The third day of Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial got underway on Thursday, with the Democrats who are making the case for his conviction for inciting the deadly rampage at the US Capitol set to focus on the damage wrought in the rampage and the former president's role in inflaming the rioters.
As the Senate reconvened on Thursday, the nine House of Representatives lawmakers serving as prosecutors planned to illustrate the riot's "terrible toll" and Trump's "role in assembling, inciting and inflaming the insurrectionists," a House aide said before the session began.
The Democratic-led House on Jan. 13 charged the Republican former president with inciting an insurrection by exhorting thousands of supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress gathered to certify Democrat Joe Biden's election win.
The House trial "managers" spent much of Wednesday recounting the events that led to the riot and highlighting the threat to Mike Pence, Trump's vice president.
There also will be a focus on Thursday on Trump's "lack of remorse" during and following the siege, "which is an element in the impeachment calculus," the House aide said.
Democrats face a difficult task in securing a conviction and barring Trump from ever again holding public office given his continued popularity with many Republican voters. Trump has expressed interest in again running for president in 2024.
While some Republican senators in the Senate have said that the House managers are presenting their arguments well, many hold fast to their position that Trump should not be convicted.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News that while the Jan. 6 attack was "horrifying," impeachment was not appropriate given that Trump was no longer in office.
House managers have said Trump planted the seeds for the riot by encouraging violence and making false claims that the Nov. 3 election was stolen long before Jan. 6. They also have said he did little to put an end to the violence as it spiraled out of control, despite pleas from many Republicans to ask his supporters to stop.
TARGET ON THEIR BACKS
Senators on Wednesday were shown searing security footage of the pro-Trump mob stalking the Capitol hallways chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" and searching for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Previously unseen videos from inside the Capitol showed rioters smashing windows and fighting with police, coming within 100 feet (30 m) of the room where Pence was sheltering with his family. The mob had set up a gallows outside.
The footage, which also included body-camera views of brutal attacks on Capitol police, showed Pence and lawmakers being hustled to safety steps ahead of an advancing mob. The attack on the Capitol resulted in the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
Trump had repeatedly said Pence had the power to stop the certification of the election results, even though he did not.
Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro pointed out that during the rampage, Trump tweeted that Pence "didn't have the courage to do what should have been done." A video showed rioters spreading word of Trump's tweet to one another on bullhorns.
A two-thirds majority in the Senate must vote to convict, which means at least 17 Republicans would have to defy Trump.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted largely along party lines that the impeachment trial could move ahead even though Trump's term ended on Jan. 20. Six of 50 Republican senators broke with their caucus to side with Democrats.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer left open the possibility that Congress might seek a different way to punish Trump if the Senate acquits him. That includes potentially invoking the US Constitution's 14th Amendment, which gives Congress the power to bar public officials from holding office if they engaged in insurrection or rebellion.
Dozens of former Republican officials who said they are frustrated with their party's unwillingness to stand up to Trump are in talks to form a center-right breakaway party, four people involved in the discussions told Reuters.
Trump's lawyers, who will have up to 16 hours to deliver their defense, said the video and other evidence presented by Democrats had not made the case for his culpability.
One of Trump's lawyers, David Schoen, told reporters on Thursday he hoped the team would not need all 16 hours to make its case.
Biden, speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday morning before meeting with senators about infrastructure spending, said of the impeachment trial: "I think the Senate has a very important job to complete. And, I think, my guess is some minds may have been changed, but I don't know."
The Senate trial could conclude as early as Saturday or Sunday, according to a senior Senate aide.
Trump is the first US president to be impeached twice and the first to face trial after leaving office. His first impeachment trial, which stemmed from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden, ended in an acquittal a year ago in what was then a Republican-controlled Senate.