House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday he is willing to make public unreleased security footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot when pro-Trump protesters breached the complex to protest the presidential election.
“I want to be very thoughtful about it, but yes,” Mr. McCarthy said at his weekly presser.
“I think the public should see what happened on that day. I watched what [then-House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi did, where she politicized it. For the first time in the history as a speaker, not allowing the minority to appoint to a committee,” he told reporters. “We watched the politicization of this. I think the American public should actually see what happened instead of a report that’s written on a political basis.”
Rep. Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican, told The Washington Times that the release of the security footage is necessary for the Jan. 6 detainees’ legal defense.
“The defendants aren’t given the proper background to defend themselves; it has to happen. Absolutely. It has to happen,” he told The Times. “Let’s set it free, and while we’re doing that, let’s get the tape with Ms. Pelosi in conversation with the Gen. [Mark A. Milley] and the Capitol Police.”
During an interview Tuesday with Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said Mr. McCarthy promised conservative Republican lawmakers he would release all the footage.
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“Kevin McCarthy told us he‘s going to get the evidence out in front of the American people, and that means releasing the 14,000 hours of tapes that have been hidden,” he said. “That I think would give more full context to that day, rather than the cherry-picked moments that the Jan. 6 committee tried to use to inflame and further divide our country.”
In response to Mr. McCarthy’s remarks, Mr. Gaetz tweeted to his followers: “Thank you to the 20 patriots who helped EARN this commitment from the Speaker. Thank you @SpeakerMcCarthy for affirming this commitment you made. Keeping promises is how trust is built. I’m growing more optimistic by the day!”
Last August, a group of House Republicans demanded that the U.S. Capitol Police release all its security footage from that day to allow for fair trials in cases related to the Capitol riot.
In a letter to Capitol Police Board Chairman William J. Walker at the time, 23 lawmakers led by then-Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, say the release of the footage “is absolutely essential to proper governance and truth.”
“The fact that these tapes have not been released, I think, is just a huge blot on the Department of Justice,” Mr. Gohmert told The Washington Times. “It’s just outrageous to the American justice system that they’re not being required to make the videos available.”
Mr. Gohmert said multiple Jan. 6 defendants told his office that while their prosecutors have provided access to specific segments of video used in building their cases, the defense does not have access to other footage that they say may be exculpatory.
“As I’ve said many times, from people that did violence on Jan. 6, they need to be punished,” he said. “But going after Jan. 6 defendants who were peaceful, who were waved in and thought there was nothing wrong with what they were doing, to have people like that locked up for a year and a half is absolutely outrageous.”
A spokesperson for the Capitol Police last summer disputed the allegation that Capitol riot defendants were not given access to the full footage that was provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Every Jan. 6th defendant has access to the same footage, which is everything the USAO is releasing,” the spokesperson said. “They do not just get what is relevant to them.”
Other lawmakers have made similar requests for the release of the footage.
In a statement to The Washington Times, a spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police said, “The video has been designated security information and is therefore protected from public disclosure. Releasing it would ultimately be up to the Capitol Police Board and not the Department.”
Last June, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia Republican, wrote to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and acting Capitol Police Chief Yolanda Pittman calling for the release of surveillance footage from the Capitol on the day of the riot, among a list of other demands.
“It is abundantly clear that there is a two-track justice system in the United States,” she said in the letter.