Police officer dies after car rams U.S. Capitol complex

An attack at the US Capitol complex in Washington DC has left one police officer dead and another in hospital with injuries.

A car crashed into a security barrier before the driver lunged towards the officers with a knife, police said.

The officers opened fire and the suspect was shot dead.

The city’s acting police chief has said the attack does not appear to be terrorism-related. An investigation has been opened.

“Whether the attack was at law enforcement, or whoever, we have a responsibility to get to the bottom of it and we’ll do that,” Robert Contee, the acting chief of Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, said at a news conference on Friday.

“It is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce one of our officers has succumbed to his injuries,” Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said at the conference.

In a later statement, Ms Pittman named the officer as William “Billy” Evans, who had been a member of the Capitol Police for 18 years.

“Please keep Officer Evans and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” she said.

William "Billy" Evans
image captionThe officer killed in the attack has been named as William “Billy” Evans

The exact circumstances of the officer’s death are not yet clear.

Two law enforcement sources involved in the investigation told BBC partner CBS News that the suspect in the attack was 25-year-old Noah Greene from Indiana.

They added that no prior information about him had been found on any police databases, and that he did not appear to have any ties to the military.

There is an increased security presence around the Capitol building, where the US Congress sits, and a number of police cars surrounding the area.

The entry point on Constitution Avenue where the vehicle struck the barricade is frequently used by senators and staff.

But Congress is currently in recess, meaning the majority of politicians are not at the Capitol complex today. View original tweet on Twitter

President Joe Biden left Washington earlier in the day for Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. The White House said the president has been briefed on the situation.

However, some reporters, maintenance workers and Capitol Hill employees are likely still on the Capitol grounds.

The lockdown order on the Capitol was lifted just after 15:00 local time. Officials said there was no ongoing threat.

Presentational grey line

A second attack in less than three months

Analysis by Samantha Granville, US Capitol

Capitol Hill has been tense over the past three months. Since the riot on 6 January, the complex has been like a fortress with barbed wire, metal fencing and heightened security.

But just weeks later, we are back here with blocked roads, extra troops, and a solemn feeling.

Congress is in recess today and staff I have spoken to are grateful to be home and nervous about returning to work after the Easter holiday.

They say, understandably, that it is scary to have your workplace attacked twice in a short space of time.

It is concerning for them that even with ramped up security, an event that led to an officer’s death still happened.

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What do we know about the attack?

Shortly after 13:00 local time (18:00 GMT) the Capitol Police alert system sent an email to lawmakers and their staff ordering them to stay away from exterior windows and doors due to a threat. Anyone outside was instructed to seek cover. 

At that time, a man driving a blue sedan had rammed the car into two officers standing at the North Barricade, according to police.

He exited the vehicle and ran towards the officers – at least one of whom drew a weapon and shot the suspect. The officers were then transported to hospital, one in an ambulance and one in a police cruiser.

Footage of the scene showed a helicopter flying overhead and what appeared to be two people on stretchers being moved into ambulances. 

Onlookers were told to clear the area.

Police said the suspect died due to his injuries at 13:30 local time. Chief Contee told reporters the suspect appeared to act alone.

Officer investigate the crime scene

The FBI’s Washington Field Office is responding to the situation and is providing support to the Capitol Police. The US Attorney General is also aware of the incident and is being updated, according to CBS News. 

The incident comes nearly three months after the deadly 6 January riot at the Capitol.

Source: BBC

Twitter’s Dorsey called out for trolling Congress during hearing

(Reuters) – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted his frustration with U.S. lawmakers’ questions on the social media platform during a hearing about misinformation on Thursday, leading one member of congress to call out his multi-tasking. ( here)


Lawmakers grilled Dorsey and the CEOs of Facebook and Google’s parent Alphabet for almost five hours. Tensions were high as they asked them to answer “yes or no” to questions ranging from whether their platforms bore any responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot to whether they understood the difference between the two words.

During the hearing, Dorsey tweeted “?” with a poll asking Twitter Inc users to vote “yes” or “no.” Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice asked: “Mr. Dorsey, what is winning, yes or no, on your Twitter account poll?”

Dorsey told her that “yes” was winning, to which she replied: “Your multi-tasking skills are quite impressive.”

Facebook Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet Inc CEO Sundar Pichai were also witnesses at the joint hearing by two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lawmakers from both parties tried throughout the hearing to pin down the tech CEOs with questions needing only “yes” or “no” answers, interrupting them when they tried to give longer ones. Lawmakers quizzed the executives over concerns from COVID-19 misinformation, harassment, hate speech and extremism.

As the hearing took place, Dorsey also liked tweets criticizing aspects of the session, including asking why members of Congress were mispronouncing Pichai’s name, and replied to a tweet confirming that he was barefoot during the call. His poll on Thursday afternoon had more than 71,000 votes.

Parler is sued by co-founder Matze over ouster following U.S. Capitol riot

Parler, a social media app popular among right-wing users, is being sued by co-founder John Matze for wrongful termination and taking away his 40% stake after the app was taken offline following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In a complaint filed on Monday, Matze said Parler officials and investors conspired to steal his ownership stake and fire him as chief executive, including by leveling false accusations of misconduct, so co-owner Rebekah Mercer could co-opt the platform for “her brand of conservatism.”

He said this occurred after Parler resisted his efforts following the riot to ban “identifiable extremist groups like QAnon and neo Nazis,” while preserving the platform as a forum for free expression.

“Matze’s proposal was met with dead silence, which he took to be a rejection of his proposal,” the complaint said.

Lawyers for the Parler defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment or could not immediately be reached. Mercer’s father is the wealthy financier and Republican donor Robert Mercer.

Matze is seeking millions of dollars in his lawsuit filed in a Nevada state court in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Parler is based in nearby Henderson, Nevada.

The lawsuit did not say what Matze’s Parler stake was worth, but accused various defendants of fabricating misconduct claims to justify stripping it from him for $3.

Parler went dark for about one month after Amazon.com Inc suspended web-hosting services following the Capitol attack by supporters of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

Amazon justified its action by accusing Parler of failing to effectively moderate violent content. Parler later sued Amazon, accusing it of trying to destroy its business.

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also removed Parler from their online stores.

Founded in 2018, Parler claimed to have had more than 12 million users before going dark. It returned online with private cloud infrastructure from SkySilk, of Los Angeles.

Matze’s complaint was posted online by the Las Vegas Sun. A copy could not immediately be located in online court records.

Trump impeachment process: Who are the key players?

The US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time over his alleged role in the 6 January deadly assault on the Capitol.

Jamie Raskin speaks to members of the media after he came out from the office of Speaker of the House
image captionDemocrats, including Jamie Raskin (centre), voted to impeach President Donald Trump, as did 10 Republicans

His impeachment for “incitement to insurrection” was approved by 232 representatives including 10 Republicans. 

Democrats led the effort to charge Mr Trump with encouraging the riots. 

But some Republicans had backed calls for impeachment.

So, who are these key players, and what do we know about them?

Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager for the Democrats

When the impeachment charges go to the Senate for trial, the case for the prosecution will be made by a team of lawmakers, led by Mr Raskin, a Democratic representative from Maryland since 2017 and a former professor of constitutional law.

The impeachment of Mr Trump represents the continuation of an extremely challenging start to 2021 for Mr Raskin, 58.

Jamie Raskin and Liz Cheney in the US Capitol
image captionJamie Raskin (left) helped to draft the article of impeachment against President Trump

The congressman’s 25-year-old son, Tommy Bloom Raskin, took his own life on New Year’s Eve and was laid to rest in early January.

A day after the funeral, Mr Raskin found himself hunkering down with colleagues, shielding from a violent mob that rampaged through the Capitol where lawmakers were meeting to certify November’s presidential election result.

View original tweet on Twitter

On the day of the assault, Mr Raskin helped to draw up an article of impeachment against President Trump.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Mr Raskin said his son, who was studying law at Harvard University, would have considered last week’s violence “the absolute worst form of crime against democracy”.

“It really is Tommy Raskin, and his love and his values and his passion, that have kept me going,” Mr Raskin said.

Madeleine Dean, Democratic impeachment manager

In total, nine Democrats, including Mr Raskin, have been named as impeachment managers. One is Representative Madeleine Dean, from Pennsylvania, who is one of three women on the team.

Ms Dean started her career in law, opening her own three-woman practice in Pennsylvania before teaching English at a university.

Having been active in state politics for decades, she was elected to the House in 2018, using her seat to champion women’s reproductive rights, gun law reform, and healthcare for all, among other issues.

Democratic Representative Madeleine Dean
image captionMadeleine Dean has called for a quick trial of President Trump in the Senate

In an interview with MSNBC, Ms Dean, 68, said she favoured a “speedy trial” in the Senate if Mr Trump was impeached.

“This isn’t about a party. This isn’t about politics. This is about protection of our constitution, of our rule of law,” Ms Dean said.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks to her office from the House floor
image captionNancy Pelosi has called President Trump “deranged, unhinged and dangerous”

As the Speaker of the House, Ms Pelosi has been in the spotlight since the riots in the Capitol.

Ms Pelosi leads the Democrats in the lower chamber of Congress, so the 80-year-old had a huge influence over the decision to introduce an article of impeachment against Mr Trump.

Ms Pelosi had the House proceed with impeachment after former Vice-President Mike Pence did not invoked constitutional powers to force out Mr Trump, who was then president.

Mr Pence said at the time he believed such a move was against the country’s interests.

“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that,” Ms Pelosi said.

Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate minority leader

Mr McConnell, a 78-year-old Republican senator for Kentucky, is one to watch in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s former majority leader remains the man at the helm of the upper chamber’s Republican caucus.

Dubbed the “Grim Reaper” by Democrats, Mr McConnell was a thorn in the side of former President Barack Obama, often manoeuvring to frustrate his legislative agenda and judicial appointments.

He was also the driving force behind Mr Trump’s acquittal in his first impeachment trial in 2019.

In his last few weeks as Senate leader, Mr McConnell also delayed Mr Trump’s trial until after the former president left office, saying there was no time for a “fair or serious trial” ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration.

Mr McConnell has not publicly commented on whether he supports convicting or acquitting Mr Trump, but he has sent some mixed messages.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
image captionMitch McConnell had been loyal to President Trump until the Capitol riots

Though he spent the last four years in the president’s corner, the minority leader said the rioters were “provoked by” Mr Trump and that he plans to hear out both sides in the trial.

But later on in January, he also joined the majority of Republican senators to vote for a motion to toss out the impeachment case as unconstitutional now that Mr Trump is no longer in the White House.

Mr McConnell may no longer have the final say on all things impeachment, but as Democrats need Republican support to convict Mr Trump with the required two-thirds majority, he still has a key role to play in the upcoming proceedings.

Liz Cheney, Republican House Representative for Wyoming

Ms Cheney, 54, is third-highest-ranking Republican leader in the House. As the daughter of former Republican Vice-President Dick Cheney, she has a high profile in the party.

So, her support for impeachment is particularly significant.

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney
image captionLiz Cheney has accused President Trump of inciting the attack on Congress

Mr Trump had “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack”, Ms Cheney said of the Capitol riots.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” the Wyoming representative said.

However, in a recent test of support for conviction on impeachment charges that Mr Trump incited his supporters to mount an insurrection at the US Capitol, 45 out of 50 Senate Republicans voted last week to consider stopping the trial before it even starts.

Ms Cheney survived a House Republican vote – 145-61 – to oust her from her leadership position after breaking ranks with other GOP lawmakers last month to impeach the former president.

She is also now facing a primary challenger for her Wyoming congressional seat after voting to impeach Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse, Republican Senator for Nebraska

Blocking Mr Trump from ever running for office again is one rationale that may motivate some Republicans to impeach the president.

That reasoning could be attractive to Republican senators like Mr Sasse, who is seen as a possible contender for the presidency in 2024.

Elected to the Senate in 2014, the 48-year-old has been an ardent critic of Mr Trump.

Ben Sasse
image captionBen Sasse refused to overturn the results of November’s presidential election in Congress

Mr Sasse was firmly opposed to a Republican effort – cheered on by Mr Trump – to overturn the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in Congress.

On the question of impeachment, Mr Sasse said he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move” in the House.

A two-thirds majority would be needed to convict Mr Trump in the Senate, meaning at least 17 Republicans – including Mr Sasse – would have to vote for it.

Patrick Leahy, Democratic Senator for Vermont

In Mr Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, it was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who presided over the proceedings.

This time, he declined to participate, handing the job over to the 80-year-old Vermont Democrat, who will take the gavel in this second impeachment trial.

Sen Patrick Leahy questions Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Mr Leahy was first elected to the Senate in 1974, and is the longest serving lawmaker in the upper chamber.

He will be presiding in his role as the Senate’s president pro tempore – a constitutional officer, responsible for presiding over the Senate in the absence of the vice-president.

In a statement, he said “the president pro tempore takes an additional special oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws” when presiding over an impeachment trial. 

“It is an oath that I take extraordinarily seriously.”

David Schoen and Bruce Castor Jr, attorneys for Trump 

With just over a week to go before the trial, Mr Trump parted ways with his legal team, including attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier.

They were quickly replaced by David Schoen, a trial lawyer, and Bruce Castor, a former district attorney, who will lead the defence efforts for the former president. 

In a statement, both attorneys said they didn’t believe the push to impeach Mr Trump is constitutional. 

Mr Castor added: “The strength of our Constitution is about to be tested like never before in our history.

“It is strong and resilient. A document written for the ages, and it will triumph over partisanship yet again, and always.”

Mr Schoen has previously represented Roger Stone, former adviser to Mr Trump. Stone received a presidential pardon in December. 

The lawyer also made headlines in the past for meeting with Jeffrey Epstein in his final days to discuss possible representation, and for later saying he did not believe the death of the US financier and sex offender was suicide. 

Mr Castor, a former Pennsylvania district attorney, is known for declining to prosecute Bill Cosby for sexual assault in 2005. The comedian was eventually convicted on three counts of sexual assault in a 2018 retrial of his case.

Capitol riots: Five takeaways from the arrests

The storming of the US Capitol last month left five people dead, over 100 police officers injured and millions of dollars in damage to the building.

Most of the rioters were allowed to leave the building without arrest, but a month-long search for offenders has resulted in charges against 194 people.

Among those arrested, there have been state lawmakers, military veterans and even a gold medal-winning Olympian.

Here’s a closer look at who conducted the siege and why.

1. Right-wing extremist links were rare

Far right insignia was spotted on the clothing, badges and flags of several insurrectionists, but the vast majority of the nearly 200 people charged so far are ordinary pro-Trump activists.

So far, only about 10 to 11% of those charged have been found to have ties to organised far right militias or other right-wing extremist groups.

“What we are dealing with here is not merely a mix of right-wing organisations, but a broader mass movement with violence at its core,” said Dr Robert Pape, who led a University of Chicago study – titled “Faces of the American Insurrection” – that takes a closer look at the arrested rioters.

The report found that FBI arrests of violent right-wingers over the past five years were almost five times as likely to uncover militia and gang connections as those arising from the violence on 6 January.

At least 12 people linked to the Proud Boys – an all-male group with a history of street violence against left-wing opponents – currently face charges.

It includes prominent members like a leading organiser of its Hawaii branch, a self-proclaimed “sergeant in arms” and a former US Army captain who ran for a seat in the state legislature.

Bomb-making manuals were located in the homes of one of the arrested Proud Boys. One was a self-professed white supremacist who had previously expressed his desire to become a “lone wolf killer”.

Pro-Trump protestors clash with police during the tally of electoral votes that that would certify Joe Biden as the winner of the US election
image captionArrests have been made across the country and across several walks of life

Other extremists had connections with militant anti-government groups such as the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Aryan Nations, several of whom have military experience.

One arrested Three Percenter – Guy Wesley Reffitt, 48, a drilling rig worker from Texas – reportedly threatened his children, saying: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors…traitors get shot.”

2. More rioters came from ‘Biden counties’ than ‘Trump counties’

The mob was largely pro-Trump, but they came from all parts of the country.

The 194 people who face federal charges hail from 41 out of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia, according to the George Washington University extremism tracker.

The University of Chicago report finds that most of the insurrectionists came from large urban counties where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by slim-to-moderate margins in the 2020 election.

These counties typically contain big and racially diverse populations.

Only a few came from pro-Trump strongholds.

“This will come as a surprise to many Biden supporters, who presumably think that the insurrectionists are coming from red counties – rural, almost completely white, and with high unemployment – far from Biden strongholds,” said Dr Pape.

“This is fundamentally a political movement, one not only centered in “red” parts of the country, but also consisting of pro-Trump supporters who are in the political minority in many places.”

3. The crowd was not a young one

Much like other right-wing activists arrested for deadly violence since 2015, the protesters facing charges have been predominantly white and male.

But whereas the extremists charged from 2015 to 2020 were mostly under the age of 35, two thirds of those facing charges for the Capitol attack are over the age of 35.

The average age of the protesters was 40 years old, according to the GWU tracker.

More than four fifths of them are employed and come from various backgrounds, from business owners to white collar professionals.

There is Dr Simone Gold, 55, from Beverly Hills, California, who was among a group of doctors that last year spread misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that hydroxychloroquine – a drug touted relentlessly by Mr Trump – was an effective treatment.

Jenna Ryan – a real estate broker from Dallas, Texas – garnered attention on social media after she flew to DC by private jet to join the march to the Capitol.

Cogensia – an Illinois-based marketing company – fired its chief executive Bradley Rukstales, after he was federally charged for being a part of the violent mob.

4. Many of them say Trump motivated them

Some of those involved in storming the Capitol have suggested they were at least partially motivated by Donald Trump.

Jacob Chansley – the “QAnon shaman” from Arizona who wore a Viking pelt to the riot – told the FBI he was in DC “at the request of President Trump”.

A lawyer for Robert Bauer, a Kentucky man, said he “marched to the US Capitol because President Trump said to do so”.

In an FBI interview, Valerie Elaine Ehrke from Northern California said she heard President Trump tell the crowd to go to the US Capitol and “decided she wanted to be part of the crowd, and she walked to the US Capitol”, according to court documents.

Trump supporters near the U.S Capitol, on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC
image captionSome have argued in court that they went to the riot because Donald Trump told them to

Several have indicated they believed the election was not over and there was still a path to preventing the results from being certified.

This false claim was repeatedly made by Mr Trump since his election defeat and – prior to the riot – he told gathered supporters at a rally near the White House that he “won by a landslide”.

With the second impeachment trial of Mr Trump starting this week, these statements may form the backbone of the prosecution’s case as they try to prove the former president was “personally responsible” for inciting an insurrection.

5. Several threatened violence 

At least some of those who came to DC for the march on the Capitol may have had some very violent intentions.

Lonnie Coffman, 70, from Alabama, allegedly parked a vehicle packed with 11 “Molotov Cocktails”, several firearms and magazines loaded with ammunition near the building complex.

Police say Christopher Alberts, 33, from Maryland, fled when confronted for being in possession of a handgun.

Garrett Miller, 34, from Texas, took to social media on the day of the riot, bragging he had taken weapons to previous protests in DC and replied to a tweet from Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the words: “Assassinate AOC”.

Days after the attack, he expressed intent to find the police officer who shot a Trump supporter dead inside the Capitol and “hug his neck with a nice rope”.

In text messages, a Colorado man threatened to shoot and run over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was dragged into the violent mob and repeatedly struck with objects, later succumbing to his injuries. One man used a flagpole “with a United States flag affixed to it” to “repeatedly strike” the officer who “remained prone” on the steps, according to a complaint filed with the authorities.


What are the charges so far?

  • 169 charged with trespassing or disrupting Congress
  • 40 charged with interference with law enforcement
  • 25 charged with property crimes
  • 17 charged with assault
  • 17 charged with weapons crimes
  • 11 charged with conspiracy
  • 5 charged with threats

The plot (and spoilers) of Impeachment II

The rule of thumb in the cinema is that the original is invariably better than the sequel.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

But then you get The Dark Knight getting far more acclaim than Batman Begins. Or Godfather 2 being better than the first movie – and personally I thought Toy Story 3 was the best. And don’t get me started on Star Wars. 

So, what should we expect from Impeachment 2, Incitement of Insurrection, coming to a TV screen near you this week?

Some very general and obvious observations.

The plotlines in this second impeachment will be much easier to follow than the original. 

A presidential call to his Ukrainian counterpart asking questions about an obscure energy company on which Joe Biden’s son had served as a director, does not have the immediacy of the events of 6 January when a Trump supporting mob stormed Congress after listening to a speech delivered by the president. 

What is not in question is that the MAGA-mob tried to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Five people died following the mayhem. There will not be an American who doesn’t have a view on what unfolded.

The other quick observation I would make is this – the chamber where the Senate trial will unfold is also the crime-scene; the epicentre of this assault on America’s most sacred democratic sanctum. And the corollary of that is that some of the people who will be ‘trying’ the former president will have felt themselves to be victims of the crime that unfolded.

So what chance is there that Donald Trump will get a fair trial?

Well, the first thing I would say about that is though the language of impeachment is replete with quasi-judicial terminology, the jurors are the 100 Senators – Republican and Democrat. This is political. 

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021

How many of those who will weigh the evidence for and against Donald Trump will be swayed by the evidence presented? I find it hard to imagine there will be a single one.

Democrats, I would guess, will vote as a block to convict. Republicans are split three ways – and this is a political split, not a schism based on the evidence. 

There are those Republicans who remain firmly behind Donald Trump, and will not now, not ever, vote to find him guilty of “incitement of insurrection”, the three words on the article of impeachment.

There are those who would love nothing more to see the former president slip away from the national consciousness, and feel that he has been a corrosive force on the democratic norms and values of US democracy – but don’t want to pick a fight with him for fear of the consequences. Their worst nightmare is Trump rallying support behind a Republican rival the next time they’re up for election.

And there is a smaller number of Republicans who are ready to very publicly say they believe that the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan needs to be rid of the Trump legacy, that it is a cancer that needs to be cut out.

In other words, this will all be about political calculation. And the second order calculation will be how these senators will explain the decision to their voters.https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.39.15/iframe.htmlmedia captionDonald Trump’s second impeachment trial opens on Tuesday – but what’s it all about?

Which brings us to this next question, how will this play itself out?

Democrats will make a case that evokes the drama of the day and the fears some of them had – they thought their lives were in danger as they cowered in offices while the mob went room to room. The blame for that will be laid squarely at the defendant’s door.

The Trump defence will take two forms. 

On the substance of the “incitement of insurrection” charge, his lawyers will argue that he was exercising his free speech, First Amendment rights – and they will point out that in that address on 6 January, the president told his supporters to march on Congress “peacefully and patriotically”. 

But the speech was notable for all its “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And telling his supporters that they have to be tough and not weak.

The US Capitol is seen in Washington, DC on January 22, 2018

And his case is not helped by the tweets and messaging around this time – urging his supporters to come to Washington on 6 January because it was “going to be wild”. 

In a video released on the night of the riots, Donald Trump told the mob that had descended on Congress that he loved them and they were special people. He tweeted that evening – seemingly to justify the actions of the insurgents – that this is what happens when you steal the result of the election.

He repeatedly claimed he had won the election by a landslide. There is no evidence for that.

He repeatedly claimed that the election had been stolen. Judge after judge – many appointed by Donald Trump – rejected those legal arguments put by his campaign lawyers. 

And the charges of fraud – again promoted by Mr Trump – were dismissed by the president’s own Attorney General William Barr; the head of election security – another Trump appointee – also said the election had been fair.

So don’t expect the president’s words to be the backbone of the defence.

Instead it will focus on the constitutionality of impeaching a president once he’s left office. The lawyers will argue that the weapon of impeachment is only to be used for a serving politician, not a private citizen (as Donald Trump now is).

How can you use the sanction of removing someone from office when they’ve already left office? And this is I suspect the justification (fig-leaf, I feel sure Democrats will insist) that Republicans will reach for as their justification for acquitting Donald Trump.

Former US President Donal Trump

Of course, Democrats will point out the offence took place while he was president, and you don’t get a free pass just because you’ve left office. Or as James Corden put it on his Late, Late Show, it’s like being pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding, and saying to the officer “I might well have been going at 50mph back then, but now as I speak to you I am stationary, so you can’t charge me now…”

Impeachment II will get big, big TV audiences – though they’d have been far greater if the president had testified, as Democrat impeachment managers had wanted.

But the outcome – and here I feel the need to issue a spoiler alert – is almost certainly going to be the same as Impeachment I. 

He will be acquitted.

Jon Sopel
North America editor

Trump impeachment: lawyers deny he encouraged capitol riots

Lawyers for Donald Trump have responded to his impeachment charges, saying supporters of the former US president stormed Congress in Washington DC on 6 January of their own accord.

Mr Trump’s trial in the Senate is due to begin on Tuesday after he was impeached for the second time by the House of Representatives last month.

He is charged with “inciting insurrection” in a speech to supporters ahead of the deadly riot.

Mr Trump says he will not testify.

Five people, including a police officer, died when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol building, forcing politicians and staff to hide in offices.

Mr Trump is the only US president in history to have been impeached twice and one of only three to have been impeached at all.

In a pre-trial brief released on Monday, the former president’s lawyers said that FBI documents had shown that the riot was planned days in advance, meaning that Mr Trump cannot have encouraged the violence.

They also insist the trial is unconstitutional because Mr Trump has left office and is now a private citizen.

They hit out at the nine “impeachment managers” – Democrats from the House of Representatives who will lay out the case for prosecution – accusing them of “intellectual dishonesty and factual vacuity” in the way they portrayed Mr Trump’s address to his supporters.

“This impeachment proceeding was never about seeking justice,” the lawyers wrote.

“Instead, this was only ever a selfish attempt by Democratic leadership in the House to prey upon the feelings of horror and confusion that fell upon all Americans across the entire political spectrum upon seeing the destruction at the Capitol on January 6 by a few hundred people.” 

Democrats say Mr Trump’s repeated refusal to concede last November’s presidential election to Joe Biden – as well as the fiery rhetoric he used in his address to supporters on 6 January – encouraged the riot. 

His lawyers argue that Mr Trump was simply exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

In their own response later on Monday, the House impeachment managers reasserted that Mr Trump had “betrayed the American people”.

“His incitement of insurrection against the United States government – which disrupted the peaceful transfer of power – is the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president,” their statement said.

What will happen on Tuesday?

The trial is expected to begin with a four-hour debate and then a vote on whether the proceedings are unconstitutional.

If it proceeds – as it is expected to – opening debates will begin on Wednesday afternoon with both sides allowed up to 16 hours each for presentations. 

However, for the Senate to convict Mr Trump a two-thirds majority is required meaning 17 Republicans would need to join the chamber’s 50 Democrats in the vote. 

On 26 January, a bid to dismiss the case as unconstitutional was backed by 45 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans.

Trump supporters outside the Capitol
image captionThe storming of the US Capitol shocked the nation

What is the case for prosecution?

The former president is accused of “incitement of insurrection against the Republic he swore to protect” – namely the storming of the Capitol by his supporters as Congress met to confirm the result of the 3 November election. 

Mr Trump’s “statements turned his ‘wild’ rally on 6 January into a powder keg waiting to blow”, Democrats said in a pre-trial briefing.

They are expected to put before the Senate Mr Trump’s words – and footage from the riot – to show that “the furious crowd” was “primed (and prepared) for violence if he lit a spark”.

“The evidence is clear,” they wrote. “When other attempts to overturn the presidential election failed, former President Trump incited an attack on the Capitol.”

They argue that although he is no longer in office, “a president must answer comprehensively for his conduct in office from his first day in office through his last”.

They call for him to be disqualified from ever running for office again.

US Capitol riots: Trump supporter arrested after Pelosi ‘data theft’

A Donald Trump supporter suspected of stealing a laptop or hard drive from Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s office during the US Capitol riots has been arrested.

Riley June Williams, 22, was detained in Pennsylvania on charges of violently and illegally entering the building, and disorderly conduct.

A former romantic partner had said in an affidavit Ms Williams intended to sell the data to Russian intelligence.

Five people died after a pro-Trump mob stormed Congress on 6 January.

Ms Williams’ case is among more than 200 that have been opened since the president’s supporters forced their way into the Capitol building as lawmakers met to confirm Joe Biden’s election win.

Ms Williams was arrested on Monday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, police records show.

Riley June Williams, FBI handout
image captionAllegations against Ms Williams were made by a former partner in an affidavit

Ms Williams had surrendered herself to authorities, sources told CBS News.

The charge sheet lists “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds”.

It makes no mention of the data allegations. The FBI is reportedly still investigating these claims, which were carried in a sworn statement presented by an FBI agent to a court.

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The affidavit says Ms Williams was seen in TV footage directing crowds who stormed the Capitol.

The FBI agent in the court filing says the agency was tipped off by a former romantic partner of Ms Williams who alleged she had intended to take a laptop or hard drive from the office of Ms Pelosi, the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The witness “stated that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service”, the affidavit said.

The transfer of the device “fell through for unknown reasons”, the witness is alleged to have said, “and Williams still has the computer device or destroyed it”.

Ms Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, tweeted two days after the attack that a laptop had been stolen from the speaker’s office but it was only used to give presentations.

The affidavit goes on to give details of an ITV News report from inside the Capitol building at the time of the siege, in which a woman identified as Ms Williams can be seen and heard directing the crowd to go up a staircase that leads to Ms Pelosi’s office.

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second ITV News report some days later has an interview with Ms Williams’ mother at their home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in which she confirmed her daughter was the woman in the TV footage. She said her daughter had left home without saying where she was going.

Security is tight ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday amid fears of further attacks by far-right groups and others who believe President Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.

US Capitol on lockdown due to ‘security threat’

The Capitol building in Washington DC is on lockdown owing to a security threat, two days before Joe Biden is inaugurated as US president.

The Capitol, which is home to the US Congress, was attacked by a pro-Trump mob on 6 January, leaving five dead. 

Reporters at the scene say an emergency announcement is playing and a rehearsal for Mr Biden’s inauguration has been suspended. 

Security is tight, with thousands of National Guard members deployed.

Trump’s Christian supporters participated in Capitol riot

Christian supporters of President Donald Trump were among the thousands who descended on Washington DC last week. Their presence highlights a divide in American Christianity.

Before the march on the US Capitol began last Wednesday, some knelt to pray.

Thousands had come to the seat of power for a “Save America” rally organised to challenge the election result. Mr Trump addressed the crowd near the White House, calling on them to march on Congress where politicians were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. 

The crowd was littered with religious imagery. “Jesus 2020” campaign flags flapped in the wind alongside Trump banners and the stars and stripes of the US flag. 

The throng did march to Congress, a protest that led to chaos at the Capitol. 

At least one group carried a large wooden cross. Another blew shofars – a Jewish ritual horn some Christian evangelicals have co-opted as a battle cry. Elsewhere a white flag featured an ichthys – or “Jesus fish” – an ancient symbol of Christianity.

For some Christians, seeing religious symbols alongside Confederate flags was shocking.

But for others, Mr Trump is their saviour – someone who was “defending Christians from secularists” as Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, told the BBC.

The day before the rally, a throng of fervent religious supporters of President Trump held a “Jericho March” in Washington. Brandishing crosses and singing Christian hymns, they marched around the Capitol re-enacting the biblical story of when the Israelites besieged the enemy city of Jericho.

The imagery on display was revealing of not just the racial and political divides in America, but the religious divides as well.

Exit polls suggest that in 2020, like in 2016, around four-fifths of white evangelicals – who make up a quarter of the American electorate – backed the Republican president. 

But the opposite is true of black Christians – around 90% intended to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, according to pre-election polling.

Ever since white evangelicals became a political force in the late 1970s, they have campaigned against access to abortions, sought to bolster religious liberty laws, and encouraged support for the state of Israel.

In all these areas the Trump administration has delivered: limiting government funds for groups supporting abortions, appointing more than 200 conservative judges to federal courts and three to the US Supreme Court, and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a long held desire among some white evangelicals.

They admit Mr Trump has flaws. In the words of one of his most loyal supporters, Texas megachurch leader Robert Jeffress, the president is “no altar boy”.

“He doesn’t pretend to be overly pious,” Mr Jeffress told me before the election.

“But that’s not why evangelicals turned out for him. It wasn’t for his personal piety. It was for his public policies.”

‘Christian nationalism’ in the US 

But aside from specific campaign issues, some academics say “Christian nationalism” was behind much of the religious support for Mr Trump’s campaign.

They say Christian nationalism merges Christian identity with national identity: to be American is to be Christian. Proponents believe that America’s success depends on its adherence to conservative Christian positions and warn, in Mr Trump’s words, of “an assault on Christianity” from political opponents.

“Voting for Trump was, at least for many Americans, a symbolic defence of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage,” the sociologist Andrew Whitehead wrote in a paper analysing the support for the president.

Academics such as Mr Whitehead and Philip Gorski, professor of sociology at Yale University, argue that throughout his presidency, Mr Trump explicitly played to Christian nationalist ideas by repeating the claim that the United States is abdicating its Christian heritage.

A Trump supporter prays in front of Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters rioted
image captionA Trump supporter prays in front of Capitol building

He promised “to protect Christianity” and for many supporters his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” could have been synonymous with “Make America Christian Again”. 

At a rally in Ohio last year he warned a Biden presidency would mean “no religion, no anything”. 

“Hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God, he’s against guns,” he claimed.

But American Christianity is divided. 

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the US, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, described the riots as a “coup attempt” and “deeply disturbing”.

The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Right Reverend Mariann Budde, said the religious symbols on display were “the most heretical, blasphemous forms of Christianity”.

“This has been part of our nativist, racist Christian past from the beginning,” she told the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4. “What has been different in the Trump presidency has been the legitimisation of it.”

Next week, Mr Biden will be inaugurated as only the second US President who is openly Catholic.

In many ways he was a more suitable candidate for Christian voters than Mr Trump. 

He attends Mass at least once a week, his speeches are infused with biblical language, and he goes out of his way to describe the role faith has on his politics.

But many Christians, including some of Mr Biden’s fellow Catholics, refuse to see him as a “real” Christian because of his support for abortion access and for LGBT rights.

Quoting the biblical book of Ecclesiastes in his victory speech after the November election, Mr Biden said it was “a time to heal” in America.

So can Mr Biden persuade some of Trump-supporting Christians that – in his words – he will “restore the soul of America”? 

There is little evidence in the reactions of many evangelical leaders to last week’s riots that they are abandoning Mr Trump.

Some, like the prominent evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas, have promoted false conspiracy theories that it was the loose-knit left-wing antifa activists masquerading as Trump supporters who led the riot.

Others, like Franklin Graham and Mr Jeffress – who called storming the Capitol “a sin against God” – have condemned the violence but not Mr Trump’s role in provoking it. 

Mr Graham has also speculated without evidence that those who invaded the Capitol building were antifa, though the FBI has said it found no evidence of their involvement. 

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has also made it clear they were not behind the riots.

Among the few Trump supporters to have criticised the president is the Reverend Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. 

Supporters of President Donald Trump join in a mass prayer out front of the Michigan State Capitol Building to protest the certification of Joe Biden as the next president on January 6, 2021
image captionIn Michigan, President Trump’s supporters kneel in prayer in front of the State Capitol

He told the Houston Chronicle that Mr Trump “bears full responsibility for encouraging what amounted to an attempted insurrection”. 

Of people erecting crucifixes and waving religious banners on displa in Washington that day he said “it just adds to the scandal to have God dragged into this equation, as if there’s divine sanction for this kind of unconscionable activity”.

Mr Mohler is currently running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest protestant denomination in the US – and will hold significant sway if he wins.

Nevertheless, Mr Jones says Mr Biden has “his work cut out” for him when it comes to cooling the temperature and uniting America’s political, racial, and religious divides.

“I don’t see any movement here,” he said of Mr Trump’s evangelical supporters.

“Nothing that President Trump has done in the last four years has deterred white evangelical support at all.”

By Harry Farley