After lambasting former President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign for comments he made about women or various ethnic groups — or even GOP colleagues who dared cross him — Republicans have embraced a sort of institutional, studied ignorance when asked to reflect on Trump’s behavior. as president.
“I didn’t see his presser.”
“I don’t read the president’s Twitter account.”
“I’ve been too busy minding the business of the American people to pay any attention to the remarks that you’re all apparently obsessed with the cover.”
These were the types of arguments made by Republican lawmakers during Donald Trump’s four-year presidency.
Everything changed this week in the Senate, where a relatively captive group of senators were forced to sit, listen and watch the Democratic House impeachment officials lay out their case against Trump for inciting a deadly riot. at the Capitol.
The prosecution included an utterly chilling video presentation on Wednesday that showed, with never-before-seen footage, how close House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to being killed by marauders and how crowded was determined to hang then-Vice President Mike Pence. The screams and pleas of frantic US Capitol police officers – assaulted and overwhelmed by pro-Trump insurgents – let senators know how much danger they, too, were in that day.
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Under trial rules, senators turned jurors are not allowed to speak or walk around – although Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, who was the driving force behind the effort to deny President Joe Biden certification by Congress from his victory, took advantage of a pandemic loophole to sit in the upper gallery with his feet up and thumbing through papers. So there they sat, at the actual scene of the Jan. 6 crime, and listened as a team of House managers made a brick-by-brick argument convicting Trump.
Senators typically walk around the chamber during votes, chatting with each other and consulting with staff on the outer edges of the historic room. It is not uncommon, in fact, for senators to wait to be called several times by the Clerk of the Senate before announcing a “yes” or “no” vote.
Not Wednesday. The video, narrated in neutral tones that made the report all the more alarming, left no doubt as to what really happened outside and inside the Capitol on January 6. Much – like the security video showing rioters trying to ram into an office full of terrified Pelosi employees or the police body camera footage showing assaults on police hours after the initial attack on the Capitol – were probably news to the assembled senators.
“President Trump put a target on their backs, and this mob stormed into the Capitol to hunt them down,” said Delegate Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat from the Virgin Islands and one of the impeachment officials.
Her part of the presentation included court documents in which one of the men attacking the Capitol talked about trying to get “Crazy Nancy” — and, according to other marauders, killing her. “Where are you Nancy?” We are looking for you! Nancy. … Oh, Nancy! A man called in a sly tone, in tones reminiscent of a horror movie character.
“‘Crazy Nancy.’ It’s the President’s nickname for Speaker of the House,” Plaskett said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, took over the narration and recounted his own fear as the crowd tried to enter the chamber of the House where Biden’s electoral college winning votes were officially being counted.
He called his wife, told Swalwell to the senators, and told her what the California lawmaker said he imagined many senators had also done that day. “I love you and the babies. Please hold them for me,” Swalwell said.
He showed video of the crowd approaching the Senate Chamber and jurors now swiftly exiting the chamber critical minutes before the attackers entered the Senate Chamber, sifted through lawmakers’ private paperwork and photographed their contents.
“You were only 58 paces from where the crowd was gathering,” Swalwell said ominously.
Swalwell, like Plaskett, warned ahead of a particularly graphic and disturbing video. He paused silently for a moment after Ashley Babbitt, a member of the insurgent mob who was fatally shot by a law enforcement officer as she attempted to enter the House chamber. After the harrowing video of a Capitol police officer screaming in pain as he was crushed in a doorway, Swalwell stopped, looked down and then left the area where he had presented the ‘affair.
The new details — along with a chronological account of Trump’s tweets and statements as the murderous drama unfolded — were a prosecutor’s dream: It’s rare for someone to press a case. court has an actual video of the crime — not to mention new details about how close the jurors came to being victims themselves.
But the odds that Trump will actually be doomed by the Senate 50-50 remain exaggerated at best. Only six GOP senators voted Tuesday to affirm the very constitutionality of the trial of a man who was president when he was impeached but left office before the then Republican-controlled Senate began the trial. It would take 17 GOP votes to convict Trump, assuming all 50 Democrats vote to do so.
“The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was far more dangerous than most realize,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, before the afternoon video aired. “And we have a criminal justice system in place to address that,” Rubio added, apparently referring to the rioters and not Trump.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who voted to contest the Electoral College votes even after the attack, was more outspoken in his condemnation of the lawsuit.
“The impeachment of Democrats is partisan political theater,” Cruz tweeted. “It will end in failure.”