‘Wow’: Senators face unsettling reality of their close call

They grimaced, furrowed their brows and hung their heads at the violent images

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks with reporters outside the Senate chamber during a break  in the second day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, talks with reporters outside the Senate chamber during a break in the second day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 10, 2021 at 7:19pm

Day Two of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump saw senators riveted to previously unseen Capitol security footage that showed them a terrifying view of the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

They listened to frantic radio calls from Capitol Police officers, surrounded by rioters and calling for backup. They heard a whispered audio recording of a Speaker Nancy Pelosi staffer barricaded in an office, hiding under a desk as pounding can be heard in the background.

The screams of a Capitol Police officer being crushed in a door and chants of “Hang Mike Pence” pierced the Senate chamber.

They grimaced, furrowed their brows and hung their heads as violent image after violent image was presented and explained by the House impeachment managers.

Senators' heads swivelled in near unison as they switched between watching footage on the screens and intently focusing on the House impeachment managers speaking at the front of the chamber.

Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer nodded his head in affirmation as impeachment manager Eric Swalwell of California described a “close call” the Democratic leader had with a portion of the mob.

Security tape then played, showing Schumer walking down a hallway with his security detail and then out of frame. Schumer and his security team then burst back into the frame at a run, having encountered a mob in the hallway ahead.

The managers' presentation also provided new angles of some now-famous close calls, including the quick thinking of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman single-handedly leading a mob away from the doors to the Senate chamber, where lawmakers and staff were still inside.

Sen. Mitt Romney barely moved at his desk while video showed him moving through a hallway just outside of the Senate chamber, where he encountered Goodman — who said something to the Utah Republican, who then broke into a run.

The presentation was new to Romney, who didn’t know he had such a close call.

“I did not know that was Officer Goodman. I look forward to thanking him when I next see him,” he told reporters.

While the occupants of the Senate chamber were saved by just a few moments, once they were evacuated, most senators were far removed from the hours of chaos, violence and destruction that overtook the Capitol. The House impeachment managers laid out a case, with a clear understanding that their own experience donning gas masks and hearing pounding on the House chamber doors was not that of most senators.

Capitol Police officers monitoring the chamber doors watched, some unflinching, others with a hand over their face, watching through their fingers.

“It was obviously very troubling to see the great violence that our Capitol Police and others were subjected to,” said Romney. “It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional.”

Sen. Roy Blunt said much the same.

“You know, great sympathy for the police. We were — the truth is that while there were close moments, generally members in the Senate were pretty sequestered from what was going on that day and I think the emotions — I had a meeting the other day with Officer Gordon right there, with a couple of members of my family. And he was telling me what his — what had led up to this moment with him,” the Missouri Republican said.

It became clear that some senators previously had no idea how close the attack came to them while Capitol Police raced to secure the chamber doors and then later ushered them to a safe location.

Hawaii Democrat Mazie K. Hirono said she wasn’t aware that the rioters were 58 paces from where senators were evacuated, which Swalwell described and said he paced out himself.

“So it is true that it could have been [worse]. What I did think when we were finally in the secure area for us, when we finally saw what was going on, the thought definitely entered my mind, ‘If this mob caught any of us, we would have been badly hurt.’ And now I hear that they were willing to murder us ... watching all of this. It was just horrendous.”

After Swalwell described House members reaching under their chairs for the masks and showed footage and photographs of House members hiding under chairs in the galleries, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz, leaned over to Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., to ask a question.

Rosen reached under her own chair, shook her head and shrugged as she sat back up.

When the managers described the quick thinking of Senate floor staff, who grabbed the wooden boxes containing the Electoral College receipts before evacuating the chamber, Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania offered an earnest, but nearly silent, golf clap.

As chants of “Hang Mike Pence” flooded the Senate chamber while one video played, multiple senators seemed to be gripping the arms of their chairs. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, checked his watch.

Democrats appeared shaken by a video of rioter Richard “Bigo” Barnett, who broke into Pelosi’s office and carrying a stun gun.

He proudly boasted about defiling her office and called her a bitch, which left many Democrats shaking their heads.

“Wow,” said Rosen.

Lindsey McPherson and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.