Supporters of President Trump climb on vehicles and occupy the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol after breaching the security perimeter as they protest the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, 2021. | Francis Chung/POLITICO
House Republicans ignored the Capitol Police’s repeated requests to review and approve all Jan. 6 security footage they planned to release publicly, the force’s top lawyer asserted in a sworn affidavit filed Friday.
Only one of the more than 40 riot clips that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson aired earlier this month using access granted by the House GOP got previewed and approved beforehand, according to Capitol Police general counsel Thomas DiBiase. The rest, DiBiase said, “were never shown to me nor anyone else from the Capitol Police.”
In a six-page declaration filed as part of a Jan. 6 criminal case, DiBiase described the timeline by which Republicans obtained access to the 41,000 hours of footage captured by Capitol security cameras on Jan. 6. The filing itself is an uncomfortable moment for the Capitol Police — which, as a result of the case, has been forced to describe private interactions with members and staffers in open court.
The department is typically loath to appear at odds with House leaders in particular, since it relies on the majority party for its budget and are charged with protecting its members.
Last month Republicans started requesting the same footage that the Jan. 6 select committee had access to. Those requests came first from Tim Monahan — who doubles as a top aide to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and as a staff director for the House Administration Committee — and then from Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), the chair of that panel, which has jurisdiction over Capitol security.
Within days, DiBiase indicated, the Capitol Police installed three terminals in a House office building to grant access to the footage. And DiBiase said he also provided four hard drives he had received from the Democratic-led Jan. 6 panel after it completed its work.
“At no time was I nor anyone else from the Capitol Police informed that anyone other than personnel from [the House Administration Committee] would be reviewing the camera footage,” DiBiase indicated.
Later last month, media reports indicated that McCarthy had granted access to the footage to Carlson’s producers. DiBiase said he later learned that “personnel from the Tucker Carlson Show were allowed to view whatever footage they wanted while supervised by staff from [the House Administration Committee] but that no footage had been physically turned over to the show.”
A week later, Monahan requested a list of Capitol Police cameras that were deemed “sensitive” because they include details about evacuation routes or locations such as intelligence committee facilities.
“We worked with the Capitol Police ahead of time to identify any security-sensitive footage and made sure it wasn’t released,” said Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy. “In subsequent conversations, the USCP General Counsel confirmed that the department concluded there are no security concerns with what was released.”
A GOP committee aide, asked about the statements in the affidavit, noted that the Republicans asked the Capitol Police for a list of security sensitive cameras “to ensure anything on the list requested by Tucker was approved by USCP, which we did.”
The aide added that Capitol Police “told us they had no concern with what was released,” but didn’t immediately respond to follow up questions about if that comment came before or after the footage aired on Fox, and if it applied to both the clip Capitol Police was able to review and those that they say they weren’t.
DiBiase emphasized that in “numerous conversations” over “several weeks,” he informed Monahan that the Capitol Police wanted “to review every footage clip, whether it was on the Sensitive List or not, if it was going to be made public.” The Jan. 6 select committee had gone through that process with the department “in all cases,” DiBiase said, as had federal prosecutors pursuing cases against hundreds of Capitol riot defendants.
“Of the numerous clips shown during the Tucker Carlson show on March 6 and 7, 2023, I was shown only one clip before it aired, and that clip was from the Sensitive List,” he continued. “Since that clip was substantially similar to a clip used in the Impeachment Trial and was publicly available, I approved the use of the clip. The other approximately 40 clips, which were not from the Sensitive List, were never shown to me nor anyone else from the Capitol Police.”
DiBiase left some key details about his interactions with the House Administration Committee unanswered. For example, he didn’t indicate whether anyone on the panel had agreed to his requests for a preview of the footage.
Notably, DiBiase indicated that the House managers of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial after the Jan. 6 attack, who used about 15 Capitol security camera clips, did not preview them with the department before using them in the February 2021 proceedings. Those clips included “some from the Sensitive List.” The footnote caught the attention of Republicans who pointed to it on Friday, as an example of when Democrats had provided “zero consultation.”
Bednar pointed to DiBiase’s reference to the impeachment trial footage and said House Republicans had taken more steps to protect security sensitive material than the impeachment managers did.
Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger said in a statement earlier this month that he has little control over the footage once it’s provided to lawmakers.
Manger himself fiercely criticized Carlson and Fox News’ handling of the footage, saying it minimized the violence and chaos of Jan. 6 and portrayed Capitol Police officers’ actions in a “misleading” and “offensive” light.
DiBiase’s statement came in the case of William Pope, a Jan. 6 defendant who is representing himself and has moved to publicly release a trove of Jan. 6 security footage. Several other Jan. 6 defendants have cited Carlson’s access to the trove of footage in their own pending matters and said they intend to seek access. But, DiBiase noted in the affidavit, while Administration staff had said last week that no footage had been shown to any defendant or defense counsel, the Capitol Police had received additional requests to review the footage.
McCarthy’s decision to release the footage sparked weeks of questions for House Republicans. It’s also just the beginning of GOP lawmakers’ work to relitigate the attack, with the Administration Committee currently reviewing the previous Jan. 6 select committee’s work and promising to investigate Capitol security decisions leading up to the day. Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are planning a trip to visit the individuals jailed in connection with Jan. 6.
McCarthy has defended his decision to give access to the footage to Carlson, who has falsely portrayed the attack as nonviolent. The speaker and House Administration Committee members have pledged to release the footage more widely.
“I think putting it out all to the American public, you can see the truth, see exactly what transpired that day and everybody can have the exact same” access, McCarthy recently told reporters. “My intention is to release it to everyone.”