Thursday, February 11, 2021

Day 2: Looking To Kill People

The scenes on TV were terrifying.  The House Managers’ presentation also included transcripts from overwhelmed and terrified police officers.  The mob was not there to peacefully assemble.  They were looking to kill people.

Charlie Pierce:

The third day of The Second Impeachment was, as the late Jimmy Breslin once said of the case against Richard Nixon, a burial job. The steady, methodical case presented by the House managers, illustrated by security video and audio recordings heretofore unseen and unheard, makes it quite plain that, for four years, the country was flirting with apocalypse, stuck in the close-in suburbs of armageddon. Watching in angry fascination all Wednesday, I couldn’t get out of my head Starbuck’s musings, as the first mate watches Ahab lash the Pequod through a typhoon against all common sense:

But shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship’s company down to doom with him?

The evidence is now undeniable. What we saw on Wednesday was the definitive proof that what broke into the Capitol last month was a hunting party. They came to kill people. “Hang Mike Pence” was not a metaphor. Hearing the hunters caroling, “Nannnnnn-cy? Nannnnnnnn-cy?” in that horror-movie sing-song was to hear the trilling of murderous intent. They came to the Capitol to kill people. Mitt Romney probably was saved by Officer Eugene Goodman, and this was before Goodman saved everyone else. (A security camera caught Goodman encountering Romney outside the Senate chamber as Romney was headed unwittingly into the teeth of the mob. Romney pivots like genuine Barry Sanders and beats feet in the other direction.) Rep. Jim McGovern had a near thing in the Speaker’s lobby. There could have been a massacre of the legislators, our own Guy Fawkes Day made complete. The heroism of the Capitol Police and the Washington Metropolitan Police is now immortal in a building in which practically every closet and bit of wainscoting are immortal, because this was a hunting party that came to the Capitol to kill people.

The House managers brought this evidence through a series of enormously gifted storytellers, and storytelling always has been an important part of legal proceedings. This was particularly true of Stacey Plaskett, a former NYC prosecutor who represents the U.S. Virgin Islands as their delegate to the Congress. Plaskett was tasked with connecting the events at the Capitol with the violence that was a subtext to the former president*’s entire political career. To do this, Plaskett brilliantly employed the episode in which some Trump supporters, including Proud Boys, ran a Biden-Harris bus off a Texas highway.

PLASKETT: Sometime after 12:30 p.m., a caravan of more than 50 trucks covered in pro-Trump campaign gear confronted and surrounded cars carrying Biden-Harris campaign workers and a Biden-Harris campaign bus as they were traveling down Interstate 35 from San Antonio to Austin. According to witnesses, this caravan repeatedly tried to force the bus, you saw and you see in that video, to slow down the middle of the highway and then to run it off the road. What that video you just saw does not show is that the bus they tried to run off the road was filled with young campaign staff, volunteers, supporters, surrogates, people, and as the Trump supporters closed in on the bus, a large black pickup truck adorned with Trump flags suddenly and intentionally swerved and crashed into a car driven by a Biden-Harris volunteer. News of the event went viral on social media. The President of the United States, in a campaign, saw his own supporters trying to run a bus carrying his opponents campaign workers off the highway and to physically intimidate people in this country campaigning, and here was his response the next day:

The President of the United States tweeted a video of his supporters trying to drive a bus off the road. You will recall in that first video that I showed you there was no sound. The one that he tweeted had a fight theme song played to at the president—the president put that music to that video. He added at the top, “I love Texas!” By the next evening, that Tweet that he did had been viewed 12.6 million times, and it wasn’t just the Tweet. On November 1 at a Michigan rally with a slew of reporters the president talked about that incident again.

Plaskett was spellbinding. None of this was normal, her presentation said, perhaps the last and most serious use of that phrase in reference to our four-year slow-dance with the palest of the pale horsemen. The day was a feast of shame for every Republican in the Senate chamber, even the ones who have come around at last, even the quick-pivoting Mitt Romney. This, the evidence said, this is what you and your politics have wrought. On. January 6, Donald Trump gave a speech, and hell followed after him.

In one way, it had the desired impact on some of the Republican senators who were watching.

As senators Wednesday absorbed the videos at former president Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) bent his head down to his desk, and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) reached over to place a comforting hand on Lankford’s arm.

The vivid footage of the assault on the Capitol revived “horrible memories,” Daines said later.

Throughout a day of excruciating evidence, showing police officers screaming in pain and rioters screaming angrily, some Republican senators reacted with visible emotion. Yet there was little indication they would change their minds and vote to convict Trump, holding on to the argument that a former president cannot be impeached.

If the Democratic House managers’ goal was to make it personally and politically painful for Republicans to clear Trump, they appeared to make headway Wednesday, raising the question of whether any more GOP senators would join the half-dozen who appear willing to consider conviction.

But not the desired result. Some were horrified in other ways. Sen. Lindsey Graham clutched his pearls at seeing such terrible videos, but it was because the House Managers had the temerity to show the violence that gave him the vapors. Sen. Rick Scott said it was a “complete waste of time.” Sen. Rand Paul was doing his newest coloring book: Cap’n Crunch vs. Count Chocula.

Sen. Ted Cruz basically summed it up.

“The result of this trial is preordained,” said Cruz, who had mounted an effort to contest the electoral college results on Jan. 6.

I’m remembering the trials of Klansmen in Alabama who were arrested for killing civil rights marchers or lynching Black people who tried to register to vote. The results of those trials were preordained, too, when the all-White juries returned the verdicts. It’s the same old story.