Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the Capitol and searching menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The footage showed rioters smashing windows and doors as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help in the insurrection, in which five people died.
In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence”.
Some were equipped with combat gear and members of extremist groups were among the first inside. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.
At one dramatic moment, the video shows police shooting into the crowd through a broken window, killing a San Diego woman, Ashli Babbitt. In another, a police officer is seen being crushed by the mob.
The vice president, who had been presiding over a session to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Mr Trump — thus earning Mr Trump’s criticism — is shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters.
Ms Pelosi was evacuated from the complex before the mob prowled her suite of offices, her staff hiding quietly behind closed doors.
Police overwhelmed by the mob frantically announce “we lost the line” and urge officers to safety. One later died.
Though most of the Senate jurors have already made up their minds on acquittal or conviction, they were riveted, and sat silently.
Rioters had rummaged through their desks in the very chamber where the impeachment trial is now being held. Screams from the audio and video filled the chamber. One Republican, James Lankford of Oklahoma, bent his head, a GOP colleague putting his hand on his arm in comfort.
“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plaskett, the Democratic delegate representing the Virgin Islands.
“President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”
Videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, but the graphic compilation amounted to a more complete narrative, a moment-by-moment retelling of one of the nation’s most alarming days.
It offered fresh details into the attackers, scenes of police heroism and staff whispers of despair.
Some senators acknowledged it was the first time they were grasping how perilously close the country came to serious danger.
“When you see all the pieces come together, just the total awareness of that, the enormity of this, threat, not just to us as people, as lawmakers, but the threat to the institution and what Congress represents, it’s disturbing,” said Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “Greatly disturbing.”
The stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as prosecutors argued Mr Trump was no “innocent bystander” but the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot.
They argue the then president spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Mr Biden’s victory.
The House Democrats showed piles of evidence from the former president himself – hundreds of Trump tweets and comments that culminated in his January 6 rally cry to go the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat.
Mr Trump then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee”, they said, as the mob ransacked the iconic building.
“To us it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to the madness that day,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead prosecutor, who pointed to Mr Trump as the instigator.
“And when his mob overran and occupied the Senate and attacked the House and assaulted law enforcement, he watched it on TV like a reality show. He revelled in it.”
In one scene, a Capitol Police officer redirects Republican senator Mitt Romney down a hallway to avoid the mob. It was the same officer, Eugene Goodman, who has been praised as a hero for having lured rioters away from the Senate doors.
“It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes,” Mr Romney said after watching the video. He said he had not realised how close he had been to danger.
The day’s proceedings unfolded after Tuesday’s emotional start that left the former president fuming when his attorneys delivered a meandering defence and failed to halt the trial on constitutional grounds. Some allies called for yet another shake-up to his legal team.
Mr Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached. He is charged with “incitement of insurrection” with fiery words his defence lawyers say are protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and just figures of speech.
Prosecutors are arguing Mr Trump’s words were part of “the big lie” — his relentless efforts to sow doubts about the election results. Those began long before the votes were tabulated, revving up his followers to “stop the steal” though there was no evidence of substantial fraud.