The dust had hardly cleared from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the US Capitol when more than 30 members of Congress demanded an investigation into the “high number of outside groups” allowed to tour the Capitol complex on Jan. 5. It raised the troubling question of whether fellow members of Congress were complicit in the attack — an attack that has turned out to be one on democracy itself.
This week they got at least a partial answer — from surveillance video footage released by the House committee investigating the attack that documented one such “tour” led by Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk of Georgia.
Loudermilk, an ardent supporter of President Trump, led a group of 10 to 15 individuals on Jan. 5, 2021, on a tour through three Capitol office buildings and the entrances to Capitol tunnels. The visit, during a time when the entire Capitol complex was closed to the public, lasted several hours. Members of the group are shown photographing and recording areas “not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints,” as the committee letter put it.
The committee has linked several of the individuals in Loudermilk’s tour group to the Jan. 6 Trump rally and at least one of those individuals is heard in a video that day making threats to top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.
The committee has indeed succeeded in connecting some of the dots that link not only Trump to the chaos intended to thwart the peaceful transition of power on that day, but now also at least one of his Republican enablers in the House.
In a letter to Loudermilk, the committee chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, noted, “The behavior of these individuals during the Jan. 5, 2021, tour raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex.”
Thompson wrote that “the individual who appeared to photograph a staircase in the Longworth House Office Building” filmed a companion the following day on the National Mall “with a flagpole appearing to have a sharpened end who spoke to the camera saying, ‘It’s for a certain person,’ ” as he made a jabbing motion.
As that same individual filmed the march to the Capitol, he recorded himself saying, “They got it surrounded. It’s all the way up there on the hill, and it’s all the way around, and they’re coming in, coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, [Representative Jerrold] Nadler, even you, AOC [Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]. We’re coming to take you out and pull you out by your hairs.”
He added, “When I get done with you, you’re going to need a shine on top of that bald head.”
In the alternate reality occupied by Loudermilk, he insisted in a hallway interview broadcast on PBS that “there’s nothing there. When visitors come, they take pictures.”
“This family wanted to come visit,” he added. “They had never visited Washington before. There were no tours of the Capitol. So I showed them around the House office building.” Capitol Police put the number in the tour group at 12 to 15, and Loudermilk in earlier statements admitted that the group included not just a family but “guests.”
He also insisted he had never been contacted by the Jan. 6 committee, which on Wednesday had sent its second letter requesting an appearance by Loudermilk.
And as if to further make the point that Loudermilk and some of his Republican colleagues have a problematic history with the truth, the chairman’s letter points out that, back in February, Republicans on the House Committee on Administration (of which Loudermilk is a member) claimed to have reviewed security footage of Jan. 5 and determined, “there were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.”
But now there was a tour, a fairly sizable one, and one of Loudermilk’s visitors is clearly wearing a red Make America Great Again hat.
What is perhaps more disturbing is a letter from Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger sent this week to the ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee insisting, “We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed [by the group touring with Loudermilk] as suspicious.”
Hey, some folks see a staircase or a security checkpoint and just can’t help snapping a few shots of it, right?
The now well-documented Loudermilk tour doesn’t fully answer the questions raised by Representatives Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as well as 28 other Democratic colleagues about how many such tours of the Capitol complex took place on Jan. 5, 2021.
“It is important that we feel safe in the halls of Congress,” the lawmakers wrote in their Jan. 13 letter.
As long as there’s a chance that the enemy resides within, that need remains unmet.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.