As the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol continues its effort to prove allegations of insurrection against former President Donald Trump and his supporters, Capitol Police and House Democrats continue to block all efforts to force the release of all surveillance video footage and emails, which could possibly exonerate those being accused of wrongdoing. Now, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) is citing a United States Code that could legally force the release of that evidence.
In a July, 29, 2022 letter to Capitol Police Board Chair William J. Walker, obtained by The Epoch Times, Gohmert—backed by the signatures of 23 additional GOP lawmakers—demanded the release of footage captured on Capitol Hill security cameras on Jan. 6, 2021, currently being withheld under “sovereign immunity.”
“As you must be aware,” Gohmert wrote, “2 U.S.C. § 1979 states that ‘any Member … of either House of Congress’ can ‘obtain information from the Capitol Police regarding the operations and activities of the Capitol Police that affect the Senate and House of Representatives.’ Subsection (c) makes clear that nothing in that law may be construed to prevent us, as Members of the House of Representatives from our ability to obtain those videos.”
Gohmert concluded that “Releasing this information is absolutely essential to proper governance and truth to protect and perpetuate this self, governing nation.”
‘It’s About Revenge’
As The Epoch Times reported July 5, attorneys of Jan. 6 prisoners and defendants have provided evidence in several cases that indicate the government is manufacturing evidence to arrest and incarcerate people who attended the protest at the Capitol. In the meantime, Gohmert insists the government is also hiding evidence that could be used in the defense of these people.
“That’s exactly what they’re doing,” Gohmert reiterated, noting how he himself has been a victim of the Jan. 6 Committee’s “Soviet-style propaganda.”
Reports disclose how Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to the then-Whitehouse Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, told the Committee during her June deposition that Gohmert asked then-President Donald Trump for a pardon.
Gohmert demanded a release of the full, unedited video and transcript of Hutchinson’s deposition, saying the way the video was presented erased the fact that he was actually seeking pardons for “very deserving military members, former military, and one civilian servant.”
“I’ve been personally affected by the lies created by using tape,” Gohmert told The Epoch Times. “They had Cassidy Hutchinson saying I requested a pardon without getting the full context. I have never asked for a pardon for myself. I’ve never done anything that needed a pardon. But I was requesting pardons for a number of people that have been screwed over by the justice system.”
While a spokesperson for the Capitol Police declined to comment on the letter to The Washington Times, they did push back on allegations that Jan. 6 prisoners and defendants were not provided full access to video that has been provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO).
“Every January 6th defendant has access to the same footage, which is everything the USAO is releasing,” the spokesperson told The Washington Times. “They do not just get what is relevant to them.”
The Road to 2 U.S.C. § 1979
In a May 19, 2022 letter (pdf) to Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), Select Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote that the Board was seeking the Congressman’s “voluntary cooperation” in advancing their investigation.
“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession,” Thompson said, “we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.”
“The American people deserve a full and accurate accounting of what happened on January 6th,” Thompson’s two-page letter concluded. “We aim to make informed legislative recommendations taking account of all relevant facts. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.”
The letter was also signed by the Committee Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).
In an immediate same-day response, Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Committee Member Loudermilk issued a joint press release, calling out the Select Committee for its false accusations.
“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 letter states. “The family never entered the Capitol building.”
“The 1/6 political circus released the letter to the press before even notifying Mr. Loudermilk, who has still not received a copy,” the letter accuses. “The Select Committee is once again pushing a verifiably false narrative that Republicans conducted ‘reconnaissance tours’ on January 5th. 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.”
In a letter dated May 20, 2022, addressed to Capitol Police Board Chair William Walker and members Karen Gibson and J. Brett Blanton, Davis demanded the release of “all January 5th Capitol Tapes.”
“If the Board does not release the relevant footage in a timely manner, I will have no choice but to exercise my authority under 2 U.S.C. § 1979 to release the footage myself.”
On June 15, 2022, Thompson sent another letter (pdf) to Loudermilk, again accusing him of personally escorting individuals through the Capitol Building for the purposes of conducting reconnaissance ahead of the rallies on Jan. 6. Thompson also reminded Loudermilk that the Committee had “invited” him to meet with them on May 19, 2022, about the “evidence,” which consisted of surveillance footage of Loudermilk leading a “tour of approximately ten individuals” through areas that are “not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases and security checkpoints.”
“Surveillance footage shows a tour of approximately ten individuals led by you to areas in the Rayburn, Longworth, and Cannon House Office Buildings, as well as the entrances to tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol,” Thompson said in his letter. “The below image shows you leading individuals on the tour:”
Two additional images in the letter show “an individual appearing to photograph a staircase in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building” while Loudermilk speaks “with others nearby,” and of people from Loudermilk’s tour “taking photographs of the tunnel leading from the Rayburn House Office Building to the Capitol.”
Loudermilk did not comply with the interview request.
On June 16, 2022, the Committee released surveillance footage of Loudermilk’s “tour,” overlayed with graphics and preceded by selected footage from other videos that add to their narrative of Loudermilk’s supposed guilt.
The Problems with Pick-and-Choose
For Mike Howell, senior advisor for Government Relations at The Heritage Foundation, the threat by Davis to release the Jan. 5 footage of Loudermilk, if the Capitol Police do not, raises a serious question.
Howell noted how Davis only threatened to release video footage that pertained to the Loudermilk incident and insisted he had the authority to do so.
“The question that’s been percolating is, ‘If you have the authority to release the tape from January fifth, why are you not releasing all of the tapes?’ That would be of major importance because there are a lot of major criminal cases coming down and defense attorneys have had problems trying to get access to these tapes themselves,” he told The Epoch Times.
Gohmert agreed the Committee should not be allowed “to just pick-and-choose which sections they show.”
“Yes, they should be able to show the defense what they’re going to use in prosecution. But they are also required to show the things that were more exonerating and exculpatory and that does not appear to have happened at all,” he said.
Howell sees at least two problems with this game of pick-and-choose.
First, the request by Davis only to release a segment of video he believes will prove his point is no different than the Jan. 6 Committee “selectively releasing portions they think show the best side of their version of events.”
Second: “If the authority exists, and Davis has the power through this statute to release the footage from Jan. 5,” Howell surmised, “why haven’t the tapes already been released in full?”
While Howell did remark that some will cite security issues as the reason for withholding most of the footage captured by cameras at the Capitol, he said he’s “got news for them.”
“There are cameras all over the Capitol,” Howell countered. “So it’s not a matter of special camera angles. I think the real reason why they’re not being released is because it can potentially show information and video footage that could be helpful to people being charged by the Department of Justice as well as damaging to the narrative that the January 6 Committee is trying to establish.”
According to a sworn affidavit from Capitol Police General Counsel Thomas DiBiase, surveillance camera footage from the U.S. Capitol Police’s extensive system of cameras on U.S. Capitol grounds states “disclosure of any footage from these cameras is strictly limited and subject to a policy that regulates the release of footage.”
“Per Department 1000.002, Retrieval of Archived Video (see attachment 1), the release of any footage from the Department’s CCV system must be approved by the Assistant Chief of Police for Operations.”
Howell said the tapes need to be released to give people a “full accounting” of what happened on Jan. 2, 2021 and allow attorneys to go through the footage to find out if there is anything in there that may be helpful to their clients.
“In the minds of many Americans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, this event has been made out to be akin to 9/11.” Howell said. “So, the question is, why can’t the American people see what actually happened that day. I think there’s massive public interest in this, and that outweighs any other concerns, so the tapes belong in the public.”
‘Why Are You Only Threatening’
While Howell finds Davis’s threat to release the Loudermilk video a bit curious, he isn’t surprised. At the time, when Davis made the threat, he was struggling through a primary challenge against fellow Republican and Trump-endorsed candidate Mary Miller after redistricting pitted the two incumbent Republicans against each other.
“So he, in an effort to shore up some bona fides on the right, basically threatened to release these tapes,” Howell surmised. “Now he’s lost his primary and nothing has happened. He hasn’t released the tapes and he hasn’t said anything else since.”
Still, Howell believes the House Administration Committee—to which the Capitol Police reports and of which Davis still serves as ranking member—does have the power and authority to demand the release of the surveillance footage.
“They aren’t an independent police agency,” Howell noted of the Capitol Police. “They report to Congress. So Congress can tell Capitol Police what to do. I’m surprised more people haven’t picked up on it. You have the tapes and you can release them? Why are you only threatening to release them?”
Gohmert said “these tactics are things that were supposed to be left behind 70 or more years ago. We had evolved to a justice system that was the fairest in the history of the world. Now, this Justice Department and the majority in the House are taking us back six or seven decades and they’ve gone beyond how bad it used to be and they’re approaching a Soviet-style justice system. Stalin would be proud of what they’re doing. It’s grossly unfair, grossly unjust. It doesn’t resemble the justice system at all.”
Like Howell, Gohmert also wants to know why Davis only demanded the release of surveillance footage that might prove the innocence of his colleague, just as the members of the Select Committee are selecting bits and pieces they think will prove the guilt of their political enemies.
The Next Step
Asked for the next step, Gohmert said he is going to give the Capitol Police a chance to respond to his letter.
“It they don’t respond quickly, I think we do need to take legal action,” he said. “If they respond and say, ‘you’re not entitled to it, we’ve ignored lots of laws already and this is just one more law we’ll ignore,’ then we have got to—for the sake of the country, for the sake of our justice system and for the sake of truth—stand up and hold the Justice Department accountable for their violations of the law.”
Another thing bothering Gohmert is what he is learning through talking to Jan. 6 prisoners “en mass at the D.C. Jail.”
“I have been deeply concerned and a lot of us have been demanding that all of the video be released for months,” Gohmert explained. “The Supreme Court made clear that the Department of Justice has to release any potentially exonerating or exculpatory evidence to the defense. They put so much pressure on defendants and kept many of them in jail so that they just agree to plea guilty without ever seeing the exculpatory evidence, which is absolutely outrageous because that lets the DOJ off the hook.”
Gohmert said it was the moment he learned that 2 U.S.C. § 1979 isn’t a House rule, but that it’s actually a law, that he knew he had to take a stand, and while he knows that there are still some members of the Capitol Police who “want to see right prevail and truth and justice prevail” he said he “can only hope they will do the right thing” and release the surveillance footage.
“If they’re not willing to do it,” Gohmert vowed, “we’ve got to go to court as quickly as possible and require them to produce [the video]. This is a law. This is not a suggestion. It is absolutely imperative that Congress have access to all of that. So, that’s why we made the request and then sent the letter out so we could get it out as quickly as possible.”
“It will be interesting to know who’s been holding up the video,” Gohmert speculated, “because some of the people who have refused to answer questions” may soon “have to respond after their subpoenaed and drug into court.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Davis, the Capitol Police, and the Office of the Inspector General.