WASHINGTON – Never-before-seen footage of lawmakers and staff fleeing a mob attacking the U.S. Capitol was the centerpiece of House managers’ prosecution during President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial.
The footage took Americans, and Senators who were jurors in the trial, through the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol in short snippets. The Democrats’ presentation pieced together months of Trump’s tweets and remarks, aiming to tie Trump directly to the riot that left multiple people dead.
Trump was acquitted of the charge that he directly incited the insurrection. But the new videos, and who created them, marked a key flashpoint in the week-long proceedings. Trump’s legal team repeatedly questioned who was behind the video production, even claiming a movie company had been utilized.
DOAR, a trial strategy consulting firm, was brought in to help the House impeachment managers by Barry Berke, a criminal defense attorney who served as chief impeachment counsel during the proceedings. The company helps develop and test trial strategies, along with crafting visual presentations that aim to persuade juries. The firm has been involved in several high-profile cases, including Martha Stewart’s stock trading trial and efforts to recover funds for victims of convicted Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff.
The company also assisted the House managers during Trump’s impeachment trial last year, something the company never publicized and hadn’t been reported in the media
Paul Neale, CEO of DOAR, told USA TODAY in an interview that the company typically doesn’t boast about their work in trials, usually keeping work confidential, but decided to step forward after Berke mentioned them in an interview.
“We really weren’t planning to publicize it at all,” he said, noting the politics of acknowledging their role in two impeachments and explaining this was different since it targeted a former president. “Given the circumstances that led up to the second impeachment and the evidence and our review of, you know, how compelling it was, we’re much more comfortable … being associated with that political position.”
Throughout the trial, Trump’s legal team hammered Democrats over the videos, calling it both offensive and an entertainment package crafted by a movie production company. They argued the videos weren’t new, only a different vantage point of things the public already knew.
“When you bring in a movie company and hire a large law firm to make a professional product, that takes things out of context and presents it as an entertainment package,” David Schoen, one of Trump’s lawyers, told Fox News during the trial. “This isn’t a blood sport. It’s not about entertainment. It’s about reporting the facts to the American people.”
Neale noted it was difficult to watch members of Trump’s legal team criticize the presentation, though he admitted hearing his team’s work being compared to a movie company was flattering, if unexpected.
“I felt like, ‘Wow, we’re getting kind of a lot more attention, without anyone knowing who we were, than we expected to,'” Neale said. He added that typically, members of his team only tell close friends and family about their role in trials and wouldn’t have spoken out.
“Until someone else identified us as the company behind the evidence, we could not say anything,” he said. “During the trial and certainly since the trial, it’s you know, I was on the edge of my seat, you know, I would love to be able to talk about this.”
Neale said about 10 members of his team went through about 3,500 hours of footage, both from U.S. Capitol security cameras and thousands of online clips they compiled from rioters, sometimes having to use Web archives to find evidence like Trump’s tweets due to his account being disabled. They worked for more than 1,000 hours, he said, adding the work was pro bono as was their work in the first impeachment trial.
Neale said the criticisms from Trump’s team boiled down to a David vs. Goliath argument, something trial attorneys use to gain sympathy.
“It’s not atypical in a legal case either for an adversary to take a kind of David and Goliath approach where, oh, you know, ‘a big company’s spending a lot of money on consultants, production value, and we’re the disadvantage ones because we didn’t go up and take those steps,'” he said. “And that’s just a poor trial strategy.”