House Republicans are releasing most of the security footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to the public, Speaker Mike Johnson announced Friday.
Roughly 90 hours of footage had been posted on the House Administration Committee’s website by Friday afternoon, in a move that Democrats and left-leaning groups have called a threat to security. Starting Monday, members of the public will be able to set up in-person appointments to view the Capitol Police security footage in designated rooms within the Capitol complex.
Eventually, around 95 percent of the 44,000 hours of tape will eventually be made available, excluding segments that contain sensitive security information or information that could lead to retaliation against private citizens, Johnson said.
“Truth and transparency are critical. 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, more than 40,000 hours,” Johnson said in his statement. “In the meantime, a public viewing room will ensure that every citizen can view every minute of the videos uncensored.”
The House Administration Committee became the steward of the security footage according to House rules at the beginning of the 118th Congress. The Republican majority’s handling of that footage has been a source of partisan tension, as Democrats have accused their GOP colleagues of trying to whitewash the events of that day, when pro-Trump rioters entered the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of election results.
Around 140 police officers were injured as members of the crowd broke their way into the Capitol, resulting in just under $3 million in damage, according to the Justice Department. More than 1,069 defendants had been charged for their involvement as of this summer.
In February, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to grant former Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to most of the videos angered Democrats, who argued the broadcast of the footage could jeopardize Capitol security, and many in the media, who questioned the fairness of a policy that allowed access to only one outlet.
Democrats on Friday again questioned the safety of publicizing the footage.
“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 New York Democratic Rep. Joseph D. Morelle, 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.”
A spokesperson for the Capitol Police declined to comment.
Another member of the House Administration Committee, Barry Loudermilk, has used his position as chair of its Oversight subpanel to reevaluate the conclusions drawn by the Democrat-led Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, which voted unanimously at the end of the 117th Congress to refer former President Donald Trump for federal prosecution.
“The goal of our investigation has been to provide the American people with transparency on what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and this includes all official video from that day,” Loudermilk said in a statement Friday. “We will continue loading video footage as we conduct our investigation and continue to review footage. As I’ve said all along — the American people deserve transparency, accountability, and real answers supported by facts instead [of] a predetermined political narrative.”
The Georgia Republican was himself a target of the select committee because of a tour he led of the Capitol complex on Jan. 5, 2021, which included at least one person who took part in the riot the next day. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger later said the activities of the group were not suspicious, and in one of his first moves as Oversight Subcommittee chair, Loudermilk sought to exonerate himself, releasing materials that he said cleared him of any alleged wrongdoing.
In subsequent releases, Loudermilk has raised questions about the presence of plainclothes Metropolitan police officers in the crowd on the day of the Jan. 6 attack and suggested the select committee withheld information from House Administration Republicans.
In September, he announced that Jan. 6 footage would be made available to news outlets and defendants facing charges related to their involvement in the Capitol attack.
Johnson, who was elected speaker in late October after McCarthy was ousted, said in his statement he was delivering on a promise to make the security tapes publicly available. The decision was rewarded with a cheer from Trump.
“Congratulations to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson for having the Courage and Fortitude to release all of the J6 Tapes, which will explicitly reveal what really happened on January 6th!” Trump posted on Truth Social.
Meanwhile, left-leaning activist groups, like the Congressional Integrity Project, panned Johnson for what they described as his fealty to the far right.
“Speaker Johnson’s release of the January 6th tapes is a serious security concern and shows that his allegiance, like Kevin McCarthy’s before him, is to Donald Trump and the ultra-right-wing faction of the House,” said Hannah Muldavin, a senior adviser at CIP and former spokesperson for the select committee. “Not only did Johnson vote against certifying the 2020 election, but he was a leader of the legal campaign to overturn it, and continues to be a danger to our democracy today. The January 6th Select Committee worked with US Capitol Police to ensure no sensitive material was released to the public — Johnson releasing the tapes does the exact opposite.”