The controversy began in earnest the week after the Jan. 6 attack, when some House Democrats said at least one of their Republican colleagues provided a tour of the Capitol the day before the riot. Publicly, they didn’t mention any names, but Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk issued an angry and defensive written statement, condemning the Democratic accusations.
As we’ve discussed the Georgia congressman’s story evolved over time, with Loudermilk sharing previously undisclosed details after the Jan. 6 committee started asking questions.
In a curious New York Times report earlier this week, the Capitol Police seemed to conclude that the GOP lawmaker’s tour was innocuous. There’s still reason to believe otherwise. NBC News reported this morning:
The Jan. 6 Committee on Wednesday released new footage of a man outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 making violent verbal threats against top Democratic lawmakers — who the day before had been taken on a tour of House office buildings by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga.
What started as a mysterious accusation from members reluctant to go into details has come into much sharper focus.
It’s no longer a point of contention that Loudermilk conducted a tour the day before the attack, which was itself odd: Due to Covid restrictions, there were no tours at the time.
According to congressional investigators, the Georgia Republican’s group nevertheless stayed for several hours, and surveillance footage shows them visiting House office buildings and the entrances to tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol.
More specifically, according to the Jan. 6 committee, Loudermilk’s guests “photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints.”
From a personal perspective, I can say that I’ve spent hundreds of hours on Capitol Hill, and certain sights are always popular with tourists. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone taking pictures of hallways, staircases, or security checkpoints — and if I did see such a thing, it would’ve seemed quite weird.
GOP congressman walks back denial of Capitol tour ahead of Jan. 6May 24, 202201:49
One of the images released by the committee this morning showed a man taking a picture of a staircase in the Longworth House Office Building that leads to a tunnel that goes to the Capitol building itself. Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania published a tweet this morning noting that this is the same staircase he takes to his office — and in his eight years as a congressman, he’s “never seen a tourist taking a picture of it.”
Making matters worse is the fact that one of Loudermilk’s guests threatened Democratic lawmakers a day later. From the NBC News report:
The video includes pictures the Jan. 6 committee says the attendees of Loudermilk’s tour took, including the outside of Nadler’s office and what appears to be an office directory for the Judiciary Committee, with the photos of Democratic lawmakers. “There is no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler — we’re coming for you,” the man says in the video.
Why the Capitol Police concluded that Loudermilk’s tour was entirely benign is unclear.
Remember, a House GOP aide later told The Hill four months ago, “There were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.”
But there was a tour, the group wasn’t small, some wore red caps, and they seemed interested in photographing locations that Capitol visitors are generally uninterested in.
This morning, Loudermilk, who’s clearly changed his story, issued another statement denying any wrongdoing, while the bipartisan select committee investigating the attack once again urged the Georgia Republican to cooperate with the investigation. Watch this space.