Nation & World: Trump trial video shows vast scope, danger of Capitol riot
photo by: Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the Capitol, smashing windows and doors and searching menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help.
In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” some equipped with combat gear. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days. In addition to the evident chaos and danger, it offered fresh details on the attackers, scenes of police heroism and cries of distress. And it showed just how close the country came to a potential breakdown in its seat of democracy as Congress was certifying Trump’s election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. “His mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
The stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as the prosecutors argued Trump was no “innocent bystander” but rather the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot, a president who spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Biden’s victory.
Though most of the Senate jurors have already made up their minds on acquittal or conviction, they were riveted and sat silently. Screams from the audio and video filled the Senate chamber. Senators shook their heads, folded their arms and furrowed their brows. One Republican, James Lankford of Oklahoma, bent his head, a GOP colleague putting his hand on his arm in comfort.
“On Jan. 6, President Trump left everyone in this Capitol for dead,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a prosecutor.
Pence, who had been presiding over a session to certify Biden’s victory over Trump — thus earning Trump’s criticism — is shown being rushed to safety, sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters. Pelosi was evacuated from the complex before the mob prowls her suite of offices, her staff hiding quietly behind closed doors.
At one dramatic moment, the video shows police shooting into the crowd through a broken window, killing a San Diego woman, Ashli Babbitt. In another, a police officer is seen being crushed by the mob.
Police overwhelmed by the rioters frantically announce “we lost the line” and urge officers to safety. One officer later died.
Some senators acknowledged it was the first time they had grasped how perilously close the country came to serious danger.
“When you see all the pieces come together, just the total awareness of that, the enormity of this threat, not just to us as people, as lawmakers, but the threat to the institution and what Congress represents, it’s disturbing,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “Greatly disturbing.”
Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached. He is charged with incitement of insurrection through fiery words his defense lawyers say are protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and just figures of speech.
The House Democrats showed piles of evidence from the former president himself — hundreds of Trump tweets and comments that culminated in his Jan. 6 rally cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. Trump then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee,” they said, as the mob ransacked the iconic building.
“To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to the madness that day,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead prosecutor, who pointed to Trump as the instigator.
“And when his mob overran and occupied the Senate and attacked the House and assaulted law enforcement, he watched it on TV like a reality show. He reveled in it.”
In one scene, a Capitol Police officer redirects Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, down a hallway to avoid the mob. It was the same officer, Eugene Goodman, who has been praised as a hero for having lured rioters away from the Senate doors.
“It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes,” Romney said after watching the video. He said he didn’t realize how close he had been to danger.
The day’s proceedings unfolded after Tuesday’s emotional start that left the former president fuming when his attorneys delivered a meandering defense and failed to halt the trial on constitutional grounds. Some allies called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.
The prosecutors are arguing that Trump’s words were part of “the big lie” — his relentless efforts to sow doubts about the election results, revving up his followers to “stop the steal” even though there was no evidence of substantial fraud.
Trump knew very well what would happen when he took to the microphone at the outdoor White House rally that day as Congress gathered to certify Biden’s win, said Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo, another impeachment manager.
“This was not just a speech,” he said.
Security remained extremely tight Wednesday at the Capitol, fenced off and patrolled by National Guard troops.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Biden would not be watching the trial.
The difficulty facing Trump’s defenders became apparent at the start as they leaned on the process of the trial rather than the substance of the case against him. They said the Constitution doesn’t allow impeachment at this late date, after he has left the White House.
Even though the Senate rejected that argument in Tuesday’s vote to proceed, the legal issue could resonate with Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.
Defense lawyer Bruce Castor encouraged senators on Tuesday to be “cool headed” as they assessed the arguments.
U.S. investigates massive fake N95 mask scam
Washington (ap) — Federal authorities are investigating a massive counterfeit N95 mask operation in which fake 3M masks were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. The foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk for the coronavirus.
These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm. He added, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.”
Officials could not name the states or the company involved because of the active investigation.
Biden orders sanctions against Myanmar after coup
Washington (ap) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered new sanctions against the military regime in Myanmar, taking action after the military this month staged a coup in the Southeast Asian country and arrested de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior politicians.
Biden said he was issuing an executive order that will prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing $1 billion in assets in the United States. Biden added that more measures are to come.
“The military must relinquish power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma,” Biden said.
Bruce Springsteen faces drunken driving charge
Highlands, N.J. (ap) — Bruce Springsteen is facing a drunken driving charge in New Jersey.
Springsteen was arrested Nov. 14 in a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area on the New Jersey coast, a spokesperson for the National Park Service confirmed Wednesday.
The park is on a narrow, beach-ringed peninsula, with views across a bay to New York City. It is about 15 miles north of Asbury Park, where Springsteen got his start as a musician and bandleader and which was later made famous with his debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” Springsteen lives in Colts Neck, about 12 miles from the site of the arrest.
Shaq’s historic Atlanta Krispy Kreme damaged by raging fire
Atlanta (ap) — A historic Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store in Atlanta owned by basketball star Shaquille O’Neal that dates back to the mid-1960s was engulfed in flames early Wednesday, heavily damaging the structure.
Atlanta fire crews responded to the iconic restaurant on Ponce de Leon Avenue shortly after midnight, news outlets reported. Video posted on social media showed raging flames.
The Midtown store opened in 1965 and O’Neal bought it in 2016, news outlets reported.
Biden’s school goal draws blowback
President Joe Biden is being accused of backpedaling on his pledge to reopen the nation’s schools after the White House added fine print to his promise and made clear that a full reopening is still far from sight.
Biden’s initial pledge in December was to reopen “the majority of our schools” in his first 100 days in office. In January he specified that the goal applied only to schools that teach through eighth grade. And this week the White House said that schools will be considered opened as long as they teach in-person at least one day a week.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the goal Wednesday, calling it part of a “bold ambitious agenda.” But she also said it’s a bar the administration hopes to exceed.
U.S. Coast Guard saves 3 Cubans stuck on island for 33 days
Miami (ap) — Two men and a woman had lost track of days as they survived on a diet of coconuts, conchs and rats for more than a month after they were cast away on a deserted island between Florida and Cuba.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said the trio from Cuba told them their boat had capsized in rough waters and they were able to swim to Anguilla Cay, where they spent 33 days before they were spotted and rescued.
The uninhabited island of rocky ground and palm trees and shrubs is part of an atoll of the Bahamas that is much closer to Cuba and monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard for strandings of refugees trying to reach U.S. soil.
Ancient shell horn can still play a tune after 18,000 years
Washington (ap) — A large conch shell overlooked in a museum for decades is now thought to be the oldest known seashell instrument — and it still works, producing a deep, plaintive bleat, like a foghorn from the distant past.
The shell was found during the 1931 excavation of a cave with prehistoric wall paintings in the French Pyrenees and assumed to be a ceremonial drinking cup. Archaeologists from the University of Toulouse recently took a fresh look and determined it had been modified thousands of years ago to serve as a wind instrument. They invited a French horn player to play it.
“Hearing it for the first time, for me it was a big emotion — and a big stress,” said archaeologist Carole Fritz.
She feared that playing the 12-inch shell might damage it, but it didn’t. The horn produced clear C, C sharp and D notes.
Georgia prosecutor probes election after Trump call
Atlanta (ap) — A Georgia prosecutor said Wednesday that she has opened a criminal investigation into “attempts to influence” last year’s general election, including a call in which President Donald Trump asked a top official to find enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
In a Jan. 2 telephone conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump repeatedly argued that Raffensperger could change the certified results of the presidential election, an assertion the secretary of state firmly rejected.
“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump said. “Because we won the state.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat elected to the job in November, did not specifically mention Trump in the letters she sent to state officials Wednesday announcing her investigation. But the former president has been under intense criticism for the call.