For the senators riveted to their seats, forced to relive the nightmarish quality of that day, there was something especially spooky about watching the mob rampaging through the very building where they were sitting, smashing windows, crushing police officers in doors, waving far-right regalia and chanting “Fight for Trump!”
For Republicans, it must have been uniquely stomach-churning to see what their champion had unleashed – knowing that most of them will continue to defend them during this trial for fear of angering his “base”. Never can they have been so relieved to have been wearing masks that concealed their expressions from the press gallery.
The video Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin showed ended with a tweet from Trump from that day insisting this is what happens when an election is stolen (it wasn’t stolen). He told his fans: “Go home with love & peace! Remember this day forever!”
The montage was an early indication that, whereas Trump’s first impeachment trial a year ago – which turned on a phone call seeking political favours from Ukraine – was like a white-collar criminal case, this time is more akin to a mob trial with Trump cast as the instigator of violent thugs.
It was a dramatic, roaring start to the trial that promises to plant a giant exclamation mark at the end of the Trump presidency. Raskin and his eight fellow House impeachment managers want to make sure that 6 January will become the operatic climax of America’s four years of living dangerously.
They also want to send a message. They are aware that the world’s faith in America has been badly shaken by the election and presidency of a reality TV star who thrives on petty insults and breaking rules. And they are aware that the 6 January riot may have been breaking point for some.
But Joe Biden likes to say that betting against America is always a bad bet. His election and orderly inauguration last month sent a signal to the world that it should not write off the young republic yet.
Read more of David Smith’s analysis here: Democrats use Trump trial to show sometimes symbolism is the point