call to supporters to “Fight like Hell,” was played alongside his praise of insurrectionists when they overran the capital. His lawyers who presented a tepid defence had argued that the words should not be taken literally. However, the impeachment managers detailed a pattern of coddling militia groups and white supremacists including the infamous “Stand back and stand by” edict he gave them during the presidential debate in September last year.
Chilling videos of the brave police officer, Eugene Goodman, misdirecting the rioters showed how close the senators including Republicans kicking against the trial because a former president cannot be impeached for crimes committed while in office, came to suffer serious harm.
The new videos also showed that the rioters were armed with clubs and flagpoles and attacked police officers. Mike Pence, the vice president, the videos showed, came within a hairsbreadth of being consumed by the mob who was calling for his head.
Trump had riled the mob right when the Capital had been overrun berating his deputy for lacking courage. Aides and security detail hustled the vice president away from the rampaging mob through a flight of stairs.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi was also a target and staff members were shown barricading themselves into an office just minutes before the mob arrived and tried to break down the door. The Speaker had taken shelter elsewhere.
“They were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family, and they were just feet away from the doors of this chamber where many of you remained at that time,” Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and one of the House impeachment managers, told the senators sitting as jurors.
Trump’s defence team has tried to assert that his false statements about the election are protected by the First Amendment and that trying a former president is unconstitutional.
David Cicilline, one of the impeachment managers showed through Trump’s tweet that his state of mind was ecstatic that the invasion would disrupt the vote certification. Trump’s only call was to a senator asking him to delay the certification process.
Despite the passionate appeal to reason by the House Impeachment managers, there is little evidence that this would sway Republicans who are more afraid of their base, whose cult-like fealty to Trump, could mean an end to their careers. Many of them had joined the lie about a stolen election on the opportunistic belief that they would inherit this party’s supporters after Trump’s exit.