A man who threatened members of Congress in a video he recorded on Jan. 6, 2021, was taking photos of the Capitol complex the previous day during a group visit sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, according to images and videos released Wednesday by the House panel investigating the Capitol riot.
Members of the group — which the Georgia Republican showed around the Capitol complex the day before the Jan. 6 insurrection by a pro-Donald Trump mob — took photos of hallways, staircases and security checkpoints not usually of interest to tourists, the Jan. 6 select committee said in a letter to Loudermilk. Further, members of that group attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally at the Ellipse, and one member filmed a video containing threats against members of Congress, the panel said.
One of the individuals on Loudermilk’s Jan. 5 tour took video during a walk to Trump’s rally. In the video, another man shows off a flagpole with an apparent sharpened edge, which he says is “for a certain person,” and then charges forward while making a jabbing motion with the flagpole. The man who filmed the video chimes in, “That’s right. That's for somebody special.”
The Jan. 6 panel first asked Loudermilk in May to sit for an interview about that Jan. 5 tour. He has denied it was a "reconnaissance tour," a term the select committee's members have used since launching their probe.
After Trump’s speech, they joined the march from the Ellipse to the Capitol, and the same man made a video near the Capitol in which he made threats against specific members of Congress: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
“There’s no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you,” the man filming said.
The committee showed photos of the wall placard outside Nadler’s office, and of the Judiciary Committee’s roster, which Nadler chairs. The man filming also makes a threat against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
“They got it surrounded,” the man said. “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 man refers to Pelosi, telling her to "make another appointment," an apparent reference to footage played repeatedly on conservative media of her at a salon during the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time she was urging Americans to stay home.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday, Loudermilk contended none of his guests from Jan. 5 were on the Capitol grounds the day of the insurrection. “None at all” were on the Capitol grounds Jan. 6, Loudermilk said.
'What does all this mean?'
In his letter to Loudermilk asking for him to meet with the panel, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., provides photos of Loudermilk’s guests taking photos of a staircase in the Longworth House Office Building, and of the tunnel that leads from the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol.
“The behavior of these individuals during the January 5, 2021 tour raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex,” Thompson said.
The chairman's letter and the panel's release of the videos and images came after Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said the activities of the group led by Loudermilk were not suspicious. “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.
In a statement released after the committee revealed the footage, Loudermilk said the Capitol Police had already “put this false accusation to bed.” He said the committee is pushing a “false narrative” that GOP members led reconnaissance tours, one that he described as “verifiably false.”
Days following the insurrection, Democratic members, led by Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, asked Capitol security officials to investigate sightings of “outside groups in the complex” on Jan. 5 who they said “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House” on Jan. 6.
Loudermilk on Tuesday told CQ Roll Call about his connection to the group. Part of the group that accompanied Loudermilk on Jan. 5 was a family who Loudermilk said he knew from church, and some had volunteered on his campaign. A couple of weeks before Jan. 5, the family told Loudermilk they were going to be in Washington and asked to visit his office. They later asked if others on the bus from Georgia could come visit the congressman.
The group he hosted came to Washington for Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 and considered going to the Capitol, but it did not ultimately make it there, according to Loudermilk’s account.
“So they were there for the rally at the Ellipse,” Loudermilk said of the group. A few of them wore red Trump-aligned hats, and a young man was wearing a raccoon skin hat, he said.
On the visit, they discussed the legislative process and what would happen on Jan. 6. “Some of it was, you know, 'What is actually going to happen on the sixth? What does this all mean?,'” Loudermilk said.
When asked if the group asked about whether the election was stolen, he responded: "I do not recall."
"When the riot began, they were getting back on the bus," Loudermilk said.
“They said they thought about coming to the Capitol, so they started walking down the [National] Mall and they were seeing some of the sights and they saw some stuff going on didn't look right, so they all turned and left,” Loudermilk said. “So none of them were involved in this.”
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the Jan. 6 panel, said Wednesday it was “weird” that Manger dismissed the actions of Loudermilk’s tour group as not suspicious. “It's weird because you can see in the video this guy, who was a rioter, was taking pictures of the tunnel, he was taking pictures of the stairwell," she said. "He took pictures of the staff of the Judiciary [Committee] — that’s kind of chilling. You know, I was evacuated through that tunnel that he was taking pictures of. So we have some questions about it.
“The guy who was threatening to kill Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler the next day was the guy taking the photographs,” Lofgren added. She said the committee knows the man’s name but will not release it at this time.