Much of the group’s conduct has flown under the radar but members started to make more noise roughly two weeks after the Jan. 6 committee sent its initial request to McCarthy asking for his cooperation with the probe.
On Jan. 24, Politico ran a report detailing how the U.S. Capitol Police force’s intelligence division had begun to implement a new review process for public information belonging to members, their visitors, staff, and even donors.
The new review process was handed down by the police department’s intelligence head, Julie Farnam.
Where once Capitol Police only compiled reports that assessed lawmaker logistics for congressional events and meetings on and off-campus, Farnam implemented new criteria.
In light of the assault on the Capitol and recommendations from the Defense Department to Congress that security measures be tightened up, Farnham ordered USCP department analysts to begin reviewing the background of those who come to visit lawmakers, including scans of their social media feeds.
Causing much consternation among Republicans on the shadow committee as well was Farnham’s directive ordering analysts to “search for information about lawmakers’ opponents and their opponents’ supporters… to see if they or their followers intend to attend or disrupt” an event.
Leadership for U.S. Capitol Police has defended the new practice, saying it was on par with normal protocols to protect members of congress.
“Just like journalists,” the agency said, “we do research with public information.”
Rep. Kelly Armstrong told Politico on Jan. 24 it was a “very, very bad practice” and that it sounded “dangerously close—if not already over the line—to spying on members of Congress, their staff, their constituents, and their supporters.”
Armstrong then went on to demand that anyone involved in the public record surveillance practices be fired immediately.
Then, in an interview this past Sunday with Axios, Rep. Jim Banks didn’t parse words either, explaining that the shadow group would produce a report by this fall—just in time for midterms—that would lay responsibility squarely on the police for preparedness issues on Jan. 6.
The pressure on USCP from the shadow committee only kept ratcheting up when on Tuesday member Troy Nehls took to Twitter to accuse the agency, point blank, of illegally spying on him.
Full details about Nehls’s accusations are here, but in short, the lawmaker claimed an officer entered his suite in the Capitol around Thanksgiving last year and took pictures of sensitive draft legislation.
Nehls also claimed he was being targeted by police because of his outspokenness and opposition to the official Jan. 6 probe, his support of former President Donald Trump, and his defense of Ashli Babbitt, the U.S. Air Force veteran who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 and was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer.
USCP Chief Tom Manger responded to Nehls promptly, saying the lawmaker left had his office door wide open. Per protocol, a uniformed officer went inside, assessed any possible threats or theft, and took pictures of the room to later share with the lawmaker’s office.
Manger also addressed Nehls’ claim he is being targeted—he is not—and an investigation into the incident was resolved satisfactorily.
The USCP officer, Manger revealed, became especially concerned after entering Nehls’ office only to see the word “body armor” scrawled on a large whiteboard.
Nehls said the word was a reference to legislation he is crafting intended to improve gear for officers. A large X that the same USCP officer also saw on a map of the Rayburn building in Nehls’ office was innocuous, too, according to Nehls.
Nehls said it was a place marker for staff to locate an ice machine.
Nehls has been an adamant defender of Trump’s and just this week told Newsweek that Jan. 6 was a “law enforcement failure” and a “complete failure of security.”
He has also blasted the Jan. 6 committee as a witch hunt hellbent on trying to make Republicans ‘look like we’re absolutely crazy” instead of figuring out why cops were not ready for the assault.
As Newsweek noted in an interview Thursday with Nehls, when the former Texas sheriff first came to Congress, he was on the job just three days when the insurrection occurred. He said at the time: “I would never accuse the rank and file, they need an apology.”
A 127-page bipartisan report issued last year by the U.S. Senate about security and intelligence failures surrounding Jan. deemed both federal agencies as well as Capitol Police to blame.
Top intelligence agencies did not give adequate warning to law enforcement before the Capitol assault, the report found, and another memo from the FBI dated Jan. 5, 2021 warning people of a brewing “war” in Washington was never delivered to the senior officials in charge at USCP.
Information that USCP had among its intelligence division had been collecting since at least mid-December and online chatter about the impending “wild” rally in Washington was pervasive.
At the time, the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee said the failure to adequately assess the threat of violence looming over Washington that day “contributed significantly” to the Capitol breach.
It took more than three months for the Senate to complete; Capitol Police responded on a relatively even-keel, saying it agreed improvements must be made to beef up intelligence-sharing between agencies—but it insisted that there was no way the USCP or others could have anticipated what they ultimately endured on Jan. 6.
Reps. Nehls and Davis told Axios that their report would be different because it would include “never-before-seen” information.
Notably, the shadow committee does not have subpoena power and it has been limited to conducting interviews on a voluntary basis. Axios reported that most of the shadow committee’s sources are members of the Capitol Police force.
A meeting will be held next week by the House Administration Committee with U.S. Capitol Police inspector General Michael Bolton. Bolton is expected to produce his final report on the Capitol attack at that time.
None of the shadow committee members returned a request for comment on Thursday.
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