The Capitol Police chief in a new letter said that a group tour of the Capitol complex led by GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia a day before the January 6, 2021, riot by a mob of Trump supporters was not suspicious, and at no point entered the Capitol itself.
The letter Monday by Police Chief J. Thomas Manger came nearly a month after the House select committee investigating the riot asked Loudermilk about the tour he gave.
The committee is probing questions of whether Republican members of Congress facilitated tours of the Capitol complex that allowed tour members to conduct surveillance in advance of the riot.
“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,” Manger wrote in his letter to Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican who is the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration.
Davis last week asked the Capitol Police Board to review surveillance footage from Jan. 5, 2021, related to the tour by Loudermilk, who is a member of the administration committee.
Manger, citing that surveillance video, confirmed Loudermilk’s statement that he never entered the Capitol building itself with a group of constituents, which initially comprised a dozen people but which eventually grew to 15, according to Manger’s letter.
Instead, the group appeared to have spent all of their time in or around three large buildings housing offices of House lawmakers, which are part of the Capitol complex and have a system of underground tunnels that access the U.S. Capitol building. About five minutes of that time was spent at a series of exhibits in the Cannon House Office Building.
Manger wrote that Loudermilk never took his constituents “in any tunnels that would have led them to the U.S. Capitol.”
Loudermilk, in a tweet containing a copy of Manger’s letter, wrote, “The truth will always prevail.”
“As I’ve said since the Jan. 6 Committee made their baseless accusation about me to the media, I never gave a tour of the Capitol on Jan 5, 2021,” he wrote, “and a small group visiting their congressman is in no way a suspicious activity. Now the Capitol Police have confirmed this fact.”
Loudermilk, who during then-President Donald Trump‘s first impeachment in 2019 compared that proceeding to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, was among a minority of House members who voted to reject certification of the Electoral College votes for President Joe Biden from Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, 2021.
That proceeding was disrupted for hours by supporters of Trump, who for weeks beforehand had falsely claimed that he had won the 2020 election and that Biden’s official victory was the result of widespread ballot fraud.
The Capitol includes the two chambers of Congress — the Senate and House of Representatives — and the rotunda, whose distinctive dome has come to symbolize Washington, D.C.
The rotunda, the Senate and surrounding hallways in the Capitol were breached by rioters on Jan. 6 disrupting for hours a joint session of Congress that was in the process of confirming Biden’s election.
The House was not breached, as it was barricaded and guarded by armed police, one of whom fatally shot a rioter who had tried to clamber through the window of a door in the Speaker’s Lobby, which leads into the House chamber.
Davis, in a statement Tuesday about Manger’s letter, called his findings “a blow to the partisan 1/6 Select Committee’s credibility.”
“This comes following false accusations from House Democrats and the 1/6 Select Committee that Republicans, including Committee Member Barry Loudermilk, gave reconnaissance tours,” Davis said.
However, the select committee had not said that Loudermilk gave a reconnaissance tour.
Instead, the Jan. 6 panel said in its May 19 letter to Loudermilk that “public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of” the riot.
The committee in that same letter noted that Republicans on the Committee on House Administration, which Loudermilk sits on, claimed to have reviewed security video footage of the days leading up to the riot and found “there were no tours, no large groups, no one with [Make America Great Again] hats on.”