The U.S. Capitol Police has determined that a tour led by a Republican lawmaker the day before the 2021 Capitol riot was innocent, despite the House Jan. 6 committee saying it could have been a reconnaissance tour to plan the attack.
Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, unveiled a letter sent by Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger that said there was “no evidence” that constituent meetings held by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Georgia Republican, on Jan. 5 were to coordinate the riot.
“There is no evidence that Representative Loudermilk entered the U.S. Capitol with this group on January 5, 2021. We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious,” Chief Manger said.
Chief Manger confirmed that Mr. Loudermilk led a tour of roughly 15 people who entered the Rayburn House Office Building and the Cannon House Office Building, but did not enter any tunnels leading to the Capitol.
“At no time did the group appear in any tunnels leading to the U.S. Capitol were posted with USCP and admittance to the U.S. Capitol without a member of Congress was not permitted on January 5, 2021,” Chief Manger said.
Republicans dubbed the confirmation from Capitol Police as a win against the committee they’ve accused of being politically motivated.
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“It was an outrageous accusation to begin with, and shame on all these Democrats who accused him of that and anyone who accused him of that,” said Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican. “I’m angry about it. All my colleagues are angry about it.”
Mr. Banks was originally selected to be on the committee, along with Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican. But the two were rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over her disagreement with them objecting to the 2020 election results.
Mr. Davis said lawmakers who accuse their colleagues of leading reconnaissance tours should be held accountable, calling the letter a vindication of Mr. Loudermilk.
“It’s absolutely an exoneration,” Mr. Davis said. “The sheer fact that the Democrats, including Mikie Sherrill, double downed on this false accusation that some of the Republican members of Congress took people on reconnaissance tours is absolutely false.”
The committee investigating the riot, which is made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, requested last month that Mr. Loudermilk voluntarily cooperate with the probe, suggesting that he had information regarding the meetings he held in the Capitol complex.
The concerns were first raised by Rep. Mikie Sherrill, New Jersey Democrat, who alleged months ago that she’d seen members of Congress lead “reconnaissance” tours through the Capitol the day before the riot.
Mr. Loudermilk pushed back on the assertion that he helped plan an attack, calling the committee’s nearly year-long investigation a “political circus.”
“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,’” Mr. Loudermilk said.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, California Democrat who sits on the committee, said he still wasn’t convinced GOP lawmakers were not involved in wrongdoing in advance of the riot.
“I’m happy to read any letter that [Chief Manger] sends to us, but I hope that we also have a real conversation about that because tours were not authorized at that time,” Mr. Aguilar said. “There were many individuals in and around the Capitol complex who talked a lot about violence in those times.”
Mr. Banks said the Democrats’ response to the Capitol Police showed inconsistency in their view of the police.
“One day they say they support the Capitol Police, the next day they question them and attack them,” Mr. Banks said. “In this case, they never had any evidence to suggest Barry Loudermilk did anything wrong in the first place.”
The Jan. 6 committee postponed its scheduled Wednesday hearing, citing unspecified technical problems.
The next hearing will be on Thursday. It will be the panel’s third public hearing this month to unveil what the committee describes as evidence of an attempted “coup.”