Heather Cox Richardson
In a letter to Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) this morning, the chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), dropped information, images, and video showing that Loudermilk had led individuals through the U.S. Capitol complex on January 5, 2021, in what sure looks like a reconnaissance tour.
Thompson wrote that the committee had reviewed surveillance video, social media activity, and witness accounts and understood that Loudermilk led approximately 10 people “to areas in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings, as well as the entrances to tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol,” on January 5, “despite the complex being closed to the public on that day.” The group “stayed for several hours.” “Individuals on the tour photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints…. Their behavior…raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex.”
The letter went on to note that some of the people Loudermilk showed around the complex attended the January 6 rally at the Ellipse and that some of them joined the unpermitted march from the Ellipse to the Capitol. It quotes a video one of them made of the march, saying: “There’s no escape, Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We’re coming for you…. They got it surrounded. 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….”
The letter noted—somewhat dryly, I have to say—that the information it has “raises questions the Select Committee must answer.” There have been accounts of surveillance tours since immediately after January 6, when Democratic members of Congress claimed to have seen them, and 34 Democrats led by Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) wrote to Capitol Police asking them to investigate. Republicans, though, insisted that was inaccurate, saying that “There were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on. There’s nothing in there remotely fitting the depiction in Mikie Sherrill’s letter.”
Now there is video and photographic evidence of just such a tour—even including someone in a MAGA hat—as well as a report that the committee has talked to the man to whom Thompson referred in his letter. This opens up a whole new can of congressional worms.
On May 19 the committee had asked Loudermilk to come in and review the evidence it had. He refused.
On Monday, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger wrote a letter to Representative Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, a committee on which Loudermilk sits. Manger wrote that surveillance video showed Loudermilk with a group of approximately 12 people that later grew to 15, but that “[t]here is no evidence that Representative Loudermilk entered the U.S. Capitol with this group on January 5, 2021,” nor did the group with Loudermilk “appear in any tunnels that would lead them to the US Capitol.” “We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance,” Manger wrote, “and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious."
Yesterday, Loudermilk chimed in: “The truth will always prevail. As I’ve said since the Jan. 6 Committee made their baseless accusation about me to the media, I never gave a tour of the Capitol on Jan 5, 2021… and a small group visiting their congressman is in no way a suspicious activity. Now the Capitol Police have confirmed this fact.”
Now that we have the video evidence, the statements by Manger and Loudermilk illustrate exactly how someone can misdirect an observer without directly lying. In fact, Thompson’s letter supports Manger’s claim that neither the group nor Loudermilk were in the tunnels themselves. They were photographing the entrances, checkpoints, and staircases used by members of Congress. But the misdirection worked: The AP News headline covering Manger’s letter read: “Police: Republican’s tour of Capitol complex not suspicious.”
And Loudermilk has parsed the term “U.S. Capitol” to mean just that one building, not the entire complex, although we know that there was a plan afoot to take over many of the buildings in the complex, not just the one where Congress meets in session.
Ironically, the conspirators appeared to see their plan to overturn the election and install Republican Donald Trump in the presidency as some sort of a replay of the events of 1776. In a court filing today by a Proud Boy, Zachary Rehl, an exhibit included the “1776 Returns” document that showed up in a conversation between Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and an unknown person. After sending Tarrio the document, the individual apparently said “The revolution is more important than anything,” and Tarrio responded: “That’s what every waking moment consists of…. I’m not playing games.”
Now public, the document lays out a plan “[t]o maintain control over a select few, but crucial buildings in the DC area for a set period of time, presenting our demands in unity…. We must show our politicians We the People are in charge.” Those buildings included the Russell Senate Office Building, the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Supreme Court, the Hart Senate Office Building, the Cannon House Office Building, the Longworth House Office Building, the Rayburn House Office Building, and “CNN—at least egg doorway.”
Their demands were stated as “a free and fair election” to be held on January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day, with paper ballots, no electronic voting, no mail-in ballots, no absentee ballots, IDs required for all, and monitored by the National Guard. “You are the revolution,” the document said. “Be a part of history & fight for this country so our children don’t have to. It’s all or nothing Patriots, boldness and bravery is necessary.”
“Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Pence & Bill Gates, We the people are watching you,” it said. “Rand Paul & Ron DeSantis, We the people love you.”
Although we have now heard evidence from Trump’s attorney general William Barr, campaign manager Bill Stepien, White House lawyers, and even his own daughter, testifying under oath, that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen—and that such claims were at least in part a way to cheat small donors out of $250 million—insisting on the Big Lie has become a requirement for Republican candidates. Yesterday, Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf of the Washington Post laid out how more than 100 of the Republicans who have won primaries have signed on to the Big Lie, including eight candidates for the U.S. Senate, eighty-six House candidates, five candidates for governor, four for state attorney general, and one for secretary of state.
When the forcible attempt to overthrow our government failed, the Republicans turned instead to taking over the machinery of elections, arranging election boards and reporting in such a way that Republicans could simply refuse to recognize that Democrats had been elected. This scenario played out last night in New Mexico, when the three-person Otero County commission refused to certify the results of the June 7 primary because they claimed not to trust the voting machines, which are made by the same company Trump and his cronies falsely accused of switching votes, an accusation thoroughly debunked now, under oath, by Trump’s own inner circle.
One of the commissioners, Couy Griffin, is a co-founder of Cowboys for Trump, said in 2020 that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” and continues to believe that Trump won in 2020. He was at the Capitol on January 6 and will be sentenced this Friday for trespassing there. Another blamed the machines for her unwillingness to sign off on the results of the election: “[I]n my heart I don’t know if it is right,” she said. New Mexico’s secretary of state Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, asked the court to order the board to certify the election results, and today, New Mexico’s supreme court did so.
For all that the insurrectionists fancy themselves acting like American Revolutionaries, they have the meaning of our nation’s founding exactly backwards. They tried to overturn the will of the American people to put Democrat Joe Biden in the office of the presidency, a will demonstrated by giving Biden a majority of more than 7 million votes and a majority of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. In 1776, the Founders of what would later become the United States of America issued a declaration explicitly rejecting the idea that a government could be imposed on a majority by a minority and still be legitimate.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the Declaration said. And it went on with another self-evident truth: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”