Jurors in the trial of former president Donald Trump were shown dramatic new footage from the January 6th riot on Wednesday, as Democrats accused Mr Trump of directly provoking and inciting the attack on the US Capitol.
But there were few signs that the new evidence would persuade a sufficient number of Republicans to change their minds and vote to convict the president.
Previously unseen video clips from surveillance equipment and police body cameras shown on the second day of Mr Trump’s impeachment trial threw fresh light on the events that unfolded in the Capitol a month ago. This included footage of former vice-president Mike Pence being led to safety and audio recordings of police officers calling for back-up.
Speaking during a break in the proceedings, Republican senator Rod Johnson said he was shaken by the video evidence, but stressed that the blame should be on the rioters and not Mr Trump. He was one of several senators who suggested that the new evidence would not change their minds on voting to convict the former president on incitement charges. A minimum of 17 Republicans need to vote with Democrats to convict Mr Trump on impeachment charges, a prospect that seems unlikely.
The release of the new footage followed hours of arguments from the House Impeachment Managers who will continue their arguments on Thursday.
Opening proceedings, Democrat Jamie Raskin said that Mr Trump “was no innocent bystander” to the event of January 6th but “incited this attack and he saw it coming.”
He said that the evidence presented would show that Mr Trump “became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection … that he saw it coming and was not remotely surprised by the violence. To us it may have felt like chaos and madness but there was method to that madness.”
Much of the evidence presented on the trial’s second day consisted of Mr Trump’s own tweets, interviews and video messages, as the prosecutors made the case that the former president deliberately fomented the attack. But the House Impeachment managers also played previously unseen security footage from the Capitol Hill attack, warning parents and teachers that some of it would be violent in content.
As they set out their argument methodically, the Democratic House members drew a link between Mr Trump’s repeated false claims of election fraud and the events on January 6th, arguing that the protesters were “following the president’s orders.”
‘Fight like hell’
The president “didn’t just tell them to fight like hell. He told them how, where and when. He made sure they had advanced notice — 18 days’ advance notice. He sent his save the date for January 6th,” said Colorado representative Joe Noebert of the protesters, pointing out that Mr Trump began sowing doubts about the election result last Spring.
“Those false claims of election fraud? That was the drumbeat being used to inspire, instigate and incite to anger,” he said.
Mr Noebert also zeroed-in on comments made by some of those arrested after the riots claiming they believed they were following the president’s instructions.
“I thought I was following my president,” said Texas real estate agent Jenna Kelly in a CBS News report after she was charged in connection with the riot.
He also displayed in the senate chamber written quotes from indicted individuals including one man who spoke about his desire to shoot Nancy Pelosi “in the friggin brain.”
“The evidence is overwhelming,” said Representative Eric Swalwell. “President Trump’s conduct leading up to January 6th was deliberate, planned and premediated,” he said, displaying several tweets from Mr Trump in the days running up to the protests.
Several of the Democrats spoke about their experience as immigrants and how they felt that the events of January 6th were not emblematic of America. Ted Lieu, a representative from California who was born in Taipei told the floor: “President Donald J Trump ran out of non-violent options to maintain power. What you saw was a man so desperate to cling to power that he tried everything he could to keep it, and when he ran our nonviolent measures, he turned to the violent mob that attacked your Senate chamber.”
Representative Madeline Dean reminded the assembled senators of Mr Trump’s phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state when he ordered him to “find” 11,800 votes, an exchange that is now at the centre of an investigation in Georgia. “Senators, we must not become numb to this,” she said.
Democrats were permitted to hold up to eight hours of debate yesterday, with a further eight hours scheduled for Thursday, though they are not obliged to use all of their allotted time. Lawyers for Mr Trump will then deliver their presentations.
The impeachment trial is expected to continue through the weekend and could finish before President’s Day on Monday, a federal holiday.