Trump trial sees chilling Capitol videos

·3-min read

Democrats making the case that Donald Trump should be convicted of inciting the siege at the US Capitol will next focus on the damage wrought by the riot and the former president's role in inflaming the rampage.

The House of Representatives has charged Trump, a Republican, with inciting an insurrection by exhorting thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on January 6, the day Congress gathered to certify Democrat Joe Biden's election win.

The House managers who are prosecuting the case in the US Senate spent much of Wednesday recounting the events that led to the riot and highlighting the threat to former Vice President Mike Pence.

On Thursday, they planned to illustrate the "terrible toll" of the riot and Trump's "role in assembling, inciting and inflaming the insurrectionists," a House aide said.

Senators on Wednesday were shown searing security footage the pro-Trump mob stalking the Capitol hallways chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and searching for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Previously unseen videos showed the view from inside the Capitol as rioters smashed windows and fought with police, coming within 30 metres of the room where Pence was sheltering with his family. The mob had set up a gallows outside.

The footage, which also included body-camera views of brutal attacks on Capitol police, showed Pence and lawmakers being hustled to safety steps ahead of an advancing mob. The attack on the Capitol resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.

Trump had repeatedly said Pence had the power to stop the certification of the election results, even though he did not.

"The mob was looking for Vice President Pence," Representative Stacey Plaskett said, narrating footage that showed the crowd threatening Pence and searching for Pelosi.

"President Trump put a target on their backs and then his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down," she said.

Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro pointed out that during the rampage, Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done."

House managers said Trump planted the seeds for the riot by encouraging violence and making false claims the election was stolen long before January 6.

Democrats face a difficult task in securing a Senate conviction and barring Trump from ever again seeking public office.

A two-thirds majority in the Senate must vote to convict, which means at least 17 Republicans would have to defy Trump and his continued popularity among Republican voters.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted largely along party lines that the impeachment trial could move ahead even though Trump's term ended on January 20. Six of 50 Republican senators broke with their caucus to side with Democrats.

"I am holding out hope that the forcefulness of this argument will still sway some. I believe there are more Republicans that are open to conviction than is publicly clear at this point," said Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

But while several Republican senators said the footage showed on Wednesday was emotional, many added it did not change their minds.

Florida Senator Rick Scott said he was "disgusted" by the behaviour of the rioters.

But asked whether Trump bore responsibility, he said, "You know, I've watched what he said. He's never said that somebody should break in. He actually said that people should do this peacefully ... Look, this is a complete waste of time."

Trump's lawyers, who will have 16 hours to deliver their defence, said the video and other evidence presented by Democrats had not made the case for his culpability.

"We know a mob breached the Capitol and wreaked havoc in the building. I'm waiting for them to connect that up to President Trump and so far that hasn't happened," said Bruce Castor, Trump's lawyer.