Video surveillance footage released on Wednesday by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection showed people in a Republican-led tour group taking photos of staircases, hallways, and tunnel entrances at the Capitol complex the day before the attack.
In a letter to Rep. Barry Loudermilk, the member of Congress who led the group through House office buildings on Jan. 5, 2021, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson wrote that the individuals were taking photos of areas "not typically of interest to tourists" while it was closed to the public. The committee is asking Loudermilk for a meeting to discuss the footage.
"The behavior of these individuals during the January 5, 2021 tour raises concerns about their activity and intent while inside the Capitol complex," Thompson said.
According to the committee, one of the individuals on the tour went on to make threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in a video he recorded while marching to the Capitol on the day of the riot.
"There's no escape Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler, we're coming for you," the unidentified man says in the video. "We're coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer — even you, AOC. We're coming to take you out."
The same man also recorded a video in which another person he refers to as "our fearless leader" shows the sharpened end of his flagpole and says that it's meant for "a certain person" before making a jabbing gesture.
It's unclear from Thompson's letter whether the man or any other individuals who participated in Loudermilk's tour ever entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. Loudermilk said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News that, to his knowledge, no one in his tour group has been criminally charged in connection to the attack.
But the footage sparked concerns among members of Congress, especially in light of previous allegations by Democrats that Republicans led "reconnaissance tours" of the Capitol grounds before the attack.
On Wednesday, other members of Congress and staff tweeted their alarm at the footage — and their skepticism that a group of tourists would have an interest in office building staircases.
Loudermilk has repeatedly denied leading a "reconnaissance tour." In his statement, the Georgia Republican cited a recent letter from US Capitol Police that there is no evidence he entered the Capitol building with the group and that officials did not consider the activities captured in the surveillance footage as "suspicious."
"This false narrative that the Committee and Democrats continue to push, that Republicans, including myself, led reconnaissance tours is verifiably false," Loudermilk said in the statement. "No where that I went with the visitors in the House Office Buildings on January 5th were breached on January 6th; and, to my knowledge, no one in that group was criminally charged in relation to January 6th.
Loudermilk derided the committee for "doubling down" on what he described as a "smear campaign." According to a spokesperson for his office, he has yet to directly receive either Wednesday's letter or the committee's initial request on May 19 that he meet with them.
Though Thompson did not expressly describe Loudermilk's tour as a "reconnaissance tour" in his letter, he wrote that the committee's review of the footage was "consistent" with reports that "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" ahead of the attack.
The committee is in the midst of a series of public hearings laying out the evidence they've collected in their investigation. Their next hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.