GOP senators call Capitol riot videos ‘disturbing,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘graphic’
Republican senators say they were riveted by new video from the House impeachment managers showing the attacks on the Capitol and how close rioters got to lawmakers.
The House impeachment managers, as part of their presentation on Wednesday, showed never-before-seen video of lawmakers and former Vice President Mike Pence evacuating the Senate chamber as well as close calls for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
The videos appeared to emotionally resonate with GOP senators but did not necessarily sway their final decision on convicting Trump. Most senators were in the chamber when it was locked down on Jan. 6 as rioters breached the building and effectively watched their own escape as part of the House presentation.
GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a key swing vote, stressed that she hadn’t made a final decision but called the House presentation “riveting” and “compelling.”
“It was reliving that day with some additional detail that just reinforces my belief that it was a terrible day for our country and that there’s no doubt that it was an attempt to disrupt the counting of the electoral votes,” Collins said.
The chamber while the videos played, she added, was “extremely quiet. You could have heard a pin drop.”
Asked for his reaction to the videos, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), described the attack as “graphic” and “disgusting.”
“It was a terrible set of circumstances and a heart-wrenching set of videos,” Moran said.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said watching the footage was “reliving a horrible day, a horrible day.”
“That’s, that’s not easy. … I talked to some leadership staff, and they were, you know, in their offices, and people were banging on the doors. And that was, that was a lot more frightening,” Portman said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another potential swing vote, called the videos “disturbing.”
“I’m angry. I’m disturbed. I’m sad. As you say, we’re reliving this,” she said.
Murkowski, like Collins, said she had not made a decision on how she will vote but that she believed the House impeachment managers were making a “strong case” and that the evidence presented so far was “pretty damning.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager, warned senators before the presentation that it would include harrowing and sometimes graphic material.
House impeachment managers then walked through a detailed presentation of how rioters got into the building and drilled home how close they got to lawmakers.
The footage included videos of Pence and subsequently senators evacuating as rioters were already on the second floor of the Capitol, close to the entrance to the Senate chamber.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said he felt “angry” watching the new footage.
“It’s intense. … A lot of us remember it from our perspective. But you get different perspectives. So it’s a bad day, no doubt about it,” he said.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) declined to say if the videos changed his thinking about the final vote on convicting or acquitting Trump but said the House presentation “brings back all the horrible memories of that day.”
In another not-seen-before clip, Romney and an aide appear to be walking toward the House side of the Capitol. Officer Eugene Goodman stops them, and Romney turns to run back toward the Senate chamber.
“It was obviously very troubling to see the great violence that our Capitol Police and others were subjected to. It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” Romney told reporters, adding that he was not aware how close he came to rioters.
Romney appeared to recount his experience to Portman and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) once the Senate reconvened, pointing to Goodman as he spoke to the two other GOP senators. Portman then went over to Goodman and fist-bumped him.
Romney subsequently had a conversation with Goodman.
“I expressed my appreciation to him for coming to my aid, getting me back into the path of safety,” Romney said.
Romney said that he was on his way to the workspace he has in the Capitol after being alerted that rioters were in the building but that Goodman directed him to go back to the chamber.
Even as Republicans appeared moved by the videos, it’s unlikely enough will vote to convict Trump. If every Democrat votes to convict, they would need 17 GOP senators. Only a handful are viewed as a potential swing votes.
But Republicans acknowledge that the House impeachment managers have done a good job making their case.
“These guys were — I think they were very effective. And I’ll see what kind of arguments the defense put out. But yeah, I’m going to listen and draw conclusions when it’s all done,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
“I think they’ve done a good job connecting the dots,” he added. “The president’s Twitter feed is a matter of public record, and they’ve done, like I said, an effective job of going back several months and just showing that public record.”
Updated at 8:13 p.m.
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