That may seem like a tall order. During the last impeachment trial, many GOP senators got bored with the proceedings, even though that was a compelling tale, featuring a president strong-arming a vulnerable ally under extreme military duress, a band of thuggish Trump co-conspirators and diplomatic veterans dramatically speaking out at great personal risk.
But Democrats now have something else that they didn’t last time: a huge treasure trove of video and pictures depicting the event — an unprecedented assault on the seat of government — unfolding in real time. That includes video of Trump himself inciting the attack with snarling glee.
Democrats are sifting through all this material in hopes of assembling a powerful presentation for Trump’s Senate trial that underscores the horror of the event in a way that, they hope, will make it harder for GOP senators to vote against conviction, the aide says.
“If they‘re going to vote against it, they’re going to vote against it knowing what actually happened,” the aide tells me. The Democratic impeachment managers include Reps. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), David N. Cicilline (R.I.) and Diana DeGette (Colo.).
As the aide notes, after the attack, some Republican senators, who were of course present, were “shook up.” But soon after, they reverted to legalistic parsing on matters such as whether it’s constitutional to convict a former president and bar him from ever serving again. (It is.)
“A lot of senators” were “very upset angry about what happened,” the aide tells me, adding that the goal is to “remind them of why.”
The presentation will also focus heavily on demonstrating that Trump incited the attack — but not just with his speech just before it unfolded. There will also be an emphasis on all of the times that he whipped up his supporters into a rage over the lie that the election was illegitimate and promoted the Jan. 6 protest in the lead-up to it.
And remember, some of the video shows unambiguously that the attackers were singularly motivated by Trump’s lie, and by an intention to employ outright intimidation of lawmakers in service of nullifying it.
It seems very unlikely that the needed 17 GOP senators will vote to convict, though with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not ruling it out, such an outcome is not entirely impossible.
A key tell that this might not be all that easy for GOP senators to dodge is that Trump’s most stalwart allies are frantically warning that a vote for conviction could damage the party.
Indeed, as CNN reports, a faction of GOP senators who oppose impeachment is now suggesting that McConnell cannot remain minority leader if he votes to convict. Note this from Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.):
“For the party to move forward, we got to move the party with Donald Trump,” Graham said in an interview. “There’s no way to be a successful Republican Party without having President Trump working with all of us and all of us working with him. That’s just a fact. And I think we got a decent chance of coming back in 2022. But we can’t do it without the President.”
The new spin from Trump GOP Senate allies, then, is that the party’s hopes for a comeback depend on keeping both Trump and his voters happy, and that holding Trump accountable for inciting a violent assault on their own branch of government puts that in peril.
It’s worth stressing that point: For the simple act of doing their constitutional duty, Trump incited a mob to wage a violent attack on them.
You’d think a vivid retelling of this assault on them might jog their priorities to the point where they would prioritize accountability over assessments of how it might impact the party’s electoral fortunes in two years, assessments that are probably wrong in any case. But let’s face it, even that probably isn’t enough to do it. This party just can’t quit Trump.