The House impeachment managers presented senators with videos of their colleagues fleeing a pro-Trump mob, which breached the US Capitol shouting “stop the steal.” They showed the rioters searching for then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and rummaging through the senators’ desks on the chamber floor.
But even after witnessing the deadly violence firsthand, and being reminded of it again at the scene of the crime, many Republican senators appeared no closer on Wednesday to convicting former President Donald Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.”
While they were struck by the impeachment managers’ presentation, these Republicans said that the House Democrats did not prove Trump’s words led to the violent actions. They compared the January 6 riot to last summer’s racial justice protests and criticized how the trial is being handled.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said he couldn’t believe “we could lose the Capitol like that” but added that it didn’t change his mind on whether to acquit Trump during the trial.
“I think there’s more votes for acquittal after today than there was yesterday,” the South Carolina Republican said.
Sen. Mike Braun said the managers’ visual presentation was “riveting,” adding, “It’s just as kind of hard to take now as it was then.” But when asked if it had changed his view, the Indiana Republican said, “When you think the process is flawed in the first place, I think it’s going to be different to arrive at a conclusion on the facts and the merits itself.”
And Sen. Ted Cruz said a direct link from Trump to the pro-Trump riot was “strikingly absent.” The Texas Republican claimed that “there’s not a political candidate in the country,” including “every single one of the Democratic senators,” who hasn’t used the same language as Trump, who told his supporters “to fight like hell.”
“They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the President doesn’t come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement,” Cruz said of the managers’ presentation.