A Secret Service inspector who whisked former Vice President Mike Pence from the Senate floor narrated the scramble to safeguard her protectee as one of the final witnesses in another week of the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial.
“The concern obviously was that we would get trapped inside the Senate chamber, which is not something obviously we wanted to have happen,” inspector Lanelle Hawa testified.
In March, Hawa told a separate jury in the trial of “Cowboys for Trump” leader Couy Griffin that Pence was moved to the loading dock underneath the U.S. Capitol — in what marked the first public confirmation of the vice president’s whereabouts during the riot. She repeated that account on Wednesday.
“We were in this secure location for several hours — five hours, give or take,” Hawa estimated.
Though not a new revelation, Hawa’s testimony was crucial in establishing what prosecutors identified as the goal of the Oath Keepers’ seditious conspiracy: disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election over defeated incumbent Donald Trump.
Along with Hawa, Metropolitan Police Officer Christopher Owens described the “surreal” scene he encountered at the Capitol as a member of the force’s Civil Disturbance Unit.
“The surge of us against the surge of the rioters coming at us lifted me up off my feet,” Owens recounted, explaining that he’s “not a small person.” The government showed jurors video clips of the chaotic scene, as the witness struggled to make out some of their shouts and taunts.
One was quoted barking at Owens: “No mercy here. All for Pelosi,” referring to the Speaker of the House.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was a frequent target of rioters on Jan. 6. One has been accused of stealing a laptop from her office. Another was photographed with a stun-gun in his pants and kicking up a foot on her desk. Others shouted or wrote chilling messages about her, including Meggs, who was kept behind bars pending trial in part because of a correspondence fantasizing about the Speaker’s “head rolling down the front steps.”
During his brief stint on the witness stand, Owens testified about rioters taking badges, magazines, gas masks and other items from officers.
“The rioters were trying to grab and take anything they could from us,” he testified.
When asked about another chant by the pro-Trump mob, Owens heard the name of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but the prosecutor encouraged him to listen closer. Owens corrected him: They jeered the Kentucky Republican, who had fallen out of favor with Trump, as “Bitch McConnell.”
After his testimony, deputy assistant to the architect Jason McIntyre surveyed the damage for the jury, including scratches to the Capitol’s historic Columbus doors. A sculpted representation of the life of Christopher Columbus, McIntyre noted that the door was a work of art — defaced with scratches, degraded by chemical spray, and nicked around representations of conquistadors’ swords.
Then, the fourth week of trial hurtled toward a premature close, as the court grappled with medical issues from its central players.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was diagnosed with COVID-19, and he agreed to appear remotely via closed-circuit TV for certain government witness until he’s cleared by the jailhouse. Attorney Stanley Woodward, who represents the group’s Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs, has been unable to appear due to another medical issue.
It was Woodword’s illness that made presiding U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta reluctantly adjourn proceedings by mid-week. Woodward wanted to be present to cross-examine the government’s next witness: U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who appeared in the debut hearing of the Jan. 6th Committee. That testimony is expected to kick off on Monday.
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