The federal government has kept hidden away thousands of hours of surveillance camera footage from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot of 2021 and instead has released only select snippets of video that fit the broader narrative or aided in the prosecution of specific individuals.
That may soon change as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has reportedly agreed to release all or most of that surveillance camera footage in the interest of transparency with the American people, according to the Conservative Brief.
The agreement to release the estimated 14,000 hours of footage is said to have been reached during the behind-the-scenes negotiations between McCarthy’s team and the roughly 20 Republican holdouts to his speakership bid, which included Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
Jan. 6 Capitol riot footage to be released
“Speaker McCarthy says he’ll be releasing ALL the footage from January 6th,” Rep. Boebert tweeted on Jan. 14. “Considering all the public has seen are edited clips from a bunch of Democrats with an axe to grind, it sure will be nice to get some unbiased footage.”
Indeed, just two days prior to that, Speaker McCarthy had signaled his intent to release the footage during a press conference with reporters in which he accused his predecessor, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), of having purposefully “politicized” the congressional investigation of the unrest at the Capitol building in 2021.
“We watched the politicization of this, I think the American people should see what happened instead of a report that was written on a political basis,” McCarthy said of the unreleased footage. “I want to be very thoughtful about it, but yes, I’m engaged to do that.”
Footage could reveal “exculpatory evidence” for charged individuals
Rep. Gaetz, in a Jan. 13 tweet, wrote, “The American people deserve to know the truth about what happened on January 6th. We have demanded to see all the footage. Transparency is coming.”
That tweet included a video clip from the congressman’s interview that evening with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in which Gaetz praised McCarthy for agreeing to release the footage that has been kept hidden for the past two years.
“When we get this 14,000 hours out, we’re going to be able to see the extent to which the federal agents and assets that were present that day may or may not have increased the level of criminal acuity,” the Florida Republican explained. “We’re going to be able to see their coordination with one another.”
Gaetz also suggested the footage could reveal “exculpatory evidence” that shows certain individuals charged with various crimes may have “technically” been in violation but otherwise had no actual criminal acts or intent to warrant prosecution.
“It is interesting, though, that every time — from the JFK files to 9/11 to now January 6th — it’s our own government, our own Department of Justice, that seems to stand in the way of transparency,” he said, and later added that the footage was likely kept secret to protect federal assets. “Usually when the Department of Justice is standing in the way of disclosure, it is because they are trying to protect against embarrassment, not protect our safety.”
Feds “don’t want to expose the extent” of assets involved
Just a couple of days later, Rep. Gaetz addressed the topic again in a surprisingly serious interview with CNN host Michael Smerconish, in which the congressman reiterated the likelihood that “exculpatory evidence” exonerating otherwise innocent charged individuals, as well as the actions and movements of known “federal assets” in the crowd, would be seen in the heretofore hidden footage.
Asked about the warnings that releasing such footage could endanger national security, Gaetz downplayed that concern by noting that “nearly every square inch” of the Capitol is covered by surveillance cameras and dismissed it as a “red herring” intended to distract the public.
“I think it is an argument made by the Department of Justice because they don’t want to expose the extent to which there might have been federal assets or agents enhancing criminal acuity,” he added. “We don’t know that — that’s why we want to see the footage. But I think we’ll all be safe and sound, even following the release of that information.”