'Distressing and emotional': Senators relive horror of riot

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Reporters vie for a response from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, as Senators take a dinner break while arguments continue in former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – For 90 tense minutes, members of the Senate relived the horror.

They had seen much of the video of the insurrection before, but not like this — on screens near their desks, screams and anguish echoing across the chamber, with Democratic prosecutors explaining in detail how close they came to danger on Jan. 6, and how much worse it could have been.

If any senators were tempted to avoid images of the violence at the Capitol, or bury memories of fleeing the violent mob of Donald Trump's supporters, they were not able to do so any longer.

“We lived this once and that was awful,” said Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, recalling how she felt when she evacuated with her colleagues. “And we’re now we’re living with a more comprehensive timeline.”

While videos of the siege have been circulating since the day of the riot, the graphic compilation provided a more complete narrative, with a chilling focus on the rioters' methodical search for lawmakers.

The new evidence presented Wednesday included Capitol security videos that showed Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer narrowly escaping the mob, and Vice President Mike Pence evacuating the Senate chamber as insurrectionists chanted for his death outside. The rioters were “58 steps” from senators at one point, impeachment manager Eric Swalwell told them.

Romney said he was brought to tears. The video was “overwhelmingly distressing and emotional,” he said.

The presentation ended with a video of a Capitol Police officer yelling in pain as he was crushed between two doors on the Capitol’s West front. His anguished screams filled the quiet, cavernous chamber as if he were right there in the room. Senators were silent afterward, some sitting quietly and alone, as if to process it all.