U.S. Capitol Police only learned from the media that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had provided access to security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot to television personality Tucker Carlson, and the police then were shown just one of about 40 clips before Carlson aired them earlier this month, the police department’s lawyer said in an affidavit Friday.
The police had asked House Republicans to let them review every clip that would be made public for security reasons, Capitol Police general counsel Thomas DiBiase said in the six-page declaration. But DiBiase said he only viewed a single clip.
McCarthy gave Carlson exclusive access to roughly 40,000 hours of video, something Carlson had suggested as a condition of his support for McCarthy’s long bid to win the speakership in January. Carlson has played down the deadly violence that occurred that day and claimed it was a “false flag” operation.
The police department did not learn about it until Feb. 20, two weeks before Carlson aired the footage on his March 6 and 7 programs.
On Feb. 28, McCarthy told reporters that he had been consulting with U.S. Capitol Police about the release of the footage. Carlson said on air that “before airing any of this video, we checked first with the Capitol Police. We’re happy to say their reservations were minor and for the most part, they were reasonable.”
That never happened, according to DiBiase’s declaration. A Capitol Police spokesperson also said after the footage aired that the department had repeatedly requested to review the clips and had not been able to.
At the Capitol on Friday, McCarthy said he had not read the police department’s court filing and he instead reiterated his past claims that House GOP officials worked with the Capitol Police to determine which video clips were sensitive to security issues and should not be made public.
“We asked the Capitol Police for any clips that would give them a problem, any area. They brought up one … so we fixed that,” he told reporters.
When the police first provided the security footage to the House Administration Committee, they were not told that anyone outside the committee would be reviewing the footage, DiBiase said.
DiBiase’s affidavit said people from Carlson’s show viewed footage while supervised by committee personnel before they were given any physical recordings. Even that is unusual, he indicated, saying that who can view footage is restricted by the police for security reasons and requests for clips are regularly denied, even in legal proceedings.
He did not say what the House committee’s response was to his requests to review the footage.
DiBiase said he had “numerous conversations” with the House committee asking to review the clips. The committee requested a list from DiBiase of cameras deemed to show sensitive security information, such as evacuation routes.
“I emphasized the Capitol Police’s desire to review every footage clip, whether it was on the Sensitive List or not, if it was going to be made public,” DiBiase wrote.
The only clip DiBiase saw was one that had been categorized as sensitive. DiBiase said it was “substantially similar” to a clip already publicly available, so he approved it. The other approximately 40 clips that he was not shown had not been labeled as sensitive.
Rioters who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 caused more than $2 million in damage to the building and grounds, while five people died as a result of the attack and a Government Accountability Office report last month said that 174 law enforcement officers were injured. DiBiase filed the affidavit as part of a case against two rioters, William Pope and Michael Pope. The brothers have been charged with obstruction of Congress, civil disorder, and trespassing and disorderly conduct, and have been seeking wider access to video of the riot, as have some defense attorneys who watched the Carlson show.
Prosecutors responded in the Pope case, and in the Proud Boys trial earlier this week, that they have released all relevant video to all defendants. William Pope is attempting to show that government agents provoked the Jan. 6 riot, but prosecutors argue that in his frequent television appearances he has misstated the evidence he’s already been given. “He does not want it for a trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly E. Moran wrote. “He wants it for publicity.”
Former speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Friday, “I think that it was wrong for that to be released, and if you’re gonna release it, to release it to one platform, it doesn’t make any sense.” She said that any clips released by the House Jan. 6 committee or the 2021 impeachment managers were reviewed by Capitol Police ahead of time.
“Nothing that anybody ever [releases] out, isn’t reviewed for security purposes,” Pelosi said. “They should’ve asked their permission to do it.”
Mark Bednar, a spokesperson for McCarthy, issued a statement later Friday, claiming that House staff “worked with the Capitol Police ahead of time to identify any security-sensitive footage and made sure it wasn’t released.”
“In subsequent conversations, the USCP General Counsel confirmed that the department concluded there are no security concerns with what was released,” Bednar wrote.
Bednar pointed out that DiBiase mentioned in a footnote to his declaration that during Trump’s second impeachment trial, lawmakers played 15 clips, including some deemed sensitive, from Capitol Police cameras without showing Capitol Police beforehand.
On his program, Carlson aired selectively edited security footage from that day and called it a mostly peaceful event. Critics say he twisted information into a false narrative. His program was denounced by some congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, but McCarthy defended his decision to give Carlson the footage.
A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.