Day three of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has been told rioters went to the Capitol building because “we take orders from our president”.
Democratic representative Diana Degette told the Senate hearing how she was one of the “unlucky members” stuck in the House gallery on 6 January as “the mob” came in, and how she “heard gunshots and flung myself down on the floor”.
And she said she was left wondering: “Who sent them here?”
She continued: “The defence argued on Tuesday that the insurrectionists were acting on their own, not incited by Donald Trump but that is not the case – they said they came here because the president instructed them to do so.
“He invited them with clear instructions for a specific time and place – and with clear orders: ‘fight to stop the certification (of the election result) in Congress by any means necessary’.”
She said in their own statements “before, during and after the attack” on the Capitol building they “made it clear it was done for Donald Trump, at his instructions and to fulfil his wishes…. that they were following orders from ‘our commander in chief'”.
She added: “Donald Trump had sent them there. They were saying ‘our president wants us here – we wait and we take orders from our president’.”
For the first time in history, a US president is being tried by members of the country’s upper house for the second time.
Such was the anger among Democrats at the storming of the Capitol building in early January, they voted to impeach Mr Trump again, after the first impeachment vote in 2019 (for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress) failed to convict him.
He was acquitted last time by a majority of 52 votes to 48 for one charge and 53-47 for the second. Only one Republican voted against him on one of the charges.
At stake this time is not whether Mr Trump remains in office, as it was 12 months ago.
He has left the White House. But, such is the fury at his four years in power, Democrats want to make sure he is barred from running for federal office again.
Ms Degette opened Thursday’s hearing by trying to establish a pattern of incitement from Mr Trump.
She showed numerous social media messages from insurrectionists that said they were acting on behalf of “my president”.
In one video played to the hearing, Texas estate agent Jennifer Ryan – who was arrested in the riots – was heard to say: “Personally I don’t feel shame, I thought I was following my president, doing what I was called to do.
“He asked us to be there – so I was doing what he asked.
“If it comes down to war, guess what? I’m going to be there.”
Ms Degette said: “They were waiting for their orders – which they got from Trump – on January 6.”
Mr Trump’s defence team expects to start its defence on Friday.
The House trial “managers” spent much of Wednesday recounting the events that led to the riot and highlighting the threat to Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s vice president.
Democrats face a difficult task in securing a conviction and barring Mr Trump from ever again holding public office given his continued popularity with many Republican voters.
Mr Trump has expressed interest in again running for president in 2024.