It's early in his term, but so far, House Speaker Mike Johnson appears devoted to doing mostly what former Speaker Kevin McCarthy did, only worse. That trend continued on Friday with an apparent sop to the House's extremist right.
"Today, I am keeping my promise to the American people and making all the January 6th tapes available to ALL Americans," Johnson posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The announcement quickly roiled media waters. Just as when McCarthy provided then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to Capitol security tapes from the day of the insurrection, Friday’s video dump appears to have been done by House Republicans on their own.
Instead, a mere 90 hours of the 44,000 reported hours of Jan. 6 footage were posted online by House Administration Committee Republicans, and an unnamed "senior aide" told CBS News that the announcement was a surprise to Democrats.
Meanwhile, NBC News reporter Ryan J. Reilly observed that NBC "has had a request pending for two months now for specific videos from the night of Jan. 6 that may help determine who assaulted an officer who was found to have died in the line of duty," so he was "hoping to hear more" on the possible release of that footage.
When Johnson returned to X to clarify about an hour after his original tweet, his statement answered some questions but was vague on others.
When I ran for Speaker, I promised to make accessible to the American people the 44,000 hours of video from Capitol Hill security taken on January 6, 2021. Truth and transparency are critical. Today, we will begin immediately posting video on a public website and move as quickly as possible to add to the website nearly all of the footage, more than 40,000 hours. In the meantime, a public viewing room will ensure that every citizen can view every minute of the videos uncensored.
This decision will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations, and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials.
I commend Chairman Loudermilk and his team for their diligent work to ensure the thousands of hours of videos are promptly processed to be uploaded to the committee’s public website. Processing will involve blurring the faces of private citizens on the yet unreleased tapes to avoid any persons from being targeted for retaliation of any kind and segregating an estimated 5% of the videos that may involve sensitive security information related to the building architecture.
Johnson didn’t clarify what "as quickly as possible" means regarding a timeline. But the House Administration Committee said that public viewing of more footage would begin on Nov. 20, at “terminals” located in the subcommittee’s offices in Washington, D.C.
However, Johnson does explain how House Republicans will get around worries from insurrection apologists that releasing all Jan. 6 footage could have the unintended side effect of allowing citizen investigators to identify even more members of the violent pro-Trump crowd that entered the U.S. Capitol that day—the very effort that Reilly has himself been documenting. House Republicans intend to process every hour of the footage, "blurring the faces of private citizens," so as to make identification of individual rioters impossible.
And how will that “[p]rocessing” be done? Who on the committee’s staff will do it? What will it cost? With "sensitive security information related to the building architecture" set to be scrubbed, does that suggest that sensitive camera positions not related to "architecture" will be exposed? On whose decision?
Johnson appears to be engineering another House Republican clusterf--k, one in which House Republicans will spend an untold amount of federal money to "release the footage" while scrubbing it of any investigative significance. And they’re doing this all at the behest of Republican extremists who have tried to portray violent insurrectionists as heroes and political prisoners.
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