Video could boost Sherrill’s claims of ‘reconnaissance’ tours before Capitol riot
Video footage released Wednesday by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol may back statements Rep. Mikie Sherrill made in the days after the chaos, describing tours she and other lawmakers called "a noticeable and concerning departure" from security procedures — "so concerning that they were reported to the sergeant at arms."
The footage shows Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Georgia) leading a tour that included individuals who took photos inside the Capitol complex on Jan. 5., then attended the rally at the Ellipse that preceded the Capitol riot the day after, according to the committee.
The video was released as part of a letter from the committee to Loudermilk, urging him to meet with the committee after, it says, he declined a May 19 invitation to do so.
In the letter, the committee describes the footage showing a tour of about 10 individuals in the Rayburn, Longworth and Cannon House office buildings, and at entrances to tunnels leading to the Capitol.
"Individuals on the tour photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints," the committee wrote. "For example, [one included] image shows an individual appearing to photograph a staircase in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building while you speak with others nearby."
The committee wrote that the individuals' behavior "raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex."
It also wrote that an individual seen photographing a staircase in the Longworth building filmed a companion with a flagpole and sharpened end, telling the camera "it's for a certain person." Those individuals joined the march from the Ellipse to the Capitol on Jan. 6, the committee wrote.
"While standing near the Capitol grounds, the same individual [seen in the tour video] made a video that contained detailed and disturbing threats against specific members of Congress," it wrote. "For example, as the individual filmed the march to the Capitol, he said, 'There’s no escape, Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you.”
The letter continues to quote the individual who had been seen in the tour video, and who had recorded events on Jan. 6: "As he looked up at the Capitol, he went on: 'They got it surrounded. It’s all the way up there on the hill, and it’s all the way around, and they’re coming in, coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, Nadler, even you, AOC. 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 committee wrote in its letter it hoped to review the footage with Loudermilk when it previously invited him to meet, but he declined.
Sherrill — a Democrat whose 11th congressional district covers much of Montclair, and who is a resident of the township — in January of 2021 led a letter by dozens of lawmakers to the acting House and Senate sergeants at arms, and the acting chief of the Capitol Police, urging an investigation into the tours.
"It is important that we feel safe in the halls of Congress, and we applaud the Sergeant at Arms (SAA) and US Capitol Police (USCP) for their efforts. But the fact remains that there were unusually large groups of people throughout the Capitol who could only have gained access to the Capitol Complex from a Member of Congress or a member of their staff," they wrote. Several other Democratic New Jersey representatives — Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski, Frank Pallone Jr., Albio Sires, Bill Pascrell, Donald Payne Jr. — signed on as well.
She also referred to the tours as "reconnaissance for the next day" in a Facebook Live video in January of 2021.
Loudermilk on Wednesday denied the tour was suspicious, saying on Twitter the images show "children holding bags from the House gift shop, which was open to visitors, and taking pictures of the Rayburn train." He stressed that he wasn't aware of any tour member later charged in connection with the riot.
"This false narrative that the [Jan. 6] committee and Democrats continue to push, that Republicans, including myself, led reconnaissance tours is verifiably false. Nowhere that I went with the visitors in the House Office Buildings on January 5th were breached on January 6th," he wrote.
Earlier this year, Loudermilk filed an ethics complaint alleging Sherrill had falsely accused GOP House members of leading "reconnaissance" tours.
This week, the chief of the Capitol Police wrote to the Committee on House Administration, saying his agency didn't consider the visit suspicious. He described it as a group of 12 that later grew to 15, first entering the Rayburn building, then the basement of the Cannon House Office Building that houses several exhibits.
"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," Chief J. Thomas Manger wrote. "In addition, the tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol were posted with [U.S. Capitol Police] officers and admittance to the U.S. Capitol without a Member of Congress was not permitted on January 5, 2021."
He also wrote that there was no evidence Loudermilk entered the Capitol with the group on Jan. 5.
Sherrill, in a statement Wednesday, said the video footage "combined with the constantly shifting narrative and misdirection from Representatives Barry Loudermilk and Rodney Davis calls into question their dedication to our common oath as Members of Congress." Davis, the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, has also pushed back on Sherrill's past statements about tours, and joined Loudermilk in his ethics complaint.
“I remain committed to supporting this investigation into January 6th, so we ensure it never happens again,' Sherrill wrote.
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