New Jersey congresswoman demands investigation into colleagues' 'reconnaissance' tours of Capitol




  • In Business
  • 2021-01-14 00:54:42Z
  • By USA TODAY

As Congress debated the second impeachment of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., demanded an immediate investigation into colleagues she said led people through the Capitol on Jan. 5 in what she termed a "reconnaissance for the next day," when insurrectionists took part in a deadly siege on the legislative branch.

Her request was directed by letter to the acting House sergeant at arms, acting Senate sergeant at arms and United States Capitol Police, citing "suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, the day before the attacks on the Capitol."

In this excerpt from a live social media video, Rep.
In this excerpt from a live social media video, Rep.  

"The tours being conducted on Tuesday, January 5, were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol," Sherrill wrote. "These tours were so concerning that they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms on January 5."

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The letter was signed by fellow Democrats including New Jersey Reps. Frank Pallone, Tom Malinowski, Bill Pascrell Jr., Donald M. Payne Jr., Albio Sires and Josh Gottheimer.

"Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5," reads the letter. "This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic."

More questions raised about GOP lawmakers' coordination with rioters

Sherrill's letter comes after Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a former U.S. Army captain, last week requested a wide-ranging investigation - that includes reviewing actions of congressional colleagues - by Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who leads the Government Accountability Office.

In a letter co-signed by 107 House Democrats, Crow asked the agency to review the "impact of rhetoric by government and elected officials that contributed to or led to the insurrection" as well as "efforts by government and/or elected officials to limit preparation, coordination, or response, particularly regarding the use of force and arrests."

Crow said members of Congress found to have been involved in the attack should be expelled from Congress, prohibited from holding elected office again and prosecuted criminally.

"If you're involved in what was an insurrection, a criminal attack on the United States Capitol, to try to derail our democracy, you should be subject to criminal prosecution," Crow said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.

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Chuck Young, a spokesman at the Government Accountability Office, confirmed the agency received Crow's request but said it has not launched an investigation yet. "It still needs to go through our formal review process before decisions are made," he said in an email, noting that the GAO does not usually duplicate efforts by other investigators.

The office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said law enforcement agencies are reviewing why "panic buttons" were removed from her congressional office before the riot. Aides discovered the buttons were gone, the Boston Globe first reported, while they were taking cover and pulling out gas masks during the attack.

"Our staff has used these devices before and they are regularly tested and maintained," Ricardo Sanchez, Pressley's press secretary, said in a statement. "The matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation."

More: New videos emerge tying Andy Biggs to 'Stop the Steal,' but he's pointing to antifa

Weeks before the riot, right-wing activist Ali Alexander, who organized "Stop the Steal" rallies around the country, said three Republican lawmakers - Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama - helped him plan and "schemed up" the Washington rally.

"We're working with members of Congress while other people are trying to showboat," Alexander said in a Dec. 21 video that went viral, according to the Arizona Republic.

Biggs denied any role in cheerleading for the "Stop the Steal" movement and said allegations he helped organize the Capitol protest were "whoppers."

"It just didn't happen," he said while making the rounds on Arizona's conservative talk radio programs.

White House officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether they have been contacted by any investigators looking into how the riot was planned.

Sherrill's letter says she and others observed "visitors encountered by some of the members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day."

"That group left the White House and marched to the Capitol with the objective of preventing Congress from certifying our election," the letter states. "Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex. The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious. Given the events of January 6, the ties between these groups inside the Capitol Complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated."

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During a Webcast on Tuesday, Sherrill said some of her colleagues "abetted" the president's attempt to overturn the results of the election and undermine democracy by inciting a violent mob.

"I'm going to see they are held accountable and, if necessary, ensure that they don't serve in Congress," she said.

Sherrill said she intended to support an article of impeachment against Trump for "incitement of insurrection." Trump was expected Wednesday to be impeached for the second time.

Gov. Phil Murphy echoed Sherrill, saying he "heard this from two other members with similar stories."

"If it's proven that there were members of the House of Representatives who were showing around folks who the next day were part of an insurrection, I'm going to practice law without a license: that's treason," Murphy said. "And the consequences of that, as you know, are great."

Sherrill's letter asked investigators to look into specific issues including:

  • Are logbooks of Capitol Complex visitors inspected regularly and collected in any type of database?

  • Have any additional law enforcement agencies requested access to these logs?

  • Are there video logs of the day in question?

  • Is facial recognition software used for visitors entering the complex?

  • Are any of the individuals recorded in the Capitol complex on January 5 being investigated for their role in the insurrection the following day?

The complete letter is below:

Staff writers Joey Garrison and Brett Murphy contributed to this report. Information from the Arizona Republic was used in this reportWilliam Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: wwesthoven@dailyrecord.com Twitter: @wwesthoven

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Mikie Sherrill demands probe into Capitol 'reconnaissance' tours

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