WASHINGTON — If you doubted that ex-President Donald Trump was responsible for sending a mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6 to hunt down Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an effort to overturn the election, then you were not watching his Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday.
This does not mean that there will be 67 votes to convict Trump.
It does mean that after Wednesday, it will be difficult for a fair-minded person to not see how Trump’s actions — especially calling supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 — led to the deadly siege.
The House impeachment managers are all Democrats.
They powerfully knitted together the Twitter, photo, audio and video trail — bolstered with new footage from Capitol surveillance cameras — to detail the violent attack, the events leading to the insurrection and Trump’s responsibility for starting it, and his refusal to forcefully try to stop the siege.
Here are takeaways from Day 2, of Trump’s trial, when the prosecutors — called managers — detailed the case against Trump, accused of inciting the insurrection. Trump’s own words and tweets were effectively used against him.
Chilling new video
The new dramatic video showed Pence and his family being hustled down some stairs by security after rioters broke into the Capitol, some chanting “hang Pence.” Connecting multiple dots, the prosecutors played clips of Trump’s own remarks accusing Pence of disloyalty if he certifies the election and the subsequent haunting pictures of the rioters searching for him in the Capitol.
Chilling new audio
Through the day, prosecutors played calls from increasingly desperate police on Jan. 6. “We’re taking projectiles. Let’s go, we need units outside on the terrace ASAP. We need units. We’re surrounded,” radioed an officer.
The Pence strategy
It’s still a long shot that Democrats will find 17 Republicans to vote with them to convict. Emphasizing the danger fellow Republican Pence — and they — faced through the day seemed calculated to make inroads to the Trump-loyal senators.
“On January 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, one of the prosecutors.
Making it personal
The managers told the story of Jan. 6 often in personal terms — appealing to the jurors/senators who lived through the horror of the attack, just as they did.
Putting aside for the moment whether Trump is convicted, an important historic record is being made by the prosecutors.
Said Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., one of the managers, “Senators, ours is a dialogue with history, a conversation with the past, with a hope for the future.”
Twitter shut down Trump on Jan. 8, cutting him off from his 88.7 million followers who were with him on that last day. His Twitter trail is not cold.
The archived Trump tweets, laid out in the prosecutor’s timelines, plus his own remarks, showed the context of the case against Trump as he pursued his false claims the election was stolen and was desperately seeking to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.
The extensive documentation showed that after exhausting court options, after his calls to local officials to pressure them to not certify election results or magically find votes failed, there was only a single option left to Trump.
Starting in mid-December, Trump started to ask his followers to come to Washington on Jan. 6, not a random date.
That was the day Congress was counting the Electoral College votes, the very last stop on the long road to the U.S. electing a president.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6,” Trump said in a Dec. 19 tweet. “Be there, will be wild.”
Put to rest: Trump’s claims that he and his followers are more pro-police than political rivals
The trial day, spreading across more than seven hours, was filled with video of the insurrectionists — waving Trump flags, wearing MAGA hats — attacking police officers guarding the Capitol and House and Senate members. Of the five people who died on Jan. 6, one was a Capitol Police officer.
On security in and around the Capitol
The prosecutors pressed the case that it was knowable that violence was planned for Jan. 6; Trump did nothing to hide his plans. That the Capitol was not fortified, especially the perimeter, is not at issue in the trial.
“This was all perfectly natural and foreseeable to Donald Trump,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead impeachment manager. “At the beginning of the day he told you it was coming.”
What about the defense
The prosecutors and defense have 16 hours each to make their case. Given the weak opening performance of Trump’s lawyers Tuesday, when senators voted to dismiss a constitutional challenge to the case, it is hard to see how they will be able to match the compelling coherent presentations of the prosecutors.
The defense will also lack persuasive video to defend Trump. Putting video clips together of Democrats saying outrageous things is not a defense to the question of whether Trump incited the insurrection.