Democratic lawmakers are investigating whether members of Congress gave Capitol tours to rioters before a deadly insurrection on 6 January.
The probe follows speculation that Republican members of Congress and Capitol Police may have played a role organising or enabling a deadly mob in support of Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he insists was “stolen” from them.
Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who chairs a Capitol Police oversight committee, said that an investigation is centred around more than one lawmaker who gave tours to “handfuls” of people at the Capitol the day before the riot.
In a damning speech on the House floor on Wednesday as lawmakers convened to impeach the president for his role inciting an insurrection inside the halls of Congress, Louisiana Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond condemned “some of my colleagues, some of whom may well be co-conspirators” in the attack.
More footage from the chaos and aftermath of the insurrection shows rioters planning to break into congressional offices. Democratic House lawmakers have also started to reveal disturbing details from the chaos, illustrating the scale of the attack.
US Attorney for Washington DC Michael Sherwin told reporters on Tuesday that “people will be shocked by the egregious conduct that happened within the Capitol” as cases emerge.
At least five people have died, including a Capitol Police officer who killed by rioters, a woman fatally shot by an officer, and three rioters who died from medical emergencies.
New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherill said she believes sitting members brought groups into the Capitol on 5 January as “reconnaissance for the next day.”
“We can’t have a democracy if members of Congress are actively helping the president overturn the elections results,” she said during a Facebook Live interview discussing her support for the president’s impeachment.
“And so not only do I intend to see that the president is removed and never runs for office again and doesn’t have access to classified material, I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted him,” she asid. “Those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on 5 January, a reconnaissance for the next day. Those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd. Those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy.”
The attack on the Capitol was coordinated and planned.
Here are the insurrectionists talking about the plan, including detailed schematics of the Capitol building.
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) January 13, 2021
The congresswoman did not specify what groups received a tour of the Capitol or name the lawmakers who guided them.
Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio has reported that at least two Capitol Police officers have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation.
Congressman Ryan, who chairs a Capitol Police oversight subcommittee, said one of the officers took a selfie with a rioter and another wore a “Make America Great Again” hat. The congressman said that the “interim chief determined that to be qualifying for immediate suspension.
Val Demings, among House impeachment managers during the president’s first impeachment in 2019, said the insurrection was a “well-coordinated breach of security attack on our Capitol,” possibly aided in part by Capitol Police officers.
“I do believe, when we look at how the attackers were able to – they knew where they were going,” she told CNN on Wednesday. “I do believe there was some inside assistance.”
Joined @NewDay this morning. The times have found us, and Donald Trump will be impeached, again, later today.
Imagine if the Senate had held the president accountable and removed him a year ago. pic.twitter.com/ALUSPQa8kH
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) January 13, 2021
Asked whether she believes sitting members of Congress played a role, she said she is “very, very concerned” by Republican lawmakers’ hesitance and outrage to even walk through a metal detector before they enter the building.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” she said. “If any members of Congress participated, helped to organise orchestrate the attack on the US capitol and quite frankly the attack on us and the American people last Wednesday, they need to be held accountable.”
House Majority Whip James Clyburn made similar remarks on Friday, telling CBS News that rioters “knew where to go.” He said congressional staff members reported seeing rioters "being allowed into the building through side doors."
"Who opened those side doors for these protesters – or, I call them these mobsters – to come into the building, not through the main entrance where magnetometers are but through side doors,” he said. “Yes, somebody on the inside of those buildings was complicit in this.”
The chief of staff from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s office told The Boston Globe that the panic buttons in her office “had been torn out – the whole unit.”
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she avoided sheltering with "QAnon and white-supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress ... who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location” over fears that lawmakers could “create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, etc.”
She said she “didn’t feel safe around other members of Congress.”
“I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die,” she said during an Instagram Live broadcast on Tuesday night. “I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive.”
In racist attacks at his rallies and on social media, the president has repeatedly vilified those progressive lawmakers as well as Muslim congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib while ignoring urgent requests from members of Congress to address the “heightened threats” against them.
Accounts from the attack also revealed another security threat – GOP lawmakers who not only joined efforts to undermine election results that compelled the riots but who also refused to wear face coverings while sheltering with other members of Congress. At least three Democratic lawmakers have since tested positive for Covid-19.
“The second I realized our ‘safe room’ from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Ahead of the riot, pro-Trump Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene – who had refused to wear a mask at the Capitol – referred to the joint session of Congress to certify electoral college votes as “our 1776 moment.”
On Twitter during the attacks, newly elected Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert posted Speaker Pelosi’s movements to her more than 300,000 followers. That morning, she wrote: “Today is 1776.”
The congresswoman has also pledged to carry her Glock handgun at the Capitol..
At least one person directly involved with events surrounding the riot has claimed to have had help from elected officials.
Far-right activist Ali Alexander, among leaders in the “stop the steal” effort and rally that preceded the attack, said in a now-removed Periscope video that he coordinated plans with three House Republicans who had pledged to overturn election results.
Alexander pointed to Congressmembers Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama, among House Republican who objected to Electoral College results following the president’s campaign to undermine Americans voters with baseless fraud allegations and conspiracies.
“We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said in the video. “Who we couldn’t rally, we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”
Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones also claimed that his company paid for the rally and that he was urged by the White House to lead a march to the Capitol.
A statement from Congressman Brooks’ office to The Washington Post said that the congressman “is not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr Alexander at any point – let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest.”
In a lengthy statement, Congressman Brooks said he bore no responsibility for the riot based on his remarks at the rally that preceded it, though he did not address his long-running effort to overturn election results and claims that the election was “stolen” from Trump supporters.