In the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, some House Democrats said at least one of their Republican colleagues provided a “reconnaissance” tour of the Capitol the day before the riot. Some GOP denials soon followed, and the allegations were not bolstered by any evidence. Much of the focus about what transpired shifted elsewhere.
That is, until yesterday afternoon, when the bipartisan panel asked Rep. Barry Loudermilk to provide the committee with information. According to the panel’s leaders, the Georgia Republican “may have information regarding a tour through parts of the U.S. Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.”
Loudermilk responded yesterday with a written statement, issued jointly with Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee.
“A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour.’ The family never entered the Capitol building.... The facts speak for themselves; no place that the family went on the 5th was breached on the 6th, the family did not enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th, and no one in that family has been investigated or charged in connection to January 6th.”
Part of what makes this notable is the degree to which it’s new information.
Remember, when allegations of a possible tour came to the fore early last year, Loudermilk — whose name was never mentioned publicly by Democrats — issued an angry written statement, condemning the accusations, and insisting, “No Republican Member of Congress led any kind of ‘reconnaissance’ tours through the Capitol, proven by security footage captured by the U.S. Capitol Police.”
As we discussed yesterday, the Jan. 6 committee has made clear that it’s aware of the Georgia Republican’s denial. It just doesn’t seem prepared to believe what Loudermilk said.
“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” the committee’s leaders wrote. Their letter added, “Republicans on the Committee on House Administration — of which you are a Member — claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that ‘[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.’ However, the Select Committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial.”
In response, Loudermilk apparently decided to share previously undisclosed details: In a statement that appeared to be carefully worded, the GOP congressman acknowledged bringing a “constituent family” into the Capitol complex the day before the attack, though he insisted that this group did not go into the Capitol building on Jan. 5, and did not enter the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.
So, evidently, the congressman was involved in some kind of pre-riot tour, though his characterization of this was that the excursion was entirely benign.
That might be true. A Politico report added, however, “Loudermilk did not explain why he didn’t disclose the tour over the past 16 months.”
And while that’s an important angle to the larger story, I’m also struck by the fact that Loudermilk is willing to talk about this at all. Part of me assumed that the Georgia Republican would ignore the request for information, or say that he intended to talk to his lawyer about the matter.
Instead, Loudermilk issued a press release in which he disclosed information that he’d kept private for more than a year.
All of which leads to a fairly obvious question: If the GOP congressman is willing to talk about what he knows via written statements, why not just sit down with congressional investigators? Loudermilk could clear the air, explain that his tour was anodyne, and put the matter to rest.
It’d be one thing if he preferred to remain silent and leave the matter unaddressed. But he’s doing the opposite: Loudermilk has now issued two written statements about the underlying controversy.
Wouldn’t it be more constructive to simply answer the committee’s questions directly?