The House Democrats prosecuting Donald J. Trump resumed their case against him on Thursday, turning attention to the harm caused by the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and the “lack of remorse” by the former president who they have charged with inciting it as part of a desperate bid to cling to power.
A day after delivering the Senate a harrowing account of the deadly violence, replete with chilling new video footage, the impeachment managers pivoted on the trial’s third day to argue why Mr. Trump must be the first impeached president ever convicted, and the first ex-president disqualified from holding future office.
They opened showing senators the words of the rioters themselves, captured on video during the violence and in court documents after, unequivocally stating they had acted and ultimately stood down at the former president’s behest.
“Their own statements before, during and after the attack made clear the attack was done for Donald Trump, at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes,” said Representative Diana Degette of Colorado, one of the nine House managers. They even adopted his language, she pointed out, chanting “stop the steal” and “fight for Trump” as they crashed into the Capitol.
“Their leader, the man who incited them, must be held accountable as well,” she added.
Their task is a daunting one, aimed at persuading Republican senators who have shown no appetite for breaking with Mr. Trump, and building a historical record of his role in the worst attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. Led by Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, they planned to assert that Mr. Trump’s actions badly damaged the nation’s standing around the world and warn that if left unpunished, the former president would be free to return to power and endanger democracy.
But already on Wednesday, Republican senators who sat through a traumatic retelling of an assault they lived through appeared unmoved. Many said they did not see a tight enough connection between the deadly rampage that tried to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory that day and Mr. Trump’s monthslong campaign to overturn his election loss to warrant punishing the leader of their party.
Seventeen Republicans would have to join every Democrat to achieve the two-thirds majority needed for conviction.
Arguments began at noon and the managers, as the House prosecutors are known, have up to eight hours on Thursday to present before they rest their presentation Thursday evening. They are also expected to use their final hours to try to pre-emptively blunt legal arguments key to the president’s defense.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers are expected take their turn in the well of the Senate beginning on Friday. Though they used a rocky debut on Tuesday primarily to argue against holding a trial at all, they intend to outright deny that Mr. Trump was responsible for the attack or meant to interfere with the electoral process underway at the Capitol, despite repeatedly imploring his supporters to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who oversaw the House’s impeachment last month, called their argument that a former president could not be tried once he left office “disingenuous” during a news conference on Thursday.
She said that after the House impeached Mr. Trump on Jan. 13, the managers were told by the secretary of the Senate that it would not even accept their “incitement of insurrection” article because the Senate was not in session. Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who was then the majority leader, refused to call the Senate back and said he would not convene a trial before Inauguration Day. Once the Senate receives an impeachment charge from the House, it must immediately take up the issue.
“We were ready,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They said no.”
The trial is moving at a galloping pace, and senators could reach a verdict by the end of the holiday weekend. But first, senators will have a chance to question the prosecution and defense, and the managers may force a debate and vote on calling witnesses.
The lead impeachment manager in the trial of former President Donald J. Trump issued a warning as the proceedings began on Wednesday: not appropriate for young children.
“We do urge parents and teachers to exercise close review of what young people are watching here,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, said before showing video of the “shocking violence, bloodshed and pain” inflicted by the violent mob on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
Mr. Raskin’s message was ostensibly for parents watching at home. But the subtext was not lost on those in the Senate chamber, where House managers who were victims of the attack were speaking to senators who themselves had survived the violent assault. Around them were their staffs who had cowered behind office desks as the mob rampaged through the building. Above them in the balcony, scribbling in notepads, were journalists who were equally traumatized and security officers who had been there to ward off the attackers.
The humming rhythms of Capitol Hill do not easily allow for prolonged moments of reflection, let alone in the aftermath of an insurrection. But the video evidence procured by the impeachment managers turned the nation’s most powerful lawmakers into a captive audience, forcing them to absorb the enormity of the attack and render judgment on whether Mr. Trump deserved blame for what they had witnessed.
“We have to relive it,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, though he predicted some staff members would most likely avoid watching video of the deadly attack again. “It’s painful. It brings up a very traumatic moment. But it also helps to bring closure, so I think it’s something that we have to go through. But it reminds us just how tragic a day it was.”
The senators watched mostly in silence as the images of the mob played in the chamber, the audio of the rioters’ profane taunts and threats echoing off the walls. As the footage played, some appeared to involuntarily trace the path they took away from the chamber as it became clear how close they had been to the mob.
Seated in the chamber, several senators appeared visibly distressed: sharp intakes of breath during footage of rioters cursing at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tightened fingers on armrests and in the case of Mr. Schumer, slow head nods as he watched himself flee the mob. Several left the chamber for a dinner recess with red eyes, visibly emotional and avoiding questions.
“We were witnesses to that in some ways, and in a lot of ways we weren’t — we weren’t watching that live on TV like other people were,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, after the first day of the proceedings concluded on Tuesday. “That’s probably the longest time I’ve spent actually watching video on that topic. It reminded me of what a horrendous day it was.”
Impeachment trials of American presidents are rare. They are almost by definition grave and serious.
But the proceeding against former President Donald J. Trump was probably the first to include a parental advisory for graphic violence.
Beginning Wednesday’s presentation, which included never-before-seen video of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead House impeachment manager, began with a warning: “We do urge parents and teachers to exercise close review of what young people are watching here.”
The chilling footage wasn’t much easier for adults — for anyone, really, who wants to believe that America is a secure, stable democracy. It was horrible, but it was also horribly necessary.
In a brutal and deftly edited presentation, the managers presented the attack on the election’s certification as a found-footage horror movie.
Sometimes the horror was in seeing how awful and vicious the day was. Security and body camera footage showed police officers defending the building engaged in what could have been siege scenes from “Game of Thrones” — grisly, grunting, intimate violence. On emergency calls, officers screamed out calls for support. “We’ve lost the line!” “The crowd is using munitions against us!” “Multiple Capitol injuries!”
Through it all, an onscreen graphic showed the mob as a red dot inching into the heart of the Capitol. Over and over, the graphic and video showed that we may have been a short sprint, a piece of wood, a wrong turn away from a massacre.
We saw the attack the day it happened, of course. We saw more of it in the days after. But we’d never seen it so completely, so sweepingly.
What the impeachment managers put together wasn’t simply a deluge of shocking clips. It was a complex, edited narrative that moved us from one vantage point to another — Mr. Trump, the mob, the police, the fleeing lawmakers and staffers.
The daylong arguments also had dramatic structure, including cliffhanger-like act breaks as the trial went into recesses.
But there was also a larger, serial arc that laid out, over the course of months, the charge that Mr. Trump had primed his followers to believe he could lose the election only if it were rigged; that he cheered on violence in his name; that he publicized the Jan. 6 rally and targeted politicians — including his own vice president — in a series of increasingly furious tweets.
All of this was an effort to use the tools of television — imagery, emotion, montage — to build a case against a president who was made by and obsessed with TV.
President Biden said Thursday that “some minds may be changed” by Democratic House prosecutors at the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, but he added that he wasn’t focused on the spectacle because “we all know we have to move on.”
Mr. Biden’s comments came even as he sought to continue ignoring the trial of his predecessor. His day will be spent hosting lawmakers for a discussion about infrastructure and touring a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health.
Mr. Biden and his advisers have insisted for days that he is not paying close attention to the Senate trial of Mr. Trump. At the beginning of the infrastructure meeting, he said that he had not watched any of the trial live on Wednesday, but that he had seen news reports.
“I’m focused on my job,” the president said, adding that he watched news reports of the trial later Wednesday night because he was “going straight through last night until a little after nine.”
The new president and his team are determined to deliver the message that he is focused on the economic plight of the country, the pandemic that is still killing about 3,000 people each day and efforts to reverse Mr. Trump’s legacy.
On Thursday morning, the White House confirmed that the president had canceled the national emergency at the southwest border that Mr. Trump had declared in order to divert money for construction of his border wall.
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi dated Wednesday, Mr. Biden dismissed the emergency as an attempt by his predecessor to get around congressional refusal to provide funds for the wall’s construction.
“I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted,” he wrote. “I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end.”
Mr. Biden began his day convening a meeting in the Oval Office with senators from both parties in what the White House described as a discussion about “the critical need to invest in modern and sustainable American infrastructure.” Pete Buttigieg, who was confirmed as Mr. Biden’s transportation secretary last week, joined the meeting via video conference.
“I found these guys wandering around,” Mr. Biden joked, motioning to the senators as reporters were let in for a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Mr. Biden cited the importance of the public works committee led by Senator Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware, in dealing with infrastructure issues.
He said there are “a number of things out there that the American people are looking for us to step up,” and he mentioned “a lot of bridges in West Virginia” and “a lot of dangerous spots on Route 9 in terms of Cancer Alley.”
“There’s a lot we have to do,” he said.
Mr. Biden said throughout the campaign that he supports a vast effort to rebuild the country’s crumbling roads, bridges, tunnels and other critical infrastructure, in part as a way to help put Americans back to work. Many Republicans have said for years that they, too, support new investments in infrastructure, though an agreement on the size and scope of legislation has been elusive.
While the White House has prioritized the passage of the president’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, Mr. Biden has signaled that he plans to push for more spending after that is approved. The strategy is part of his effort to “build back better,” a slogan he used during his presidential campaign.
On Thursday afternoon, the president is scheduled to tour the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and deliver remarks to underscore the efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Chilling new details emerged on Thursday in the plot by the Oath Keepers militia group to storm the Capitol as prosecutors said that an Ohio-based member of the organization was planning training sessions “for urban warfare, riot control and rescue operations” as early as one week before Election Day.
Shortly after the election, prosecutors said, the Oath Keeper member, Jessica Watkins, told an associate that she was “awaiting direction from President Trump” about what to do about the results of the vote. “POTUS has the right to activate units too,” Ms. Watkins wrote in a text message to the unnamed associate on Nov. 9. “If Trump asks me to come, I will.”
The new accounts about Ms. Watkins — one of three Oath Keeper members charged with conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack — were contained in a striking government memo that sought her detention before trial. In the memo, prosecutors said Ms. Watkins went to Washington on Jan. 6 with as many as 40 other members of the group, and that she and one of her co-defendants, Thomas E. Caldwell, had planned to stage “a quick reaction force” of more militiamen outside the city to serve as armed reinforcements.
The federal authorities have now brought charges against more than 200 people in the attack on the Capitol last month, but the case against Ms. Watkins, Mr. Caldwell and their third co-defendant, Donovan Crowl, is one of the most serious to have so far emerged from the vast investigation. This week, Mr. Caldwell asked a judge to release him from custody, saying he was an injured Navy veteran with more than 30 years of experience with top secret matters. Ms. Watkins and Mr. Crowl are also still in jail and are likely to make similar requests to be released.
The government memo filed on Thursday suggested that the investigation into the Oath Keepers, a group that largely draws its membership from former military and law enforcement personnel, has started to intensify. Prosecutors indicated that they now have access to Ms. Watkins’ personal text messages, including some in which she described the prospect of Joseph R. Biden Jr. becoming president as “an existential threat.”
“Biden may still be our president,” she wrote on Nov. 17. “If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.”
By the end of December, prosecutors said, Ms. Watkins, a military veteran who owns a bar in rural Ohio, was making plans to go to Washington on the day of the attack on the Capitol.
“We plan on going to DC on the 6th” because “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come,” she wrote to Mr. Crowl on Dec. 29.
“If Trump activates the Insurrection Act,” she added, “I’d hate to miss it.”
After watching graphic video on Wednesday from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, many Republican senators denounced the violence but said they were still inclined to acquit former President Donald J. Trump of the charge that he incited an insurrection.
Speaking to reporters in the hallways of the Capitol, Republican senators made a variety of arguments in Mr. Trump’s defense: that the matter should be decided by federal prosecutors, that the trial was unconstitutional since he is an ex-president, and that Mr. Trump’s words to his supporters fell short of the legal standard for incitement.
Some argued that Mr. Trump’s language was no different from passionate statements coming from Democrats in opposing the former president. And one, Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, compared the rampage at the Capitol to protests for racial justice last year that turned violent, suggesting that the former president could not be held to account for the Jan. 6 riot any more than Democrats could for those events.
“I mean, you have a summer where people all over the country were doing similar kinds of things,” said Mr. Blunt, the fourth-ranking Republican. “I don’t know what the other side will show from Seattle and Portland and other places.”
He added that he “didn’t see a case a prosecutor could make against the president.” (The standard for conviction in impeachment is different than in a criminal trial; prosecutors must prove the official committed treason, bribery or “high crimes and misdemeanors” — typically understood as the use of power to threaten the constitutional order — not necessarily that he broke a law.)
Forty-four Republican senators — all but six in the Senate — voted on Tuesday against moving forward with the trial, arguing that it is unconstitutional since Mr. Trump is no longer in office. Seventeen Republicans would have to join every Democrat to achieve the two-thirds threshold for an impeachment conviction.
Asked if anything had changed after he viewed the video on Wednesday, Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, said he believed House managers would “at best” get six Republicans to vote for conviction.
“Probably five, but maybe six,” Mr. Scott said.
The six Republican senators who voted to move forward with the trial were: Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, said he wished Mr. Trump had “used different language,” but “I don’t think it’s constitutional” for the Senate to try him.
“For those of us that truly don’t believe that we have that constitutional authority, that becomes a pretty big obstacle for them to overcome,” he said.
Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, said the video made him “angry,” but that Mr. Trump had not been the only one using overheated political messaging.
“There are a number of people around here that, I’ve said before, have been placing tinder in that tinder box,” Mr. Tillis said. “And I think every one of them should reflect on their words and really think twice about what they should say.”
A majority of Republicans still view President Biden’s election as illegitimate — and more than half would justify the use of force to defend “the traditional American way of life,” according to a poll released on Day 3 of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial.
Two-thirds of Republicans — 66 percent — said Mr. Biden’s election was not legitimate, compared with far smaller percentages of Democrats and independents who question the outcome, according to a survey taken during the last 10 days of January by the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank that promotes conservative economic policies.
Taken as a whole, two-thirds of Americans said Mr. Biden’s win was legitimate, according to the poll.
There was an educational divide embedded in the political divide: 75 percent of Republicans without college degrees still question the results, compared to 48 percent of those in the party identifying themselves as college educated.
The most eye-opening finding, however, was the response to this sentence presented to respondents: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”
While 60 percent of those surveyed rejected the idea outright, 55 percent of Republicans said they agreed with assertion — roughly three times the percentage of Democrats who expressed support for the use of force, according to the survey, which polled 2,016 U.S. adults.
The report’s authors added an important caveat: Support for the use of violence, even among those who said they would consider it, was unenthusiastic, with 9 percent of Americans over all and 13 percent of Republicans saying they “completely” agree with the necessity of taking violent actions if leaders fail.
The poll also showed that many Republicans now entertain false claims promoted by the far right of the party, with half claiming that left-wing antifa activists — and not Trump supporters — instigated the attack on the Capitol.
The survey was conducted by the institute’s Survey Center on American Life. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of U.S. adults using a web-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. general population. Its margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll comes at a moment of extraordinary stress for the Republican Party as it struggles to move forward following the loss of a deeply polarizing former president who maintains a tight grip on his party’s conservative base.
Last Friday, more than 100 anti-Trump Republicans — many of them well-known dissenters active on social media and the cable networks — participated in a Zoom call to discuss creating a breakaway party group to promote “principled conservatism,” a direct rebuke of Mr. Trump, according to one of the participants.
Creation of the party, which would potentially run center-right candidates around the country, was reported earlier by Reuters.
The American Enterprise Institute’s poll offered the group a glimmer of hope: While nearly 80 percent of Republicans still support Mr. Trump, those surveyed said their loyalty lies more with the party than the former president, by a 63-to-37 percent margin.
When Donald J. Trump was running for president in 2016, he pointed to some protesters at one of his rallies and told the crowd to “get ’em out of here.” The protesters, who said they were then viciously assaulted, sued him for inciting a riot.
Mr. Trump won the suit. A federal appeals court, relying on a case concerning the Ku Klux Klan, ruled that his exhortation was protected by the First Amendment. And now his lawyers are making the same argument at his impeachment trial, where he stands accused of inciting an insurrection.
But Democrats say that argument misses two key points. An impeachment trial, they contend, is concerned with abuses of official power, meaning that statements that may be legally defensible when uttered by a private individual can nonetheless be grounds for impeachment.
Equally important, they say that Mr. Trump’s statements on Jan. 6 should not be considered in isolation but as the final effort of a calculated, monthslong campaign to violate his oath of office in an effort to retain power.
Stacey E. Plaskett, a Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager, said Mr. Trump’s statements were the culmination of a pattern of conduct that deliberately encouraged lawlessness. “Donald Trump over many months cultivated violence, praised it,” she said. “And then when he saw the violence his supporters were capable of, he channeled it to his big, wild historic event.”
Mr. Trump’s call to the crowd in 2016 had none of that baggage, but Judge David J. Hale of the Federal District Court in Louisville, Ky., allowed a lawsuit against him to proceed, writing that incitement is a capacious term. Quoting Black’s Law Dictionary, he wrote that it was defined as ‘the act or an instance of provoking, urging on or stirring up,’ or, in criminal law, ‘the act of persuading another person to commit a crime.’”
But the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, reversed Judge Hale’s decision, ruling that the Supreme Court’s decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio protected Mr. Trump. “In the ears of some supporters, Trump’s words may have had a tendency to elicit a physical response, in the event a disruptive protester refused to leave,” Judge David W. McKeague wrote for the majority, “but they did not specifically advocate such a response.”
It was significant, too, Judge McKeague wrote, that Mr. Trump had added a caveat to his exhortation, according to the lawsuit. “Don’t hurt ’em,” Mr. Trump said. “If I say ‘go get ’em,’ I get in trouble with the press.”
Mr. Trump offered a similarly mixed message on Jan. 6. Even as he urged his supporters to “go to the Capitol” and “fight like hell,” he also made at least one milder comment. “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” he said.
Ordinary courts might consider the speech in isolation and credit the occasional calmer passage. But the House managers are urging the Senate to hold a president to a different standard, one that takes account of the months of actions and statements leading to the speech and that holds him responsible for any call to violence or lawlessness.
House impeachment managers built their case against former President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday, methodically using video and audio clips to argue that he was responsible for the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6. Throughout much of the day, the managers let Mr. Trump and his supporters do the talking, showing videos of Mr. Trump’s speeches, his Twitter posts and footage of his supporters answering his rallying cries that began months before the attack.
Here are five takeaways from the second day of the trial.
For a time on Wednesday, @realDonaldTrump was back.
In their efforts to prove that Mr. Trump was undeniably behind the attack, House impeachment managers let the former president tell the story in his own words, airing a Trump Twitter blitz worthy of the former tweeter in chief himself.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” he wrote on Dec. 19, a post the managers repeatedly referred to throughout the day as a “save the date.”
And then, on Dec. 26, he wrote, “The ‘Justice’ Department and the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation’s history, despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”
Twitter barred Mr. Trump permanently on Jan. 8, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” as its justification.
Video clips showed again and again just how much danger senators faced.
The House managers showed senators previously unseen footage of the attack from security cameras in the Capitol. They also played recordings of officers’ chilling pleas for backup as the chaos unfolded around them.
In clip after clip, the impeachment managers broadened the view for senators of what was happening around them as they were running for cover on Jan. 6.
“You know how close you came to the mob,” said Representative Eric Swalwell of California, one of the House managers. “But most of the public does not know how close these rioters came to you.”
Democrats let Trump and his supporters make their case to convict.
As they started building their case on Wednesday, House impeachment managers argued that Mr. Trump was in no way an innocent bystander to the events of Jan. 6, rebutting an assertion the former president’s defense team made a day earlier.
Throughout the day, the managers let Mr. Trump and his supporters do much of the talking, showing footage of campaign rallies, screenshots of the president’s comments and clips of news interviews with supporters who said they went to Washington on Jan. 6 in response to his call.
The prosecution emphasized the role racism played in the riot and in the months before it.
Over the course of the day, the impeachment managers raised the role racism played in the riot as well as in the preceding months. They showed scenes of Confederate flags carried inside the Capitol, which historians said did not happen even during the Civil War.
The lead impeachment manager, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, quoted a Black officer who battled the mob that day describing his despair at being subjected to racist taunts from a crowd of attackers that was, according to witness accounts and video, overwhelmingly white.
Mr. Trump’s affinity for groups like the Proud Boys and his refusal to condemn them publicly and forcefully at multiple points throughout his presidency has long made many Republicans bristle, a reaction the impeachment managers may have been hoping to elicit in the Senate chamber on Wednesday.
An incitement of insurrection in four acts.
The impeachment managers laid out four efforts to subvert the election, each escalating as Mr. Trump’s desperation to retain his grip on the Oval Office grew. With each step, the managers said, he laid the groundwork for the mob attack on Jan. 6.
“The president realized really by last spring that he could lose — he might lose the election. So what did he do?” said one of the impeachment managers, Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado. “He started planting the seeds to get some of his supporters ready by saying that he could only lose the election if it was stolen.”
After Mr. Trump lost in November, he turned to his next plan: filing legal challenges.
And when that did not work, the president took the extraordinary step of pressuring Georgia elections officials to “find 11,780 votes” cast for him. (There is currently a criminal investigation into his attempts to overturn the state’s elections results.)
When the Georgia plan fell through, Mr. Trump saw one last opportunity to “stop the steal”: the bureaucratic counting of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6.
“He incited this attack, and he saw it coming,” Mr. Raskin said. “To us, it may have felt like chaos and madness. But there was method in the madness that day.”
Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Glenn Thrush, Nicholas Fandos and Nick Corasaniti.