Since Jan. 6, 2021, there has been an interesting question involving what a Republican congressman did or did not do on the day before the riot, and which other people that did or did not involve, and what all of it did or did not have to do with the siege of the Capitol by a mob. This week brought us some developments! Let’s review the whole story.
A week after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots, Democratic New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill alleged that an unnamed number of her Republican colleagues had hosted “groups coming through the Capitol” on Jan. 5, which she referred to as “reconnaissance for the next day.” It was a serious allegation, particularly coming from Sherrill, who had worked as a military “policy officer” and U.S. attorney.
In a subsequent letter asking police to investigate further, she alleged that there had been “an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex” on Jan. 5—“complex” in this case referring not just to the iconic Capitol itself but to the surrounding office and meeting spaces, which are connected to it via heavily trafficked underground tunnels.
In response, a group of Republicans led by Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk said in May 2021 that Sherrill should be investigated by the House Ethics Committee “for alleging—without evidence—that Members of Congress led reconnaissance tours of the United States Capitol on January 5.” At the time, it was true that no proof had been made public showing that any of the Jan. 6 rioters had taken a tour the previous day. In February 2022, an anonymous aide told the Hill that House Republicans on the Administration Committee—a group which includes Loudermilk—had reviewed security footage and concluded that “there were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.”
In May 2022, though—i.e., last month—the select committee investigating Jan. 6 formally asked Loudermilk himself for an interview “regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.” At that point, Loudermilk admitted that he had hosted a “constituent family with young children” in the House office area that day, but that the group had not entered the Capitol proper.
On June 13, then—Monday of this week—the chief of Capitol Police said the department had reviewed footage of the tour and did not consider its activities to be “suspicious.” Perhaps peeved by this conclusion, though, the Jan. 6 select committee released a video on Wednesday that shows one of the individuals in Loudermilk’s tour—which, incidentally, included at least one person wearing a red MAGA hat—using his phone to capture images of seemingly random stairwells, hallways, and security checkpoints. It also shows footage taken the next day outside the Capitol, purportedly by the same individual, during which he narrates what is happening and speaks aggressively about prominent Democrats—threatening, for example, to tear Nancy Pelosi’s hair off her head while pulling her out of the building.
Here is the video:
Of particular note, for those who did not click to play the video, are close-up images—identified as having been taken by members of Loudermilk’s group on Jan. 5—of a directory depicting some Democratic members of Congress, and of the nameplate outside New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler’s door. Nadler, who led Donald Trump’s first impeachment in the House, is mentioned as a target by the narrator of the video taken Jan. 6. The narrator also briefly speaks to a man holding a flag on a flagpole whose tip has been altered in some way—which, the other man suggests, has been done so he can stab “a certain person.”
Neither the narrator nor the man with the flagpole is identified as having been arrested or charged with a Jan. 6–related crime, and the committee has not explained why it believes the Jan. 6 footage was taken by the man from Loudermilk’s tour.
In a statement, Loudermilk said the release of the video is part of a “smear campaign” against him and denied that his tour group had done anything suspicious. He did not directly address why the group was capturing images of otherwise nondescript transit areas, and has not explained why an aide speaking on his behalf in February claimed that there had not been any tours on Jan. 5.