Graphic Video of Capitol Attack Leaves Emotions Raw but May Not Change Votes

It was ghastly to watch, but that was the point. A rampaging crowd threatening death as invaders hunted the vice president and speaker of the House. Senators spinning around midstep to run for their lives. Staff members barricading themselves in an office as attackers pounded on the door. Overwhelmed police officers retreating from rioters, desperately calling for help.

It seems safe to assume that never in American history has such gut-churning video footage been shown on the floor of the Senate, where matters of great weight have been debated but hardly brought home in such a visually powerful way. The images shown in former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday were all the more resonant because some of the jurors themselves were onscreen.

The display of never-before-seen video from Capitol security cameras, along with newly disclosed police dispatch audiotapes, brought the mob assault of Jan. 6 back to life as mere words from the House managers prosecuting Mr. Trump never could. The terror of that day felt palpably real all over again as senators sitting in judgment of the former president were forced to relive the first mass siege of the Capitol since British invaders ransacked the building in 1814.

The emotions inside and outside the Senate chamber were raw as the sun set on Wednesday evening after the House managers sought to use the montage of disturbing pictures to drive home their case against Mr. Trump. Some current and former senators struggled to regain control after watching, which was exactly the reaction that the managers were trying to generate.

“I’m angry, I’m disturbed, I’m sad,” Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska who has been critical of Mr. Trump’s actions, told reporters afterward. Even after living through the attack on the Capitol that day, she said, she found the video shown by the managers eye-opening. “I knew what it meant to be running down this hallway with my colleagues. I wasn’t fully aware of everything else that was happening in the building.”

But it was not clear that it would change the overall dynamics of a trial governed largely by partisan divisions, with most Republicans still backing Mr. Trump and likely to block the two-thirds vote required for conviction. Several of his Republican allies said afterward that they too found the video images distressing but did not consider it the former president’s fault.

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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