Jan. 6 committee video: Who were the "tourists" filming inside the Capitol complex the day before the insurrection?

“Suspicious as f***,” wrote Jim Swift after viewing the clip released today by the committee. “I took many people on Capitol tours or over to the Capitol for meetings and none of them ever behaved this way.”


If you were given a tour of the Capitol complex by your congressman, what would you record? The rotunda, the statues, the House chamber, maybe?

Or would you record stairways and corridors? Points of access?

There’s a strong-form accusation and a weak-form accusation here, and they date all the way back to the first days after the insurrection in January 2021. The weak-form accusation is that insurrectionists posed as tourists on January 5 and got tours of the Capitol complex in order to case the place ahead of what they were preparing to do. Those tours were given by unsuspecting Republican members of Congress, who had no idea what the “tourists” were up to. The strong-form accusation is that the Republicans knew exactly what the “tourists” were up to and used the tours as cover to let the insurrectionists surveil the Capitol and the attached executive office buildings, where many members of Congress have their offices. The Capitol complex was supposed to be closed to the general public at the time due to COVID. What were “tourists” doing there?

Some Dems made no bones about their suspicions in the aftermath of the riot that Republicans who gave the tours were in cahoots with the rioters. Some Dems continue to make no bones about their suspicions, in fact:


AOC is wrong. As you’ll see, the committee’s video never alleges that the man pictured in it entered the Capitol on January 6. Watch, then we’ll discuss.

Why did the committee release this video, and why now?

It turns out that Rep. Barry Loudermilk initially denied having given any tours on January 5. The committee wanted to show the world that wasn’t true, it seems. They just sent him a letter renewing their request for more information about the tour he gave that day. What’s notable about the timing, though, is that the head of the Capitol Police issued a statement yesterday claiming that the activities on Loudermilk’s tour group weren’t suspicious. Loudermilk himself claims that no one on the tour entered the Capitol on January 6 — and notably, the committee doesn’t claim that they did either.

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the activities of a group of Georgia Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s constituents who visited the complex the day before the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack were not suspicious.

The group never entered the Capitol on the day of the riot and, in fact, turned away from the complex sensing trouble, Loudermilk told CQ Roll Call…

Manger wrote to Loudermilk’s colleague, House Administration ranking member Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and said “there is no evidence” Loudermilk entered the Capitol with the group on Jan. 5, 2021.

“We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious,” Manger said in the letter, dated June 13…

Manger, the Capitol Police chief, said in his letter that Loudermilk’s group of constituents — around 12 people, which later grew to 15 — entered the Rayburn House Office Building at 11 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2021, and was met by a staffer before heading in the direction of Loudermilk’s office.


It’s not clear who was on the tour, exactly. Loudermilk claims the core group was a family from his district in Georgia whom he already knew, and that all of them stayed away from the Capitol on January 6. But the family told his staff that “some other folks from Georgia that rode the bus up with us” also wanted to join the tour. Loudermilk says they were all from his district, but did he know who all of them were? It’s a safe bet that some who were on the bus to D.C. in the days prior were headed there for Trump’s January 6 rally, possibly/probably including the guy seen recording video of stairways. Loudermilk told reporters this afternoon that he does *not* know who that person was.

The committee’s video shows the tourists inside the Longworth and Rayburn House Office Buildings, where Loudermilk has his office, not inside the Capitol itself. Why would any tourist want to record inside the Rayburn building?

Loudermilk went on Fox last night to insist that everything was on the up and up. He’s finally moved off the “I never gave any tours” defense:

We’re left to wonder what the January 6 committee is trying to achieve by releasing today’s video. One read on it is that it’s a straightforward smear of Loudermilk, casting suspicion on him without any hard evidence of wrongdoing. There’s nothing in the clip they posted that suggests he knew of, let alone conspired with, attempts to surveil the Capitol complex before the insurrection. It’s also noteworthy that they never claim the man in the video entered the Capitol during the riot. And they completely ignore the Capitol Police’s finding that none of the behavior on the tour was suspicious.


Does the committee mean to imply that the Capitol Police may have overlooked the footage of the mystery man recording stairways in the Rayburn building and therefore shouldn’t have cleared the tourists of wrongdoing?

Another read on the video is that they have more information about what went on here up their sleeve and are only dribbling out part of it, maybe to see how Loudermilk will react and what his explanation for the tour might be. There might be more to come at the next hearing. Let’s hope so, as the clip reeks of guilt by association as-is. The committee shouldn’t make sensational insinuations about House members conspiring with insurrectionists unless they’ve got the goods.

I’ll leave you with this, a reminder that it’s not just House Democrats who think some Republicans were aiding the rioters on January 6.

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