Multiple sources told CNN that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gave Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to all of the US Capitol security footage from January 6.
The highly unusual move of a House speaker giving a friendly media outlet access to a huge amount of internal government documents comes after the California Republican was put under a lot of pressure from his right flank to re-examine the work of the House select committee that looked into the uprising on January 6, 2021.
McCarthy promised during his run for speaker that he would hold hearings on the security problems that led to the Capitol being overrun. He also told the select committee to keep all of its records in case the newly elected GOP majority wanted to look at them in the future.
Carlson has been one of the most well-known people to spread theories about what happened on January 6. Most notably, he has spent a lot of airtime on the false claim that liberals in the FBI’s “deep state” planned the uprising to hurt former President Donald Trump. He has talked to some of the people who took part in the riots and were later charged by the Justice Department.
Several GOP lawmakers in McCarthy’s group wanted to look at the documents themselves. They probably wanted to find footage that backs up their controversial claims about the January 6 uprising. By giving the videos to Carlson, McCarthy is, at least for the time being, giving the job to right-wing media.
Axios was the first to report that McCarthy and Carlson had made a deal. A Fox News representative told CNN that the Axios report was true, but they didn’t want to say anything else. Carlson told Axios, “There was never a good reason for this footage to be kept secret,” and that the videos will show “what really happened on January 6.”
A source close to CNN said that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who is the top Democrat in the chamber, was not asked for his opinion before the security footage was made public. Another source told CNN that McCarthy didn’t talk with his GOP leadership team before making the decision.
During its investigation, the now-defunct January 6 committee had access to all of the security footage from the US Capitol Police. However, some clips were not made public for security reasons. CNN was told by a source who was familiar with the work of the panel that the unreleased footage was especially sensitive because it showed how top officials moved as they were evacuated to safety.
Tim Mulvey, who used to be a spokesman for the January 6 Committee, criticized McCarthy’s move in a statement to CNN. He said, “It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were used irresponsibly”
Mulvey said –
“When the January 6th Select Committee obtained access to US Capitol Police video footage, it was treated with great sensitivity given concerns about the security of lawmakers, staff, and the Capitol complex”
“Access was limited to members and a small handful of investigators and senior staff, and the public use of any footage was coordinated in advance with Capitol Police.”
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee and former chair of the January 6 committee, said later in a statement that McCarthy, if he “really” gave Carlson access, “owes the American people an explanation of why he did that and what steps he has taken to address the serious security concerns at stake.”
McCarthy said at a press conference last month, “Yeah, I think the public should see what happened” in response to a question about how some Republicans had asked former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to release the full security footage from January 6.
Federal prosecutors have tried for a long time to keep certain CCTV clips from the Capitol complex hidden from the public. They say in court that letting the public see them would be bad for national security and could give bad people planning an attack important information. The US Capitol Police worry about the same things.
January 6 defendants have access to thousands of hours of unreleased footage from the attack as well as an online database, but the videos are tightly controlled by a protective order and defendants are not allowed to make the clips public.
Justice Department prosecutors wrote in a July 2021 court filing –
“Once the capabilities of a U.S. Capitol interior surveillance camera, including its position and whether it pans, tilts or zooms, is disclosed to the public via the release of a single video from that camera, the cat is out of the bag,”
In 2021, more than a dozen news outlets, including CNN, sued to get access to the videos. The chief judge of DC federal court ruled that the public has a strong interest in seeing some security footage from the attack. But these video releases haven’t always happened or been certain. Case by case, news outlets can ask that videos be made public after they have been shown in court.
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