From tears of grief and anger, to images of terrible violence and moments of deep compassion, the second impeachment trial of Donald J Trump, 45th president of the United States, produced an all-encompassing spectacle of human emotion.
Its diverse cast of characters featured heroes and villains, several charismatic new faces and some familiar old ones, politicians and lawyers arguing in support of or against the former president’s actions surrounding the 6 January attack on the Capitol, and others who were central to its action.
While the outcome of the trial was predictable, those who took part ensured the spectacle itself was anything but. These are just some of the individuals who contributed prominently to the historic, and memorable, proceedings.
Plaskett, of the US Virgin Islands, made history as the first delegate (non-voting Congress member) to be part of a team of presidential impeachment managers. But she will be remembered for the confident delivery of her powerful, punchy and colorful vernacular, which quoted lyrics from the rappers Run The Jewels and GZA. Plaskett emerged as a skilled storyteller, leading senators through the developments and drama of the day with a clear and detailed narrative.
The Maryland congressman and lead impeachment manager captivated the chamber with his emotional and highly personal opening address, recounting the terror of the violence one day after his son’s funeral. Raskin took his daughter Tabitha and a son-in-law married to his other daughter, to Congress so they could stay together “in a devastating week”. The family became separated as rioters surged through the Capitol, and Raskin was close to tears as he recalled them texting their goodbyes to each other.
Officer Eugene Goodman
The US Capitol police officer was already an unsung hero of the riot, seen luring the mob upstairs and away from Senate chambers in a widely shown video last month. But dramatic new footage of Goodman saving the Utah senator Mitt Romney’s life by diverting him from the path of rioters was a standout moment of the trial. Goodman, and several other officers who were on duty that day, was awarded the congressional gold medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.
The ranks of dissident Republicans gained an unexpected new member when the Louisiana senator joined five colleagues in supporting Democrats in the vote over the constitutionality of the trial. It earned him censure from local party members as “an object of shame” and a rebuke from his “disappointed” state GOP. Cassidy stood his ground. “The American people are counting on us coming to this with a mind ready to receive information,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake here.” At the culmination of the trail, he was joined by the same five senators and another, Richard Burr of North Carolina, in voting to convict.
The 45th US president spent much of his second impeachment trial as he did his term in office: on the golf course. He was said to be angry at his legal team’s opening, having watched segments at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but perked up when his lawyers showed numerous clips of him on Friday. Trump will view his second acquittal as vindication, but dozens of Never Trump Republicans are mulling a breakaway party and the extent of damage the trial has inflicted on the conservative cause has yet to be calculated.
On the night of the Capitol assault, the enigmatic Republican senator for South Carolina and Trump ally insisted he was done with his friend. “We’ve had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Enough is enough,” he said. But as the trial progressed, Graham proved he was firmly back on the Trump train. He found the House managers’ presentation “offensive and absurd” while other Republicans praised it, and conferred openly with Trump’s defense lawyers, alongside Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah.
The ex-president’s lawyer struggled to recover from his rambling, rocky start to the proceedings, drawing ire from Trump and dismay from Republicans. His “defense” argument amounted to an attack on Trump’s political opponents and a near-endless loop of video clips of senior Democratic politicians using the word “fight”. His biggest faux pas was admitting inadvertently what his boss never could, that Trump lost the election. Ultimately, however, his performance is unlikely to have swayed many senators.
The Republican Utah senator ended the first day of testimony hopping mad, not over the riot in the building where he works, but at House managers who invoked his name during evidence about a phone call Trump made during the riot as he sought to further delay certification of the presidential election. Lee’s display of anger led managers to withdraw their narrative. Later, the supposedly impartial juror was one of three Republicans, with Graham and Cruz, to confer with Trump’s legal team.