Just after the House impeachment managers played powerful new video of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, several Republican senators said that while the video itself was compelling, they do not think the managers have directly connected the violence to the former President.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said the managers' presentation was "powerful and emotional," but he doesn't think it adequately connects Trump to the attack or proves the former President committed high crimes or misdemeanors.
"That was strikingly absent," he said of the direct link to the former President. "They spent a great deal of time focusing on the horrific acts of violence that were played out by the criminals, but the language from the President doesn't come close to meeting the legal standard for incitement."
He claimed that "there's not a political candidate in the country," including "every single one of the Democratic senators," who hasn't used the same language of Trump, who told his supporters to "fight like hell."
Cruz admitted that the former President's rhetoric is, at times, "overheated," adding, "but this is not a referendum on whether you agree with everything the President says or tweets."
"This is instead a legal proceeding assessing whether the President has committed high crimes or misdemeanors, and today's presentation was powerful and emotional, reliving a terrorist attack on our nation's capital, but there was very little said about how specific conduct of the President's satisfies the legal standard," he said, later accusing Democrats of being motivated by "partisan hatred" for Trump.
Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, said while he needs to hear the rest of the arguments, the case the managers are trying to make is “that Trump is the one who said go” initiating the riot on Jan. 6. And he argued Trump “has had 100 rallies and we’ve never seen that before, so that’s the tough one to be able to link together.”
The Oklahoma Republican said the videos the managers played were “tough” and “very difficult” to watch and re-walk through the events of the day.
“It’s painful to see,” he said.“And I still can’t believe that there were Americans that smashed their way into the Capitol,” Lankford added.
Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana called the video "riveting," saying, "it's just as kind of hard to take now as it was then."
Asked if this impacts his thinking as he decides whether he'll vote to acquit the former President, Braun answered, "no, because I've seen I think most of it," adding, "I think it's good to review it, but I don't know that that's going to make a difference for anyone senator just having it on a loop again. But every time you do watch it, it gives you the enormity of the day, so, and the incident."
Braun added that "obviously" the people who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 should be held accountable, saying, "I think trying to then relate it to who caused them to do it will be the tough case to make."
He said he thinks the rioters were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 because they were "upset with things."
Asked if Trump bears any responsibility for the riot, even if his involvement does not rise to a high crime or misdemeanor, Braun said, "You know, I think that the day, when you push the envelope on stuff – in this case, it obviously ended up in a way I'm sure he never had intended it to happen. You know it unraveled, and I think still, when it comes to the people that actually broke in here, it's their responsibility."
Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, said he thinks “we’ve got to distinguish between the despicable acts we saw here, and to what extent he or those individuals have responsibility,” when asked if Trump bears responsibility for attack.
He added that “you can definitely hold all those folks accountable,” referring about the rioters.