Washington: Prosecutors at Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial have laid out a strong case against the former president, showing previously undisclosed and chilling security camera footage of the mayhem that erupted at the US Capitol last month after a pro-Trump mob smashed their way into the building and posed a threat to the lawmakers.
The Capitol building was stormed on January 6 after thousands of supporters of Trump gathered in support of false claims that widespread fraud denied him victory in last November’s presidential election.
Five people died, including a Capitol police officer, as the mob breached the building where the November 3 election result was being certified.
The US Senate began the impeachment trial of Trump, a Republican, on Wednesday with impeachment managers from the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives making a strong case against the former president accusing him of inciting the insurrection.
Led by Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin, a battery of his party colleagues from the House of Representatives alleged that Trump incited his supporters for violence on January 6 as they stormed the Capitol Hill wherein Congressmen and Senators were performing their constitutional duty of counting and certification of the presidential election results.
Trump lost the elections to Joe Biden, who was sworn in as the 46th president on January 20. While the House, where the Democrats have the majority, impeached him before January 20, when he was still the president, the Senate impeachment trial has begun three weeks after he left office.
This is for the first time in American history that a former US president is being impeached. Trump, 74, is also the first president ever to have been impeached twice.
Leading the charge on the Senate floor, Raskin alleged that Trump willfully incited an insurrectionary mob to riot at the Capitol. Several of his Democratic colleagues took the Senate floor to argue that Trump be impeached.
While one of the security camera videos showed the then Vice President Mike Pence and his family rushed from the Senate Chamber, while in others Senators were seen hustling through a hallway.
Raskin said the evidence will show that Trump was no innocent bystander. The evidence will show that he clearly incited the January 6 insurrection. It will show that Trump surrendered his role as the Commander- in-Chief and became the “inciter in chief” of a dangerous insurrection.
This was, as one of our colleagues put it so cogently on January 6 itself, the greatest betrayal of the presidential oath in the history of the United States. The evidence will show you that he saw it coming and was not remotely surprised by the violence, he said.
Raskin said Trump completely abdicated his duty as the Commander-in-Chief to stop the violence and protect the government and protect the police officers and protect the people.
“He violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution, the government, and the people of the United States, he said.
Raskin said that the evidence shows that Trump assembled, inflamed and incited his followers to descend upon the Capitol to “stop the steal”, to block Vice President Pence and the Congress from finalising his opponent’s election victory over him.
House managers have up to 16 hours to present their case. Raskin said that they would continue with their opening argument on Thursday. Lawyers of Trump would make their presentation after that and they would also have 16 hours to respond to the allegations against Trump.
President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down, said Congressman Stacey Plaskett.
Another impeachment manager, Representative Eric Swalwell narrated one video captured from a security camera, telling lawmakers, Most of the public does not know how close you came to the mob before escaping to safety.
We all know that awful day could have been much worse, Swalwell said.
The impeachment managers also included never-before-heard audio communication among law enforcement officers pleading for reinforcements and reporting multiple injuries.
“They’re throwing metal poles at us,” one officer was heard as saying.
At one point, Plaskett emphasised, the mob got dangerously close to Pence and his family.
“As the rioters reached the top of the stairs, they were within 100 feet of where the vice president was sheltering with his family,” she said. “They were just feet away from one of the doors to this chamber, where many of you remained at that time,” addressing the senators in the room directly.
She pointed to footage of the mob erecting a gallows complete with a noose outside the Capitol, along with continued chants of “Hang Mike Pence.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz appeared to be unconvinced by the allegations against Trump. They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the president doesn’t come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement, he said.
So far, officials have charged around 200 people in connection with the violence at the Capitol.
The Senate voted 56-44 on Tuesday to move ahead with the trial, rejecting Trump’s claim that it was unconstitutional to try him on impeachment charges since he has already left office.
A two-thirds majority is needed to convict Trump, meaning 17 Republicans would have to vote with the Democrats in the 100-member Senate where both parties have 50 seats each. Political pundits have described this as a toll order for the Democrats. On Tuesday, six Republican Senators had broken ranks and supported the move during the procedural vote. (PTI)
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