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January 6 committee investigating Capitol tour given by GOP lawmaker on the eve of the insurrection

By Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen, CNN

The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection said Thursday it has evidence that GOP Rep. Barry Loudermilk led a tour of the US Capitol complex the day before pro-Trump rioters stormed the building, according to a letter requesting the Republican lawmaker’s voluntary cooperation with their ongoing probe.

The letter notes the committee has reviewed evidence that “directly contradicts” previous claims by Republican lawmakers who said security footage from the days before January 6 shows “[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on” of the US Capitol complex.

The committee is now looking for more information from Loudermilk about the purpose of the tour he led of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021, and its participants.

“Based on our review of evidence in the Select Committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, wrote in the letter.

“The foregoing information raises questions to which the Select Committee must seek answers. Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021,” they added.

Loudermilk and GOP Rep. Rodney Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, issued a joint statement later Thursday responding to the committee’s letter again pushing back on any allegation of “reconnaissance” tours on January 5 and calling for Capitol Police to release the footage.

“A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or ‘reconnaissance tour.’ The family never entered the Capitol building,” they wrote.

The letter comes more than a year after some House Democrats accused Republicans of providing tours in the days leading up to January 6 to individuals who later stormed the Capitol.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, accused Republicans in the days after the insurrection of providing tours to people who then used the information they learned from their visit about the complex’s layout to aid in their attempt to interrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. But Sherrill didn’t name any Republicans.

Sherrill told a virtual town hall on January 12, 2021, that “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th for reconnaissance for the next day.” The congresswoman never provided specific details or named which member of Congress gave the tours — even after widespread criticism from Republicans, demanding she provide evidence to back up her claim.

Several Republican members denied providing any such tours, and it was Loudermilk who filed an ethics complaint last year against Sherrill and 33 other Democrats, accusing them of making allegations about Republican-led reconnaissance tours without any evidence.

“A Member of Congress accusing another Member of committing a crime, without evidence, is morally reprehensible and a stain on this institution,” Loudermilk wrote in the complaint. “No Republican Member of Congress led any kind of ‘reconnaissance’ tours through the Capitol, proven by security footage captured by the U.S. Capitol Police.”

“My Republican colleagues and I will not sit by while Democrats accuse their colleagues of treason for political gain. This type of conduct must not be tolerated,” he wrote, urging the House Ethics Committee to “take quick and decisive action to ensure this never happens again.”

A spokesperson for the House Ethics Committee declined to comment on the status of the Loudermilk ethics complaint.

In February, Davis also said a review of security footage from the Capitol complex prior to January 6, 2021 “does not support these repeated Democrat accusations about so-called ‘reconnaissance’ tours.”

“We have reviewed the security footage from the Capitol Complex during the relevant period preceding January 6, 2021, and we know it does not support these repeated Democrat accusations about so-called ‘reconnaissance’ tours. Regrettably, the truth has not stopped these Democrat allegations,” Davis wrote at the time.

While Democrats making the accusations have yet to provide additional evidence to back up the claims, they have also refused to back away from the accusation.

According the letter, the committee has obtained evidence that contradicts previous GOP denials that any tours took place in the days before January 6, 2021 — raising questions about the one given by Loudermilk and its purpose.

Loudermilk has not been among the most notable GOP lawmakers who have emerged as potential witnesses in the committee’s ongoing probe.

However, CNN previously reported that he was among the Republican lawmakers who texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on January 6.

“It’s really bad up here on the hill. They have breached the Capitol,” Loudermilk wrote to Meadows at the time.

“POTUS is engaging,” Meadows sent in response to Loudermilk.

“Thanks. This doesn’t help our cause,” Loudermilk replied.

This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

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