WASHINGTON — The House impeachment managers opened their prosecution of Donald J. Trump on Wednesday with a point-by-point account of his monthslong campaign to overturn his election loss and goad his supporters to join him, bringing its most violent spasms to life with never-before-seen security footage from the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Filling the Senate chamber with the profane screams of the attackers, images of the police officers they overran and brutalized, and near-miss moments in which Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers came steps away from being confronted by a mob that was hunting them down, the prosecutors laid out their case that Mr. Trump’s election lies had directly led to the assault.
The prosecutors played frantic police radio calls warning that “we’ve lost the line,” body camera footage showing an officer pummeled with poles and fists on the West Front of the Capitol, and silent security footage from inside the building showing Mr. Pence, his family and members of the House and Senate terrorized, racing to evacuate as the mob closed in chanting: “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!”
All of it, according to the nine Democrats pressing the charge of “incitement of insurrection” against Mr. Trump, was the foreseeable and intended outcome of his desperate attempts to cling to the presidency. Reaching back as far as last summer, they traced in meticulous detail how Mr. Trump spent months cultivating not only the “big lie” that the election was “rigged” against him, but stoking the rage of a throng of supporters who made it clear that they would do anything — including resorting to violence — to help him.
The managers argued that it warranted that the Senate break with two centuries of history to make Mr. Trump the first former president ever to be convicted in an impeachment trial and disqualified from future office.
“Donald Trump surrendered his role as commander in chief and became the inciter in chief of a dangerous insurrection,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and the lead manager, told the senators, who watched the footage in silence in the same spots where they had been when the mob breached the building last month.
“He told them to ‘fight like hell,’” Mr. Raskin added, quoting the speech that Mr. Trump gave supporters as the onslaught was unfolding, “and they brought us hell on that day.”
Though the House managers used extensive video evidence of the Jan. 6 riot to punctuate their case, they spent just as much time placing the event in the context of Mr. Trump’s broader effort to falsely claim the election had been stolen from him, portraying him as a president increasingly desperate to invalidate the results.
“With his back against the wall when all else has failed, he turns back to his supporters — who he’d already spent months telling that the election was stolen — and he amplified it further,” said Representative Joe Neguse, Democrat of Colorado.
The Trump Impeachment ›
What You Need to Know
- A trial is being held to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is guilty of inciting a deadly mob of his supporters when they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, violently breaching security measures and sending lawmakers into hiding as they met to certify President Biden’s victory.
- The House voted 232 to 197 to approve a single article of impeachment, accusing Mr. Trump of “inciting violence against the government of the United States” in his quest to overturn the election results. Ten Republicans joined the Democrats in voting to impeach him.
- To convict Mr. Trump, the Senate would need a two-thirds majority to be in agreement. This means at least 17 Republican senators would have to vote with Senate Democrats to convict.
- A conviction seems unlikely. Last month, only five Republicans in the Senate sided with Democrats in beating back a Republican attempt to dismiss the charges because Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Only 27 senators say they are undecided about whether to convict Mr. Trump.
- If the Senate convicts Mr. Trump, finding him guilty of “inciting violence against the government of the United States,” senators could then vote on whether to bar him from holding future office. That vote would only require a simple majority, and if it came down to party lines, Democrats would prevail with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
- If the Senate does not convict Mr. Trump, the former president could be eligible to run for public office once again. Public opinion surveys show that he remains by far the most popular national figure in the Republican Party.
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