National Security

GOP reps call for release of security footage amid allegations of ‘reconnaissance tours’

Republicans on the House Administration Committee are asking for the release of Capitol security footage from Jan. 5 last year as a way to answer lingering questions over whether some GOP lawmakers led “reconnaissance tours” shortly before the deadly riot.

A letter from Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the committee’s ranking member, says that Republicans themselves have reviewed the videos from that time period, finding no footage of large group tours.

“We have reviewed the security footage from the Capitol Complex during the relevant period preceding January 6, 2021, and we know it does not support these repeated Democrat accusations about so-called ‘reconnaissance’ tours,” he wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.

The letter seeks to address comments from Democrats alleging that some Republicans gave tours of the Capitol to groups with members who may have later participated in the Jan. 6 riot.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) led 34 Democratic lawmakers in a letter to Capitol Police last January asking the department to investigate, noting that those who attacked the Capitol had an unusually high level of knowledge about the layout of the building. 

“Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5. This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic,” they wrote.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day. … The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious. Given the events of January 6, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol Complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated.”

Reached for comment, Capitol Police said, “It is our understanding that the matter is still under investigation.”

Sherrill has never clarified her comments to reveal which Republican lawmakers she alleges she saw giving tours that day. 

But other members have made similar comments, including Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) who said another colleague witnessed something similar. 

“I remain concerned about the tours being conducted in the Capitol complex, which was closed to visitors, prior to January 6th. I asked for an investigation, along with many other Members of Congress, and I’m glad that the bipartisan January 6th Select Committee continues their work. I support these investigations,” Sherrill said in a statement to The Hill. 

Beyond the allegations from Democrats, Department of Homeland Security intelligence officials warned Capitol Police of online chatter sharing a map of the tunnels of the Capitol in December of 2020.

A House Republican aide said the committee reviewed 48 hours of footage, looking at video of the entrances to the Capitol as well as tunnels for Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. 

“There were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on,” the aide said. “There’s nothing in there remotely fitting the depiction in Mikie Sherrill’s letter.”

The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the sergeants-at-arms for both chambers and the Architect of the Capitol, oversees the Capitol Police. 

The letter, however, is not addressed to the Capitol Police Board, which retains such footage, but to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who Republicans have increasingly sought to cast as having primary control over Capitol security.

“We’re sorry that Rep. Davis thinks he needs to act like a lunatic in order to win his Republican primary but as he knows the Speaker’s Office does not house the security footage from the U.S. Capitol,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement to The Hill. 

Pelosi recently rejected this concept during a press conference when asked about Capitol Police entering the unsecured office of a Republican lawmaker.

“Don’t waste your time. I have no power over the Capitol Police. Does anybody not know that? The Capitol Police have responded to that gentleman’s allegation, and that stands as what it is. But I have no power over the police,” she said. 

Davis has been vocal in questioning Capitol Police, including signing on to a letter asking the department to confront allegations that it is spying on Republican members of Congress. However, the force has strongly rejected these claims, warning such accusations undermine and politicize the force. 

Davis argued the Capitol Police Board should be able to release such footage, as some of the footage has been used in other contexts.

“Because House Democrats released selective excerpts of this footage in conjunction with its impeachment effort last year, we know it is possible to release this footage without undermining law-enforcement procedures or processes. We call on you to release all of the footage immediately to set the record straight and allow the American people to judge for themselves the merits of these Democrat allegations,” he wrote.

Tags Capitol insurrection Capitol police Jan. 6 capitol riot Jan. 6 Committee Mikie Sherrill Nancy Pelosi Rodney Davis

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