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Jan. 6 committee, DOJ seek footage of Roger Stone from Danish filmmakers

Danish filmmakers Christoffer Guldbrandsen, right, and Frederik Marbell at The Royal Library in Copenhagen in February. (Ruben Hughes/The Washington Post)
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The Justice Department and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol have asked Danish filmmakers for video footage recorded as they followed Trump confidant Roger Stone in the weeks after the 2020 election, according to emails and interviews.

During the past three months, the investigators have repeatedly sought access to a 170-hour cache of footage shot for director Christoffer Guldbrandsen’s forthcoming documentary on Stone, a founder of the “Stop the Steal” movement that culminated in the rallies preceding the Jan. 6 attack.

That footage was cited in a Washington Post report in March that described Stone’s activities that day, including inside the Willard hotel where he and many other Trump allies were staying. The footage showed that Stone communicated on an encrypted messaging app with leaders of far-right groups, and that he claimed at the time to be in contact with then-president Donald Trump.

Guldbrandsen has declined the requests, citing the need to maintain journalistic independence and to complete his film. The requests were made on a voluntary basis and Guldbrandsen has not been subpoenaed. In response to subpoenas, two British filmmakers have separately given Jan. 6 investigators footage that they recorded for documentaries.

“These are legitimate and important investigations, not only for Americans but for anyone in a democracy, but our independence from government and law enforcement is impossible to compromise,” Guldbrandsen said in an interview.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the committee did not respond to a request seeking comment for this report.

Stone has denied anything to do with the attack on the Capitol. He refused to give testimony and evidence to the House committee, citing his right against self incrimination. He has sued members of the panel and AT&T to try to block a subpoena for his telephone records.

“Any claim, assertion or implication that I knew about, was involved in or condoned any illegal event on January 6, or any other date, is categorically false,” Stone said in a Telegram post last month.

Guldbrandsen and director of photography Frederik Marbell followed Stone, a friend and adviser to Donald Trump since the 1980s, for extended periods over more than two years for their film, “A Storm Foretold,” which is expected to be released this year. Guldbrandsen, an award-winning director, previously worked as a senior executive for Denmark’s public broadcaster.

The Danes were at Stone’s side as he worked to overturn Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, and they joined the veteran Republican operative in Washington for the pro-Trump rallies on Jan. 6, 2021. After violence erupted at the Capitol, they filmed Stone developing a proposal for Trump to preemptively pardon high-profile allies for their attempts to keep Trump in power.

The Jan. 6 committee contacted Guldbrandsen by email in March, five days after The Post reported on the Danish team’s findings, the filmmaker said. Subsequently, Sean P. Tonolli, a senior investigative counsel for the committee, asked him whether officials from the committee could view his footage in Denmark. As Guldbrandsen considered the request and worked to complete his film, Tonolli followed up by email several more times, most recently on June 14, according to copies reviewed by The Post.

In late March, Guldbrandsen said, a Danish police official contacted him to relay a request from the FBI for an informal discussion. Guldbrandsen agreed and a U.S. official stationed in Copenhagen visited his office on March 25. A video conference was set up for April 7 with FBI officials in Washington and Copenhagen and Jeffrey S. Nestler, an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington who is handling several Jan. 6 riot cases. Guldbrandsen was joined on the call by Michael Ulveman, a friend and media adviser who was previously an aide to former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The call lasted approximately 30 minutes, according to Ulveman, and the investigators expressed a particular interest in video footage the Danish team recorded in the Willard hotel in downtown Washington.

Guldbrandsen allowed Post reporters to view portions of their footage in Copenhagen last year. It included shots of Joshua James, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers, inside Stone’s suite and in the hotel lobby with Stone’s bodyguard during the hours before the riot, The Post previously reported. James has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy for storming the Capitol.

After The Post’s story was published in March, Stone insisted that James had not been in his suite. He claimed video clips featured in the story were “deep fakes” that had been manipulated and that Guldbrandsen was a Danish intelligence operative.

The Danish team also captured clear views of Stone’s iPhone screen that showed he messaged on an encrypted app with associates including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the far-right Proud Boys. Rhodes and Tarrio, together with multiple members of their groups, are also charged with seditious conspiracy over the Jan. 6 attack. Both deny the charges.

Stone did not allow the Danish filmmakers to record him during a 90-minute period at the height of the violence, The Post reported. An aide blocked a cameraman from entering Stone’s suite, claiming that he was napping.

Investigators also expressed interest during the April call in obtaining footage filmed by Guldbrandsen’s team in the two weeks after the attack, Guldbrandsen said. During that period, Stone lobbied for Trump to enact what he called the “Stone Plan” — a request for sweeping preemptive pardons to shield Stone, Republicans in Congress and the broader pro-Trump movement from prosecution for their efforts to overturn the election.

Guldbrandsen said he told the investigators that he believed there was “no smoking gun” in his footage. Nestler replied that typically in investigations there is no smoking gun, but rather smaller clues that become meaningful when pieced together, according to Guldbrandsen and Ulveman.

The filmmaker said that while he understood the importance of their inquiries, his priority was to protect the integrity and independence of his film, Ulveman recalled. “If there was a cooperation going on between him and FBI, it would taint the whole perception of the documentary,” Ulveman said.

Nestler emailed Guldbrandsen’s attorney on May 9 to reiterate the request for investigators to view the video footage and emailed again on June 7, according to copies reviewed by The Post. “We are willing to travel to Denmark to do so,” Nestler wrote.

The effort by federal investigators and the Jan. 6 committee to obtain unpublished material gathered by filmmakers and others in the media strikes at a perennial tension between authorities pursuing prosecutions and journalists who possess potential evidence.

The Post and many other news organizations have long-standing policies not to provide notes, recordings or other journalistic materials to law enforcement. Such policies are generally intended to preserve the independence of the press and to protect reporters and their sources from potential intrusion by government officials.

While the requests from investigators to Guldbrandsen have been voluntary, his attorney, Anders K. Németh, said they had made preparations in case law enforcement moved to seize the footage.

“Such a risk of use of force is a concern that Christoffer has had to live with for a while now, and obviously he has taken all the necessary precautions to make sure that any use of force will be fruitless if attempted,” Németh said in a statement.

Nick Quested, a veteran British filmmaker who was following members of the Proud Boys during the riot at the Capitol, was subpoenaed by the committee and the Justice Department, and gave video footage to both, according to court filings and statements by the committee. Quested also appeared as a witness at the committee’s first public hearing, giving dramatic testimony of what he saw on Jan. 6.

Quested declined to comment for this report.

Quested’s footage included shots of a Jan. 5 meeting in a Washington parking lot between Tarrio of the Proud Boys and Rhodes of the Oath Keepers. A freelance photographer who was also present for the meeting, Amy Harris, sued the committee to try to block a subpoena issued to Verizon for her cellphone records. Harris, of Lawrenceburg, Ind., alleged in her complaint that the records would identify Harris’s confidential sources and “would impermissibly intrude on her protected newsgathering activities.”

The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press and dozens of other media organizations, including The Post, urged the committee in a letter to withdraw the subpoena. Harris’s photography has been published by The Post, the New York Times and other national outlets. The committee is due to respond to Harris’s lawsuit by July 5. An attorney for Harris declined to comment.

Separately, British filmmaker Alex Holder turned over to the Jan. 6 committee footage that he recorded for a three-part documentary series covering Trump’s reelection campaign and the events of Jan. 6, he said in a June 21 statement. Holder said he handed over the footage, which included interviews with Trump and his family, in response to a subpoena from the committee. He also testified privately to the committee on Thursday.

An attorney for Holder, Russell Smith, said in an interview that Holder cooperated because he did not have confidential sources to protect, noting that Trump and other officials sat for on-camera interviews and that people at the Capitol on Jan. 6 were rioting in public.

“There was no duty or interest in protecting these people, and there was a compelling interest in providing the committee with possibly relevant information, so Alex felt it was his civic duty to come forward,” Smith said.

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