Most Americans have seen any number of isolated snippets of video from Jan. 6, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol complex—rioters in one hall or another, lawmakers ducking for cover, Capitol Police trying to deter Trump's cultists, and the occasional first-hand video of one person's experience that day.
But watching it all knit together in one chronological video documenting Trump's exhortations and the immediate responsiveness of his cultists is a different—and far more powerful—experience altogether. That's exactly what Democratic impeachment managers presented Tuesday to punctuate their opening arguments that Trump’s culpability is too undeniable and his transgressions too inexcusable by any objective measure to escape punishment.
"We will stop the steal," Trump tells his rallygoers in the opening frames of the video. "And after this, we're going to walk down—and I'll be there with you—we're going to walk down to the Capitol ..."
Cut to source video from the crowd, with multiple people yelling, "Yeah ... Let's take the Capitol!" Another Trumper in the crowd helpfully orients his peers to the Capitol, bellowing, "We are going to the Capitol, where our problems are—it's that direction."
Text on the video notes that as "Trump continues his speech, a wave of supporters begins marching to the Capitol."
Action-reaction. Trump directs his cultists to the Capitol—they go to the Capitol. Trump tells them to "fight like hell," and they fight like hell. Trump says that when you catch somebody in a fraud, "you're allowed to go by very different rules," and they employ very different rules.
Then Trump sets up his vice president for a fall from grace among his devotees, concluding, "So I hope Mike has the courage to do what he needs to do."
As Trump very well knew, Vice President Mike Pence had already informed him that he didn't have the power to overturn the election results during certification.
On the floors of the House and the Senate, lawmakers are performing their constitutional duties as Trump's rabid rioters breach the perimeter and soon after start roaming the halls looking for lawmakers. Pence is ushered off the floor of the Senate chamber, as is Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the House chamber. Lawmakers' speeches are abruptly ended as they are informed the mob is now inside the building and the ones who can be are evacuated.
Action-reaction. Trump sends a tweet criticizing Pence for failing to overturn the election. Chants of "Treason! Treason!" erupt among rioters inside, while outside the building "Traitor Pence!" becomes a rallying cry.
Two hours after the Capitol insurrection began, Trump tweets a video of himself saying, "There’s never been a time like this where such a thing happened, where they could take it away from all of us, from me, from you, from our country. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace."
Back at the Capitol, Trump’s message did nothing to quell the fury. Angry rioters continue destroying the building, beating police officers, and destroying the equipment they confiscated from various journalists.
In the end, the video notes, at least seven people lost their lives and more than 140 law enforcement officers suffered physical injuries, not to mention the mental trauma that remains with many others to this day.
Four hours after the Capitol incursion began, Trump celebrated the lethal havoc that had just unfolded in the heart of our nation’s government. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long," Trump tweeted. "Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!"