Which Members of Congress Were Giving Capitol Tours to Right Wing Attackers? Ask the Ones Who Weren’t

Several days after the startling attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor, alleged that members of Congress “had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day.”

Within days, more than 30 other members of Congress joined Sherrill in calling on the Capitol Police and the Senate and House sergeants-at-arms to investigate. They wrote:

Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5. This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic.

This is a startling allegation and it 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.

But members have resisted accusing specific colleagues of having conducted these tours.

So how can we find out who was conducting them?

Well, we can ask. 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. By process of elimination, we can identify the offices that may have been coordinating with insurrectionists.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) kicked off such an effort on Twitter. He was quickly echoed by 7 House Democrats. (Update: We’re up to 3 Senators and 15 House members. See a public tracker here.)

That’s 18 members of Congress accounted for out of 435 House members and 100 Senators. Activist groups and media outlets could quickly extend these inquiries to other House and Senate offices.

A decade ago, WNYC’s On The Media and the Government Accountability Project used a similar system to identify which Senate offices were placing secret “holds” on legislation.

So far, the primary offices suspected of coordinating with right wing insurrectionists are Republicans Mo Brooks (AL), Paul Gosar (AZ) and Andy Biggs (AZ).

Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Lauren Boebert (CO), Matt Gaetz (FL) 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.

Democracy is pretty cool. We should try it some time. Voting rights, science policy, political communication and grassroots activism.

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