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House Administration Republicans turn to public in Jan. 6 inquiry

Democrats say the panel is seeking to rewrite the narrative of the attack

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., chairs the subcommittee looking into Jan. 6 events.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., chairs the subcommittee looking into Jan. 6 events. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Administration Committee is asking the public what happened at the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, as it investigates security, Capitol Police leadership and other aspects of the federal government’s response.

Republicans launched a portal on the committee’s website late last week to allow people with knowledge of the events of Jan. 6 to submit their accounts — with several disclaimers, such as incriminating information could be turned over to law enforcement. The goal is “to better understand what took place on January 6th,” according to the panel’s website.

“This information intake portal will help ensure an orderly process for individuals to share information regarding Capitol security with our subcommittee,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., who chairs the House Administration Oversight Subcommittee, in an email on Monday. The subcommittee is leading the panel’s efforts around Jan. 6 matters.

“The Subcommittee on Oversight is dedicated to following the facts, not a particular political narrative,” he said. “We are focused on finding out what really happened on Jan. 6 so we can ensure it never happens again.”

But some Democrats argue it’s part of a larger plan by Republicans to craft a new narrative around the events.

“I am concerned that House Republicans seem intent on whitewashing a violent insurrection, undercutting the rule of law, and embracing crime,” California Rep. Zoe Lofgren told CQ Roll Call via email. Lofgren was one of seven Democratic members of the now-disbanded Jan. 6 select committee to investigate the attack and is a former House Administration committee chair.

“Extreme MAGA Members of Congress can try to spin Jan. 6, but they will hit a wall — because once you look at the video that the January 6 Select Committee showed (after security clearance from the Capitol Police), you can clearly see a mob viciously attacking police officers after being spun up by lies told by the ex-President,” Lofgren continued.

House Administration is responsible for oversight of the Capitol complex and is now the custodian of records from the Jan. 6 attack. Its majority members have vowed to enhance security on the Hill, ensure accountability and “increase transparency regarding the use of taxpayer dollars,” according to the panel’s recently adopted oversight document. 

Carlson’s ‘exclusive’

Normally a staid panel, House Administration has been thrust into the spotlight after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy decided to make 44,000 hours of footage exclusively available to Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

He defended his decision, telling reporters that he gave Carlson an “exclusive.”

The footage was slated to be transferred to the National Archives when the select committee disbanded, but Republicans decided the records should be kept at House Administration instead. According to Loudermilk, McCarthy made the decision to share the footage himself and before the panel officially organized. 

The move rankled some House Administration Democrats, like Rep. Norma J. Torres, D-Calif., who accused McCarthy of circumventing the committee charged with tending the Jan. 6 records.

Loudermilk told CBS News last week that the Fox News team didn’t possess the footage, but could request to view video clips, which would then be screened for security purposes before being provided.

A senior congressional aide on Monday said that Loudermilk and the Subcommittee on Oversight will not be involved in decisions concerning when other media outlets will be able to view the footage already made available to Fox. Those decisions will be made by the speaker’s office alone. 

Ten major media outlets protested the exclusive deal between McCarthy and Carlson, who has downplayed the severity of the insurrection and spread misinformation about the 2020 presidential election. 

Loudermilk’s subcommittee will, however, field requests from attorneys representing Jan. 6 defendants and determine on a case-by-case basis whether to release records to them, the aide said.

Democrats have largely cast McCarthy’s move as a security issue, arguing the footage could provide foreign actors or domestic terrorists valuable insights into the Capitol’s vulnerabilities and endanger members and staff.

Lofgren is among those critics. She said Monday that the select committee had access to tens of thousands of hours of footage from the Capitol Police video database, but had strict rules governing its use. 

Members were not permitted to take screenshots or make copies and had to enter a personal password to gain access. The committee kept a written record of all who viewed the security tapes and consulted the Capitol Police before footage was broadcast publicly, Lofgren said. 

“A lot of the video was released during the Select Committee’s hearings, but we didn’t release all of it,” Lofgren said. “We were particularly focused on not showing sensitive areas involving the evacuation of the Members of Congress in various places. That type of release could really provide a blueprint for bad guys on how to more successfully attack the Capitol.”

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