McCarthy gives Carlson access to 1/6 footage, which sets off an alarm

WASHINGTON– Thousands of hours of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol will be made available to Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, a startling access granted by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom Democrats were quick to dub “grave.” convicted. Breach of security with potentially far-reaching consequences.

The far-right political commentator said his team is spending the week in the Capitol going through the video and preparing to reveal its findings to viewers. But giving such a deeply partisan figure exclusive access to sensitive Jan. 6 security footage is a highly unusual move, seen by some critics as outsourcing housekeeping to a TV personality who has been promoting conspiracy theories about the attack.

“It’s a shocking development that raises both political and, more importantly, security concerns,” said Rep. Dan Goldman, DN.Y., who was chief counsel during President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Many critics warn that the security of the Capitol could be jeopardized if Carlson airs security footage that details how rioters got into the building and the avenues lawmakers used to get to safety. And a sharply partisan retelling of the attack on the Capitol could hasten a dangerous rewriting of what happened on Jan. 6, when Trump encouraged a crowd of supporters to go to the Capitol to overthrow the election of Joe Biden.

“It hasn’t escaped anyone that the only person the spokesman chooses to give hours and hours of sensitive classified surveillance footage to is the person who has been peddling a fake documentary attempting to pin responsibility for the January 6 riots on Donald exposing Trump to others,” Goldmann said.

“Kevin McCarthy has turned Capitol security over to Tucker Carlson and it’s a scary thought,” he added.

McCarthy’s office declined to confirm the arrangement, first reported by Axios, despite repeated requests for comment.

Poignant images and videos of the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters have been widely shared by documentarians, news organizations and even the rioters themselves. But officials have withheld much of the surveillance video from hundreds of security cameras stationed in and around the Capitol, offering a detailed look at the grisly scene and the brutal beatings by police as they tried to stop the rioters.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack underwent a careful process to work closely with US Capitol Police to review and eventually declassify approved segments of surveillance footage at its public hearings last year.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger, when asked about the new footage release, issued a terse statement: “When congressional executive committees or congressional oversight committees ask for things like this, we have to give them them.”

House Democrats planned to meet Wednesday for a private caucus call to hear Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who served as chair of the Jan. 6 committee, and others. Democratic House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries called McCarthy’s decision a “enormous security breach” that threatens the safety of those who work in the Capitol.

“Unfortunately, the blatant disclosure of sensitive video footage is yet another example of the serious threats to the security of the American people represented by the vast majority of MAGA Republicans,” said Jeffries, DN.Y. said in a letter to colleagues in the House.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the former chair of the House Management Committee and a member of the committee investigating Jan. 6, said, “It’s really a roadmap for people who might want to attack the Capitol again. It would be of great help to them.”

Carlson, who previously produced a documentary in which he suggested the federal government was using the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters as a pretext to go after conservatives, confirmed his team reviewed the footage before it could be broadcast.

“We believe we’ve secured the right to watch whatever we want to watch,” Carlson, the channel’s most-watched prime-time host, said on his show Monday night.

It’s not clear what protocols Carlson and his team are using to view the footage, but he said “access is unrestricted.”

The House Committee investigating January 6 underwent an often intense process of reviewing the tens of thousands of hours of footage while documenting its findings.

During the nearly two-year investigation, the panel, which was dissolved when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, created a safe room in their Capitol Hill offices for staff to sift through the more than 14,000 hours of footage. The process took months, according to a person familiar with the investigation, who requested anonymity to discuss the private dealings.

Any footage the committee wanted to use for its series of public hearings or for the final report had to be approved by Capitol Police to avoid security breaches, the person said. If the police objected, the committee would enter negotiations to redact any content that could potentially endanger the force or the mechanisms they use to protect the Capitol and lawmakers.

“Throughout our review in committee, we worked with the US Capitol Police to obtain the footage and review it through secure channels, and then also worked with them again before releasing anything,” said Marcus Childress, who was investigative advisor to the panel and is now in private practice. “We wanted to make sure that we weren’t releasing sensitive surveillance material.”

Concerns about safety are high after Capitol Police reported an increase in threats to members’ safety in recent years, peaking on January 6, 2021. The number of possible threats against members of Congress rose from about 4,000 in 2017 to more than 9,600 in 2021, then fell to 7,501 last year.

Key Republicans hailed McCarthy’s decision as part of his commitment to create a more transparent House and engage in oversight as Republicans launch a wide-ranging series of probes and inquiries affecting many aspects of government.

“I support Speaker McCarthy’s decision,” said Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., the chair of the House Administration Committee.

Right-wing figures cheered the move. “For anyone who doubted we would release the tapes. There you go!” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a right flank firestarter who got close to McCarthy.

Former Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., said if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, was able to film that day and release her footage, McCarthy should allow access to Carlson can.

But others said the two situations are not comparable – countless hours of footage have been released from many sources capturing what happened on that fatal day. A mob of Trump supporters fought Capitol Police in often violent scenes and broke into the building. Five people died in the riots and their aftermath.

“I think we should remember that the January 6 attack happened in broad daylight,” said Sandeep Prasanna, a former investigative adviser to the January 6 Committee who is now in private practice.

“My concern is that I don’t see how releasing thousands of hours of footage to a handpicked controversial media figure could ever produce the same factual and careful analysis that the committee has produced over this year and a half,” he said.


Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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