Brutal footage from Capitol riot played as evidence


Welcome to our live coverage of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.

Yes, that’s right, this thing is finally happening, more than a month since the Capitol riot and almost three weeks since Mr Trump left office.

There was good reason for the delay. It gave the former president time to prepare his defence, and gave the Senate time to deal with some essential business in the early days of the Biden administration. But we’re here now and ready to get underway.

So, how does it work? Simple. The trial is happening in the US Senate, with the 100 senators acting as jurors. The threshold for conviction is 67 votes – anything less, and Mr Trump will be acquitted. That means at least 17 members of his own party would have to vote against him.

In the unlikely event that such a thing happens, the Senate could then hold a vote to bar Mr Trump from running for office again.

He was impeached back on January 13, on a single charge: incitement of insurrection. The Democrats’ impeachment managers will argue Mr Trump was responsible for the violence that unfolded on January 6 as his supporters tried to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes by storming the Capitol.

Expect to hear a lot about the misinformation Mr Trump spouted after his election defeat, his speech to supporters in Washington D.C. just before the riot, and his response to the violence once it started.

Mr Trump’s legal team, meanwhile, is saying the trial is unconstitutional because he is no longer president.

That argument will dominate this first day of proceedings. Up to four hours have been set aside for a debate on the constitutionality issue, which will be followed by a vote to determine whether the trial proceeds.

The impeachment managers started their argument by playing a lengthy video timeline of the events of January 6, including Donald Trump’s speech, the violence at the Capitol and the then-president’s video message and tweets a couple of hours after it started.

None of this footage, to my eye, was new, but much of it was still brutal to watch.

“Senators, the president was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13 for doing that,” Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said when the video had finished.

“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanour is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanour. If that’s not an impeachable offence, then there is no such thing.

“And if the president’s arguments for a January exception are upheld, then even if everyone agrees that he’s culpable for these events, even if the evidence proves – as we think it definitely does – that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalise the election, he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it.

“He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at that point. That can’t be right.”

Read on for all the latest news.

Live Updates


Sam Clench

The next impeachment manager to speak was Congressman David Cicilline. There was a fair bit of overlap between his argument and what the others said earlier, but he also spent some time highlighting Donald Trump’s own words on January 6.

“Virtually every American who saw those events unfold on television was absolutely horrified. But we also know how President Trump himself felt about the attack. He told us,” said Mr Cicilline.

“Here’s what he tweeted at 6.01, as the Capitol was in shambles, and as dozens of police officers and other law enforcement officers lay battered and bruised and bloodied.”

This is the tweet in question.

“‘Remember this day forever.’ Every time I read that tweet, it chills me to the core,” Mr Cicilline continued.

“The President of the United States sided with the insurrectionists. He celebrated their cause. He validated their attack, he told them, ‘Remember this day forever.’ Hours after they marched through these halls seeking to assassinate Mike Pence, the Speaker of the House, any of us they could find.

“Given all that, it’s no wonder that President Trump would rather talk about jurisdiction, rather than talk about what happened on January 6. His arguments are dead wrong. They are distractions.”


Sam Clench

Jamie Raskin has handed over to one of his fellow impeachment managers, Congressman Joe Neguse (for future reference, all of the impeachment managers are Democrats).

We’re getting a bit less emotive now and a bit more technical. Mr Neguse went through the language of Article I of the Constitution, which lays out Congress’s impeachment power.

That language says the Senate’s punishment of an impeached president “shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, trust or profit under the United States”.

“The meaning is clear. The Senate has the power to impose removal, which only applies to current officials, and separately is has the power to impose disqualification, which obviously applies to both current and former officers,” Mr Neguse said.

“As I understand President Trump’s argument, they believe that this language somehow says that disqualification can only follow removal of a current officer. But it doesn’t. That interpretation essentially rewrites the Constitution. It adds words that aren’t there.

“Just imagine the consequences of such an absurd interpretation of the Constitution. If President Trump were right about that language, then officials could commit the most extraordinary, destructive offences against the American people, and they would have total control over whether they could be impeached and, if they are, whether the Senate can try the case.

“If they want to escape the risk of disqualification from future office, it’s pretty simple. They could just resign one minute before the House impeaches, or even one minute before the Senate trial. Or they could resign during the Senate trial, if it’s not looking so well.

“That would effectively erase disqualification from the Constitution. It would put wrongdoers in charge of whether the Senate can try.”

Rep. Joe Neguse: “If Congress were just to stand completely aside in the face of such an extraordinary crime against the republic, it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability.”https://t.co/BY7pGN4vv8 pic.twitter.com/nIuc5yMwu5

— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2021

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Sam Clench

Jamie Raskin has spent some time now talking about US history and the men who wrote the country’s Constitution. Whenever you hear someone mention the “framers” – it’s going to happen a lot during this trial – that is who they’re talking about.

Mr Raskin offered a quote from one of those framers, Alexander Hamilton, about the danger of “political opportunists who begin as demagogues and end as tyrants”.

“President Trump may not know a lot about the framers, but they certainly knew a lot about him,” he said.

“Given the framers’ intense focus on dangers to elections and peaceful transfer of power, it is inconceivable that they designed impeachment to be a dead letter in a president’s final days in office, when opportunities to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power would be most tempting and most dangerous – as we just saw.”

Side note – I now have a Hamilton song stuck in my head again. It’s the first Cabinet rap battle, if you’re interested.

Rep. Jamie Raskin quotes Alexander Hamilton on “political opportunists who begin as demagogues and end as tyrants.”

“Pres. Trump may not know a lot about the Framers—but they certainly knew a lot about him.” https://t.co/Lau7kmD368 pic.twitter.com/OmouvqRpA2

— ABC News (@ABC) February 9, 2021

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Sam Clench

The impeachment managers played a lengthy video timeline of the events of January 6, including Donald Trump’s speech, the violence at the Capitol and the then-president’s video message and tweets a couple of hours after it started.

Our video team will cut the whole thing for you but in the meantime here are some parts of the clip, via Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.

None of this footage, to my eye, was new, but much of it was still brutal to watch.

“Senators, the president was impeached by the House of Representatives on January 13 for doing that,” Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, said when the video had finished.

“You ask what a high crime and misdemeanour is under our Constitution? That’s a high crime and misdemeanour. If that’s not an impeachable offence, then there is no such thing.

“And if the president’s arguments for a January exception are upheld, then even if everyone agrees that he’s culpable for these events, even if the evidence proves – as we think it definitely does – that the president incited a violent insurrection on the day Congress met to finalise the election, he would have you believe there is absolutely nothing the Senate can do about it.

“He wants you to decide that the Senate is powerless at that point. That can’t be right.”

Methinks they could have showed that video and said. “The Prosecution rests.” But brevity is rarely the Congressional way…

— Martha MacCallum (@marthamaccallum) February 9, 2021

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I still don’t believe that happened here. That video was really something.

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) February 9, 2021

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Did not expect this video to provoke as emotional a response as it has, at least for me. What a stain on our nation this is.

— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) February 9, 2021

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This is hard to watch again.

— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) February 9, 2021

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Every single American should see that video. Every damn one.#ImpeachmentTrial

— Chris Cillizza (@ChrisCillizza) February 9, 2021

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Imagine watching this and thinking “We need to move on.”

— Willie Geist (@WillieGeist) February 9, 2021

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We’re only a month-and-a-few-days removed from what happened on January 6th. For a lot of people – including those watching that video from the House managers – that trauma is still so fresh.

— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) February 9, 2021

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Sam Clench

The resolutions laying out the structure of the trial has passed. Now we are moving on to the debate that will dominate the rest of today – whether or not the trial is constitutional.

Donald Trump’s legal team says it is not, and will soon get to make its case, which will be followed by a vote on the matter. First though, we’re hearing from the prosecution.

Jamie Raskin, who is the lead impeachment manager from the House, is now addressing the Senate.

“Because I’ve been a professor of constitutional law for decades, I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist Papers here. Please breathe easy,” he quipped.

“I remember well the line that a professor is ‘someone who speaks while other people are sleeping’. You will not be hearing extended lectures from me, because our case is based on cold, hard facts. It’s all about the facts.

“President Trump has sent his lawyers here today to try to stop the Senate from hearing the facts of this case. They want to call the trial over before any evidence is even introduced.

“Their argument is that if you commit an impeachable offence in your last weeks in office, you do it with constitutional impunity. You get away with it. In other words, conduct that would be a high crime and misdemenaour in your first year as president, in your second year as president, in your third year as president, and for the vast majority of your fourth year as president, you can suddenly do in your last few weeks in office without facing any constitutional accountability at all.

“This would create a brand new ‘January exception’ to the Constitution of the United States.

“Everyone can see immediately why this is so dangerous. It’s an invitation to the president to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hold on to the Oval Office at all costs and to block the peaceful transfer of power.

“The January exception is an invitation to our founders’ worst nightmare. And if we buy this radical argument that President Trump’s lawyers advance, we risk allowing January 6 to become our future.

“Think about it. What will the January exception mean to future generations if you grant it. I’ll show you.”

He then played a little pre-prepared video compilation of what happened on January 6.

Here’s another visual aid the Democrats brought along.


Sam Clench

I mentioned that Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy is presiding over the trial as president pro tempore of the Senate.

If Donald Trump were still in office, that role would be filled by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. However, as he is a former president, Justice Roberts’ services are not required.

Mr Leahy has written to his colleagues to inform them of how he intends to conduct proceedings.

“As many of you know, I did not ask or seek to preside over this trial. Yet while I occupy the office of the president pro tempore, it is incumbent on me to do so,” he said.

“My intention and solemn obligation is to conduct this trial with fairness to all. I will adhere, as have my predecessors in the Senate who have presided over impeachment trials, to the Constitution and to applicable Senate rules, precedent and governing resolutions.”

He said he’d do what he could to ensure the trial “reflects the best traditions of the Senate”.

‘Dear Colleague’ Letter Of Senator Patrick Leahy, On His Role In Presiding Over The Impeachment Trial pic.twitter.com/ahANApXOJC

— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) February 9, 2021

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Sam Clench

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was the first speaker to be recognised by Senator Patrick Leahy, who is presiding over the trial as the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Mr Schumer described the article of impeachment as “the gravest charges every brought” against a president in US history.

“It’s our solemn constitutional duty to conduct a fair and honest impeachment trial,” he said.

He proceeded to put forward the resolution laying out the rules and structure of the trial. The details were agreed to by the Republican leader Mitch McConnell ahead of time, so there was never any question about the resolution passing.

The second impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins. pic.twitter.com/p1plQAhOx2

— The Recount (@therecount) February 9, 2021

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Sam Clench

We’re just a few minutes away from the start of proceedings now, which means we’re getting to enjoy all the delightfully awkward shots of senators making their way to the chamber.

It’s a bit like watching the prelude to a leadership spill in Canberra. Lots of people very obviously trying to walk naturally, keenly aware that a few dozen cameras are watching them.

Here, for example, is Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.


Sam Clench

The House impeachment managers have filed a response to that brief I mentioned from Donald Trump’s lawyers, saying it “confirms that he has no good defence”.

They seem keen to stress that the charge against Mr Trump, “incitement of insurrection”, does not just refer to the speech he gave to a crowd of supporters on January 6, but also includes his conduct in the months after the election.

“President Trump now studiously ignores all that preceded his speech and provided meaning and context to his statements, asking the Senate to do the same and focus only on a handful of his remarks in isolation,” the managers say.

They also don’t like the defence’s argument that the trial is unconstitutional because Mr Trump is no longer president.

“Because President Trump’s guilt is obvious, he seeks to evade responsibility for inciting the insurrection by arguing that the Senate lacks jurisdiction,” they say.

“President Trump’s jurisdictional argument is both wrong as a matter of constitutional law and dangerous as a matter of Senate practice.

“It would leave the Senate powerless to hold presidents accountable for misconduct committed near the end of their terms.”





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