By Tom Ozimek
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is calling for the Jan. 6 Committee to be investigated after House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) announced the release of 40,000 hours of video from the Jan. 6 Capitol incident, with the Utah Republican accusing the panel of intentionally hiding the footage that could provide exculpatory evidence for some Jan. 6 prisoners.
Mr. Johnson made waves online and elsewhere when he announced on Friday that previously undisclosed Jan. 6 Capitol Police security video footage would be made public starting immediately and ramping up in coming months. Roughly 90 hours have already been released, with more expected to come on Monday.
The footage shows the Capitol premises during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when protesters upset by what they saw as a stolen 2020 presidential election made their way into the Capitol, some after battling with police.
However, some of the footage shows people casually walking beside police officers, who appear indifferent and let them saunter along.
A number of conservatives reacted to the new footage by suggesting in posts on X that the newly released tapes could have an impact on the cases of some Jan. 6 defendants.
“If January 6th was an insurrection, why were people allowed to leave like the Capitol was a movie theater?” Eric Abbenante, a filmmaker and documentarian, wrote in a post on X.
“Clearly confirms what we’ve said since January 6th: The J6 tapes would have exonerated every person charged, and this is why the tapes weren’t released,” he added.
As shock waves from the newly released tapes spread through online posts and commentary, Mr. Lee added his voice of concern, taking the now-defunct Jan. 6 Committee into his crosshairs.
Mr. Lee said in a series of posts that an investigation should be launched into the panel’s work, while suggesting its members may have “deliberately lost or destroyed” some footage from that day’s events.
In one message, Mr. Lee quoted a post by Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, who shared some of the newly released security footage showing police and protesters standing around casually, with Mr. Kirk commenting, “and just like that, the J6 Committee’s violent insurrection narrative has crumbled.”
Mr. Lee reacted to the post by asking “why didn’t Liz Cheney and Adam Kizinger ever refer to any of these tapes? Maybe they never looked for them. Maybe they never even questioned their own narrative,” referring to former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and former Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), two key figures on the Jan. 6 committee.
“We need to investigate the J6 committee,” Mr. Lee wrote in another post.
For her part, Ms. Cheney took to X to share a clip of previously available footage that is a compilation of violent interactions between Jan. 6 protesters and police.
“Here’s some January 6th video for you,” she wrote.
Mr. Kinzinger took to X to post a screengrab from the security footage appearing to show Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) running.
“Here is @HawleyMO not running from not violent attackers during the not insurrection,” Mr. Kinzinger wrote.
Ms. Cheney’s post drew a critical reaction from Mr. Lee, who remarked: “Liz, we’ve seen footage like that a million times. You made sure we saw that—and nothing else. It’s the other stuff—what you deliberately hid from us—that we find so upsetting.”
“Nice try,” he added.
Mr. Lee also shared a clip released Friday showing an officer at the Capitol on Jan. 6 appearing to uncuff and release a protester, who could be seen giving a fist bump to what seemed to be another officer standing nearby.
“I walk through those doors every day—several times a day,” Mr. Lee commented on the footage. “I’ve never seen this happen.”
Much of the conservative commentary on the Jan. 6 tapes amounted to expressions of the view that the events of that day were, on the whole, less violent than the Jan. 6 Committee, and others, had made them out to be.
“This is going to rock the j6 trials,” wrote commentator Tim Pool in a post on X, while sharing footage showing people walking out of the Capitol unimpeded by police officers, who are seen standing idly by.
In another post, Mr. Pool shared a video showing Capitol Police officers opening doors for protesters and ushering them through like they were part of a tour of the building.
“The police led large groups of tourists into the building, cleared the way, opened doors, and gave directions,” he wrote. “These people were tricked by the USCP and now the Democrats are using their Big Lie to try to remove Trump.”
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump praised the release of the tapes by Mr. Johnson, who the former president said showed “courage and fortitude” in bringing about the disclosure of the new footage.
“Congratulations to Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson for having the Courage and Fortitude to release all of the J6 Tapes, which will explicitly reveal what really happened on January 6th!” Trump wrote in a Friday post on Truth Social.
The Jan. 6 Committee was disbanded in January this year, shortly after it released an 814-page report (pdf), which came days after the panel released an executive summary (pdf) and targeted President Trump by voting to refer him to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider at least four criminal charges, including obstruction and insurrection.