US: January 6 panel releases video of Capitol tour by Republican

The video shows Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk giving a tour to a group photographing areas not typically of interest to tourists.

The House committee's chairperson, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, said the behaviour of the group touring the Capitol raised questions [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The US House committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington has released a video of a tour led by a Republican lawmaker the day before the attack, showing participants taking photos of stairwells and tunnels in the Capitol complex.

The panel released the video as it renewed calls for Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk to speak to the committee about the tour. Loudermilk has so far declined the interview and denied any wrongdoing.

The committee’s chairperson, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, said the behaviour of the group raised questions because they photographed security checkpoints and other areas that were not typically of interest to tourists on a day when the Capitol complex was closed to the public.

A member of the panel, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, tweeted after the video was released: “Please take a look. These are not normal tour routes, the Capitol was closed to tours.”

US Capitol Police said in a letter to Republicans this week that, after reviewing surveillance video footage, they “do not consider any of the activities [they] observed as suspicious”.

Loudermilk has not been subpoenaed, and there is no evidence that he knew that any of the participants on his tour were outside the Capitol the next day.

In a letter to Loudermilk renewing the request for an interview on Wednesday, the committee’s chairperson, Thompson, said the panel “had hoped to show you the video evidence when you met with us” but was releasing it publicly because he had so far declined.

The back-and-forth has underscored the committee’s difficulty in getting any information from Republicans who were communicating with President Donald Trump, the White House or the rioters during the insurrection or beforehand.

In addition to the surveillance video, the footage released by the panel also includes a video of an unidentified man walking towards the Capitol on January 6, 2021, holding a flagpole that appears to have a sharpened end, which he says is “for a certain person”.

The committee says the man who took the video, who is not seen in the footage but is laughing and urging the man with the flag on, is one of the tour participants who was taking photos inside the Capitol the day before.

Later footage taken by the same man shows people approaching the Capitol. The man taking the video then makes apparent threats towards Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“They’re coming in, coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, Nadler, even you, AOC,” the man says in the video released by the committee. “We’re coming to take you out and pull you out by your hairs. When I get done with you, you’re going to need a shine on top of that bald head.”

The panel did not say whether the man got into the Capitol or whether he has faced any charges.

While more than 800 people have been charged for breaking into the building, or for violently beating police officers, thousands of other protesters were outside the building or on the National Mall and did not engage in violence. The breach temporarily halted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

While the panel has conducted more than 1,000 interviews, five GOP lawmakers have defied subpoenas, including House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke with Trump that day.

Bruce Fein, a former US Justice official, told Al Jazeera it “seems suspicious” that some members of Congress are not volunteering to speak to the panel.

“Why do you need a subpoena [when] your member of Congress is supposed to be upholding and defending the Constitution?” he said. “You should be volunteering like a good Samaritan everything you know.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies