Sen. Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, was the one who initiated it.
"If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that." —House Speaker Nancy Pelosi"Ok, I will start," Schatz tweeted Friday evening. "I didn't give any Capitol tours to anyone last week."
Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were among the many other Democrats in Congress who followed:
— Grace Meng (@Grace4NY) January 16, 2021
Me too, I didn’t give any Capitol tours to anyone last week. https://t.co/044N61afFe
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 16, 2021
The call and response by these congressional Democrats relate to worrying allegations that some Republican members of Congress—and/or their staffers—gave guided tours through the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, January 5 to outside people just one day before violent pro-Trump supporters stormed the building to upend or overturn the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 victory.
As the Washington Post reported Friday, the most specific claim of possible GOP lawmaker links to the insurrectionist mob "came from Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), who said in a Facebook Live broadcast Tuesday that she saw another member of the House giving a 'reconnaissance' tour of the Capitol to groups one day before the Jan. 6 attempted insurrection that left one police officer and four rioters dead."
That claim, bolstered by other members who say they witnessed something similar, prompted calls this week for an official probe into the matter. In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said the accusations of guided tours by lawmakers or their staff the day before the insurrectionist effort "is all going to be considered" in a probe that is now underway, "including anybody that may have been on the inside, including members of Congress."
In her response to Schatz on Friday night, Meng pointed to the guidance given to congressional offices stating that both the Capitol building and the Congressional Visitor Center were "closed to all tours, including Member-led, staff-led, and public tours" due to safety concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among the many other Democrats who chimed in on the subject, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she was positive that she gave no tours but then asked who among her Republican colleagues in either the House or Senate could—or would—say the same:
I can say with 100% confidence I didn’t give any Capitol tours to anyone last week.
Any Republicans out there who want to join us in answering this question? https://t.co/gtGODzjuWX
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 16, 2021
In a blog posted to Medium overnight, former House staffer Aaron Huertas said the idea that Republican members would have offered pro-Trump factions guided tours as part of an insurrectionist plot is a "startling accusation," and one that "coincides with reports that some of the members of the right-wing mob that attacked the Capitol were tightly coordinated and had inside knowledge about where members of Congress and their offices were located."
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In a news conference Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she takes the possibility that outside rioters or plotters had any inside help extremely seriously.
"In order to serve here with each other, we must trust that people have respect for their oath of office, respect for this institution," Pelosi said. "If, in fact, it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecution for that."
With members of Congress so far reluctant—or unable—to point fingers directly at other colleagues who may have conducted such tours, Huertas writes that one obvious way to find out which members may have hosted visitors is simply to ask them.
"While offices that conducted these tours might not want to admit it, we can ask offices that *didn't* conduct these tours to publicly acknowledge that fact," he wrote. "By process of elimination, we can identify the offices that may have been coordinating with insurrectionists."
According to Huertas:
So far, the primary offices suspected of coordinating with right wing insurrectionists are Republicans Mo Brooks (Ala.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), and Andy Biggs (Ariz.).
Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Lauren Boebert (Col.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) have also been vocally supportive of Trump’s election lies. Ultimately, 147 members of Congress voted to challenge election results in states Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won. And even Republicans who refrained from joining these efforts have routinely repeated lies about election fraud.
Clearly, they should all be held accountable. But prioritizing the members who directly aided the insurrectionists is the first order of business, not just for justice, but for everyone's immediate safety.
In order to help with the effort, Huertas created this online public tracker to tally which lawmakers have and have not gone on the record about whether their offices conducted tours.
Witnesses say members of Congress approved Capitol tours, possibly for right wing insurrectionists, just before 1/6.
But who did it? We can use process of elimination. So far, 8 offices have confirmed they did not conduct *any* tours.
Let's keep going.https://t.co/iACmv50Rwr
— Aaron Huertas (@aaronhuertas) January 16, 2021
Among those Republicans who have been suggested to be involved is freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a lawmaker who landed in Washington, D.C. this month with a splash as she bragged about her intentions to carry her Glock handgun on Capitol Hill and has closely aligned herself with those falsely claiming—despite all evidence and reality—that the election was stolen from President Donald Trump. This week, Boebert denied any involvement in assisting the pro-Trump mob and said that she's been receiving death threats due to the suggestion that she had anything to do with what occurred on January 6.
"I did not conspire with criminals that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6," she wrote in a Thursday letter to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who she accused of insinuating that she was involved during a television interview earlier in the week. "I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group or 'insurrectionists.'"
For his part, Maloney rejects Boebert's accusation, though he offered the far-right Republican little quarter. "Um, I've never said your name in public, Rep. Boebert. Never. Not once," Maloney tweeted Thursday night. "(If you're going to be a gun nut, you probably shouldn't go off half-cocked.) I'll tweet the transcript so you can see … but that might be like 'a fact', so might not help you."
With no Congress members—either Democrat or Republican—yet to come forth and admit hosting tours, Capitol Hill Police on Friday confirmed they were conducting an official probe into the allegations.
"It's under investigation," Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, told NBC News.