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Jan. 6 from every angle

The new House speaker released thousands of hours of unfiltered footage

Image from police-worn body camera footage released by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Associated Press/House Select Committee

Jan. 6 from every angle

Americans who want to view videos from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol have dozens of documentaries to choose from, along with footage shown at primetime meetings of the House select committee that investigated the riot. But now for the first time, the public has access to all the closed-circuit video from every security camera in the U.S. Capitol on the day of the riot—not just edited clips aired on the big screen or in congressional hearings.

Republicans hope the hours of film will exonerate defendants awaiting trial on riot-related charges. But many Democrats worry the release of the video could pose security risks to the U.S. Capitol and its police force, especially ahead of another anticipated close election in 2024.

During his speedy campaign to become the consensus candidate for House speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., promised to release all the Capitol footage from Jan. 6. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., previously said he would work toward the release, as well. He handed over the tapes to the Committee on House Administration, and he also released them to former Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson. Republicans and Democrats demanded that more than just one media outlet should control the access.

Johnson released 90 hours of video on a congressional landing page at the end of last week. It includes security camera shots from several angles at the House and Senate entrances to the Capitol. He promised to make a total of roughly 44,000 hours of footage available in the coming weeks.

“Truth and transparency are critical,” Johnson said in a statement. “Today, we will begin immediately posting video on a public website and move as quickly as possible to add to the website nearly all of the footage. In the meantime, a public viewing room will ensure that every citizen can view every minute of the videos uncensored.”

Members of the public can see all the footage in an online viewing room or at the office of the Committee on House Administration. Johnson also said about 5 percent of the total footage will be withheld for security reasons related to “building architecture.” The rest of it will be “processed,” which Johnson described as blurring some faces to avoid retaliation against the protesters.

The footage spans most of the afternoon and evening of Jan. 6. One clip has gone viral since Friday. It shows officers leisurely walking one protester to an exit, removing handcuffs, and then giving fist bumps. Other videos show officers pushing protesters away from entrances. One angle shows police in the background holding back a swarm of people carrying flags while members of Congress and their staff evacuate down a hallway away from the House chamber.

The Justice Department estimates at least 140 police officers were injured that day. Damages to the building cost nearly $3 million, and more than 1,069 people have been charged for either violence, damages, or trespassing.

The Jan. 6 select House committee had all of the footage but only used parts of it in televised hearings. Democrats led the bipartisan committee, but most Republicans called it bipartisan in name only. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected several recommendations for Republican members, leaving only former Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and former Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both of whom opposed Trump. Many House Republicans dismissed the committee for presenting a distorted and censored view of what happened that day.

Based on its review, the committee recommended four federal charges against former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department. Months later, the DOJ indicted Trump on four counts of conspiracy to defraud an election.

After the midterm elections, Democrats lost control of the House, and the committee was disbanded. When former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy took the gavel, he said the committee was not transparent enough about the evidence it found.

“It’s many more hours of tape than we were ever told,” McCarthy told reporters in February. “They said at the beginning it was like, 14,000 hours. There’s roughly almost 42,000 hours. We’re working through that.”

“This decision will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations, and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials,” Johnson said in a public statement last week.

While the Jan. 6 committee deemed the riots a political coup, Republicans have pushed back on general descriptions of Jan. 6 defendants as violent. When airing several clips for a show, Fox’s Carlson said most of the crowd were “sightseers,” including those who entered the Capitol. Others, like conservative documentary producer Dinesh D’Souza, have argued that pro-Trump demonstrators at the Capitol that day were not violent. In a recently released film, D’Souza claimed that undercover government agents or antifa riled up the crowd and caused the riots for the purpose of intimidating politicians into affirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has called for criminal prosecutions against the members of the disbanded select committee, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several Justice Department officials. Posting to X, formerly known as Twitter, she asked Johnson to create a new select committee for Jan. 6.

“Releasing the tapes is not enough!” she wrote. “I’ve said it all along, MAGA did not do this.”

Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, who also appeared in D’Souza’s film, said the released footage proves the Jan. 6 committee was “a sham.” He reiterated Greene’s call to investigate the committee.

When Johnson released the tapes, Cheney reposted formerly released footage edited by The New York Times showing protesters attacking officers with pepper spray, hitting them with flag poles, and crashing through the Capitol doors.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, replied, “You made sure we saw that—and nothing else. It’s the other stuff—what you deliberately hid from us—that we find so upsetting… P.S. How many of these guys are feds? (As if you’d ever tell us).”

While the Jan. 6 committee coordinated with Capitol Police, it is not clear whether Johnson is doing so. Democrats say the footage will likely prove that pro-Trump activists were violent, but they worry that the tapes are too dangerous for public consumption.

“It is unconscionable that one of Speaker Johnson’s first official acts as steward of the institution is to endanger his colleagues, staff, visitors, and our country by allowing virtually unfettered access to sensitive Capitol security footage,” said Rep. Joseph Morelle, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the House Administration Committee. “That he is doing so over the strenuous objections of the security professionals within the Capitol Police is outrageous. This is not transparency, this is dangerous and irresponsible.”

Capitol police have not officially commented nor confirmed whether Johnson received their approval to release the footage. According to a court declaration filed in March, general counsel Thomas DiBiase said the assistant chief of police for operations must sign off on any such footage. At the time, he was criticizing Carlson for airing videos that he did not clear with USCP.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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