More than a year after a North Jersey congresswoman said she saw fellow representatives giving suspicious tours to people a day before a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, surveillance video footage has been released by the bipartisan Jan. 6 Committee.
U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J. 11th District, said a day after the attack that she saw members providing "reconnaissance for the next day."
Republicans attacked Sherrill, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and former federal prosecutor.
In May 2021, U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., filed an ethics complaint saying that Sherrill and other House Democrats had no evidence for suggesting that GOP lawmakers had brought people into the Capitol a day before the riot.
“My Republican colleagues and I will not sit by while Democrats accuse their colleagues of treason for political gain. This type of conduct must not be tolerated,” Loudermilk, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said in a written statement at the time.
But surveillance footage out Wednesday shows Loudermilk escorting a group of at least 12 people on Jan. 5, 2021, around House Office buildings, as well as near entrances to Capitol tunnels.
A Capitol Police letter on Monday said that the group of 12 people, which then grew to 15, was shown around other various buildings but did not enter the U.S. Capitol with Loudermilk.
After the video footage was publicly released, Loudermilk insisted that there was no tour — he had been showing a family around.
“The committee keeps shifting its narrative to where it was now a tour of the Capitol complex,” Loudermilk said to reporters. “It wasn’t a tour - it was a family who came to visit their congressman and we took them to lunch, took them to the gift shop and showed them around the House office buildings."
The Capitol complex includes 20 buildings and facilities, including the House and Senate offices.
The Jan. 6 Committee shared the security footage alongside footage from a live stream on Jan. 6, 2021, in which a man can be heard describing the throngs of people marching to the Capitol right after a rally speech by President Donald Trump.
“There are swarming and converging — mainly from Constitution Avenue but from all routes in. There’s no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler — we’re coming for ya," he says in the video.
"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 is heard saying.
In a statement, Sherrill stopped short of saying that the video vindicates her position.
“I have served our country as a federal prosecutor, and I know how important it is to investigate and collect evidence and to let that process run its course," Sherrill said. "The video evidence released today by the bipartisan January 6th committee, 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."
On Wednesday, the Republican congressman from Georgia repeatedly said that no one ever called him to talk about that time he spent showing people around a day before the Capitol riot.
Nearly a month earlier, the Jan. 6 committee did ask Loudermilk by letter to testify about evidence of a tour provided on Jan. 5, 2021.
“We would like to meet with you soon, but we also want to accommodate your schedule. We propose meeting with you on the week of May 23, 2022. Please let us know whether one of those dates will fit with your schedule.
If you are unavailable that week, we can arrange an alternative time to meet. If it would be preferable to hold this meeting with you in your home district, we would also be glad to explore travel arrangements to facilitate that option.”
A second letter was issued to Loudermilk on Wednesday, again inviting him to talk about the events of the day before the armed insurrection.
“Individuals on the tour photographed/recorded areas not typically of interest to tourists: hallways, staircases and security checkpoints,” the committee said.
Loudermilk says that in the footage, where a man is seen taking a photo toward a stairwell, the man was taking a photo of an eagle light sconce.
He said in a different area by security checkpoints where other photos appear to be taken, they were taking photos of the trolley used by Congressional delegates.
“When visitors come, they take pictures,” the representative said.
A week after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Sherrill and 33 other Congressional delegates asked in a letter for any video of such alleged tour activity.
"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," according to the January 2021 letter.
It was signed by fellow New Jersey Democratic representatives Frank Pallone Jr., Tom Malinowski, Donald Payne Jr., Bill Pascrell Jr., Albio Sires and Josh Gottheimer.
When asked if he regretted showing the group around after seeing the violence of the next day, Loudermilk said: “I condemn that type of activities — Of course, I’d rather not be dealing with this kind of stuff right now.”
“Obviously I do not support anything he said,” Loudermilk said of the man's live-stream threats against Democratic House leaders.
About 140 Capitol Police officers were injured during the pro-Trump riot, as seen partly in a compilation of body camera and security footage from Jan. 6 shared by the committee (there is some profanity by law enforcement during the riot, as seen here.)
One of the officers, New Jersey native, Brian Sicknick, collapsed during a struggle with two rioters and was pronounced dead the following day.
Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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