Jan. 6 panel releases Loudermilk tour footage
The House committee investigating the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, has released footage tied to a tour Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) gave the day before, showing a man taking photos of hallways in the Capitol complex before ultimately attending the rally itself.
Loudermilk has acknowledged showing a small group of constituents around House office buildings the day before the attack, but claimed those participants “immediately turned back” once they saw the “chaos” developing at the rally.
But video shared by the committee claims one of the men was at the riot, showing clips of the unnamed man marching toward the Capitol the morning of Jan. 6
“There’s no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you. We’re coming in like white on rice, for Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer, even you AOC. We’re coming to take you out, and pull you out by your hairs,” the man says, referring to several Democratic leaders and lawmakers: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.).
Loudermilk was subpoenaed by the committee in May alongside four other lawmakers, but has thus far failed to comply with the compulsory order for testimony.
Loudermilk’s office on Tuesday shared a letter from the Capitol Police chief saying of its own review of the footage: “We do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious.”
He relied on that statement again on Wednesday, saying police “already put this false accusation to bed.”
“This false narrative that the Committee and Democrats continue to push, that Republicans, including myself, led reconnaissance tours is verifiably false. No where that I went with the visitors in the House Office Buildings on Jan. 5 were breached on Jan. 6; and, to my knowledge, no one in that group was criminally charged in relation to January 6th,” he said.
In some respects, the footage affirms Loudermilk’s description.
But in others it undercuts statements long pushed by the House Committee on Administration, of which Loudermilk is a member, where Republicans have sought to push back on claims they led “reconnaissance tours.”
The video shows Loudermilk leading a handful of people through different tunnels underneath the Capitol, but they never reach the main building.
The man can be seen taking photos throughout the tour. It’s move that alarmed some Democrats after the events of Jan. 6 who feared some lawmakers may have led “reconnaissance tours” through the Capitol, allowing rally participants to better understand the different passageways that lead into the building.
“Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of Jan. 6, 2021,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote to Loudermilk.
But the footage is a departure from how Loudermilk described the actions of the group he gave a tour to and is part of an evolving story from Republicans on whether there were tours at all.
“There were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on,” a House Republican aide told The Hill after it first obtained a letter from the committee in February calling for the release of the Jan. 5 footage.
The footage released by the Jan. 6 committee Wednesday however shows a man with a Make America Great Again hat among those walking with Loudermilk.
Republicans have also sought to make a distinction between tours given solely in the Capitol versus those in office hallways.
“What the House Administration Republicans said last year, that there were no tours, no MAGA hats, that that was just false. It was a lie. And so now they’re saying well, it wasn’t that dangerous,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, told reporters Tuesday.
“‘We didn’t go into the Capitol, we were just in the Capitol complex.’ I’m sorry if I don’t distinguish between the two, because those rioters tried to get in every corner of these buildings. So spare me,” he said.
Loudermilk also said those he led were not involved in the riot.
In an interview given on Jan. 6 as the attack was unfolding, Loudermilk referenced that he had “about a dozen people up here” when asked if he had a chance to talk to any of those involved in the rally.
“They definitely were peaceful people, people that we met at church, they were supporters of the president, they just wanted to be up here as if it was another rally. We’ve actually checked on them to make sure they are safe,” Loudermilk said in an interview with Georgia-based WBHF.
“They saw what it was turning into and they immediately turned back down the mall to get away from the crowds here,” he added, noting that some rally goers came with the intention of creating “chaos.”
Loudermilk is seen giving the group a tour while wearing an American flag mask. The man seen at the Capitol is shown on footage taking photos throughout the tour.
“The behavior of these individuals during the Jan. 5, 2021 tour raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote to Loudermilk.
The tours the day before the rally drew particular attention as the Capitol complex was still closed to the public due to COVID, leading some Democrats to call for an investigation into why some groups that “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House: were shown through the tunnel system that connects House office buildings to the main Capitol building.
Thompson said the “review of surveillance footage showing the above-described tour
is consistent with those observations.”
“The foregoing information raises questions the Select Committee must answer,” he said.
“While we had hoped to show you the video evidence when you met with us, and since you have thus far declined, the Select Committee provides the video in question for your review,” Thompson wrote.
The release of the footage comes after Republicans on the House Committee on Administration threatened to release it themselves – a process that would require an outlay of some $200,000 on an external harddrive large enough to store hours upon hours of surveillance footage.
Capitol Police had likewise refused to release the footage. Still, the Administration Committee on Monday released a letter detailing its own description of the footage, including that Loudermilk separated from the group at around 1 p.m. that day.
“The group continued in the Cannon without Representative Loudermilk. At no time did the group appear in any tunnels that would have led them to the U.S. Capitol. In addition, the tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol were posted with USCP officers and admittance to the U.S. Capitol without a Member of Congress was not permitted on January 5, 2021,” Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger wrote in the letter.
“We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious,” he added.
–Updated at 6:00 p.m.
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