As the January 6 committee holds more televised hearings this week, it has put Congressman Barry Loudermilk on the hot seat about a tour he led of the Capitol complex the day before the attack on the Capitol.
On Wednesday, the committee released footage of the hours-long tour, which took place even though the building was closed to visitors that day. In it, a man appears to snap pictures on his phone of a stairwell and hallways — not generally photo-worthy locations. In the latter half of the video, the same man, who has not been identified, is shown outside the Capitol on January 6. Speaking to the person filming him, he makes violent threats against Democratic lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “We’re coming to take you out,” he says while holding a flagpole fashioned into a weapon. It’s unclear whether he ended up storming the Capitol or stayed outside the grounds.
On Fox News Wednesday night, Loudermilk, a Republican from Georgia, said that the man in question hadn’t been surveying the building for attack — he was simply an impressed tourist taking snapshots. And though it may have looked like he was photographing a nondescript staircase, Loudermilk claimed he was actually capturing an eagle on the wall holding two candles.
Loudermilk also implied that when the man took a picture of a tunnel heading to the Capitol, he was probably less interested in its logistical usefulness than in children’s artwork hanging there. And he has emphasized that taking photos or videos is not restricted in any of the areas where members of the tour did so and that none of those areas were breached on January 6.
Other footage of the tour, not released by the committee, seems to back up Loudermilk’s point by showing that the man in question wasn’t selective about the video he shot. There’s no evidence that Loudermilk conspired with anyone, and the Capitol Police released a letter this week characterizing his tour as routine and innocuous.
But shifting stories from Republicans and Loudermilk haven’t exactly engendered trust from Democrats.
In May, the committee sent a letter to Loudermilk inquiring about the tour, which noted that Republicans on the House Administration Committee had previously asserted that there “were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.” In response, Loudermilk said in his own statement said that “a constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour.’” Later, he released a video in which he clarified that the family had brought friends. But Capitol Police estimate that about 15 people were on the tour.
Days after the riot, some Democrats, most notably New Jersey’s Mikie Sherrill, floated the idea that Republican lawmakers had led reconnaissance tours for rioters in advance. In May, Loudermilk asked the House ethics committee to investigate Sherrill and 33 other Democrats who had made similar claims. “My Republican colleagues and I will not sit by while Democrats accuse their colleagues of treason for political gain,” he said.
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