‘Distressing and emotional’: Senators relive horror of riot at US Capitol

Republican Senator Mitt Romney said he was brought to tears, adding that seeing footage from January 6 was ‘overwhelmingly distressing and emotional’.

‘Distressing and emotional’: Senators relive horror of riot at US Capitol

US senators have spoken of their emotion after spending 90 tense minutes during the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump watching footage of the violence at the US Capitol.

They had seen much of the video of the insurrection before, but not like this – on screens near their desks, screams and anguish echoing across the chamber, with Democratic prosecutors explaining in detail how close they came to danger on January 6, and how much worse it could have been.

If any senators were tempted to avoid images of the violence at the Capitol, or bury memories of fleeing the violent mob of Mr Trump’s supporters, they were not able to do so any longer.

“We lived this once and that was awful,” said Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, recalling how she felt when she was evacuated with her colleagues.

While videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, the graphic compilation provided a more complete narrative, with a chilling focus on the rioters’ methodical search for legislators.

The new evidence included Capitol security videos that showed Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer narrowly escaping the mob, and vice president Mike Pence evacuating the Senate chamber as insurrectionists chanted for his death outside.

The rioters were “58 steps” from senators at one point, impeachment manager Eric Swalwell told them.

Mr Romney said he was brought to tears.

The video was “overwhelmingly distressing and emotional”, he said.

The presentation ended with a video of a Capitol Police officer yelling in pain as he was crushed between two doors on the Capitol’s west front.

His anguished screams filled the quiet, cavernous chamber as if he were right there in the room.

House impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin at the   second impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump in the Senate at the US Capitol in Washington
House impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin at the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the Senate (Senate Television via AP)

“It was extremely quiet,” said Maine Senator Susan Collins, describing the atmosphere. “You could hear a pin drop.”

House Democrats, prosecuting the former president for “incitement of insurrection” at his historic second impeachment trial, tried to make it as difficult as possible for any senators to play down the violence – and by extension, Mr Trump’s role in it – by showing the violence from multiple camera angles.

They spent the morning replaying Mr Trump’s words to his supporters ahead of the riots – including telling them to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat – and built up, almost cinematically, to the unrelenting timeline of the violence.

It is unclear if the Democrats’ presentation will change any votes, as Mr Trump is still expected to be acquitted in the end.

But senators were clearly rattled by what they saw.

In this image from video, a video from Donald Trump is paired with police bay cam footage, as it is shown to senators
A video image of Donald Trump is paired with police footage as it is shown to senators (Senate Television via AP)

Utah Senator Mike Lee moved his chair so he was fully facing the screen, furiously scribbling notes.

Others opted to just listen as the angry screams of the rioters reverberated around the chamber.

Democrats said they were sad and frustrated by it all.

“How can you watch this and not vote to convict?” asked Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware as he stepped outside for a break after the presentation.

Many Republicans did watch it, but made clear their stance.

Florida Senator Rick Scott, who read what appeared to be a magazine as some of the video played, said minutes afterwards that the trial was a “waste of time”.

“Listen, you’ve got to weigh all of the information together,” said Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley as he left the chamber.

One senator appeared to not watch at all.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a fierce opponent of Mr Trump’s impeachment, turned away from the screen next to him and scribbled notes, sometimes with his hand on his forehead, as if to shield himself.

He walked out of the room in the middle of the presentation, as impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett detailed the threats to Mr Pence’s life.

But most watched it all.

“It was reliving a horrible day, a horrible day,” said Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who is retiring from the Senate and has said he is undecided on whether to convict Mr Trump. “That’s not easy.”

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