As the insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol, smashing windows and climbing in over the jagged glass, some of their first audible cries were a declaration of purpose: “Where are they counting the votes?”
The group encountered a single Capitol police officer who yelled: “Don’t do it. Don’t do it."
“Where are they counting the (expletive) votes!” they hollered as they streamed inside, wielding wooden beams and a metal baseball bat, forcing the officer to retreat, according to footage shown this week at Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Outside, others were setting up a makeshift gallows on the Capitol lawn for Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence.
The stunning and disturbing footage, some never seen publicly before, brought into clear focus how central the former president's baseless 2020 election claims were to the rioters, and how determined they were to stop lawmakers inside the Capitol from certifying Joe Biden as president. In clip after clip, the insurrectionists called out for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Pence, who were overseeing the count of Electoral College votes when the riot began.
“We were invited here! We were invited!” one man is heard screaming in one of the videos. “We were invited by the president of the United States!”
Democratic impeachment managers have shown video and audio from Jan. 6 dozens of times during the impeachment trial, often introducing and punctuating clips with an emphasis on how the rioters believed they were following Trump's orders. They say the clips prove that without Trump’s attempt to overturn the election results, the Capitol riot would never have taken place.
The trial was continuing Friday with a presentation from Trump's lawyers, who have decried the use of the video footage as unnecessary. They acknowledge the violence was as dramatic and illegal as Democrats say, but contend that Trump is not responsible and that he can no longer be impeached because he is out of office. The latter argument was rejected by the majority of the Senate, but is likely to appeal to Republican senators want to be seen as condemning the violence without convicting the president.
It's counter to the Democrats' emotive and visceral presentation.