WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Thursday he had watched coverage of Donald Trump's impeachment trial and thought “some minds may have been changed” after prosecutors showed gripping and graphic video of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that while he did not view any of the Senate trial live, he had seen the morning news. “I think the Senate has a very important job to complete,” the president said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said later that “the footage was just a reminder of how shocked and saddened” Biden was on the day rioters stormed the Capitol.
It was a notable shift in tone after the new president spent much of the week doing his best to avoid the issue. And it came after House prosecutors aired never-before-seen footage from the violent insurrection that showed police officers being beaten by the rioters and presented a fuller picture of the precarious situation at the Capitol on the day when Congress was meeting to affirm Biden's victory.
Biden had insisted previously that he would not watch the proceedings, and for much of this week, Psaki dodged questions about the trial. She had declined to offer Biden’s opinion on whether the trial was constitutional or about the outcome because, as she said, the president is “not a pundit."
While expanding on Biden’s views about the trial, she refused on Thursday to weigh in on Trump’s culpability.
She said Biden, in his new comments, “was not intending to give a projection or a prediction, but was just giving a very human and emotional response” to what many were feeling on that day. Pressed on whether Biden believes the Senate should convict Trump, an outcome that's seen as unlikely, Psaki avoided answering directly. She said the president “knows there’s a role for Congress to play and a role for him to play."
It reflects the message Biden's team has tried to drive home: The focus is on governing and not the historic events unfolding at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.