McCarthy, GOP pump brakes on release of Jan. 6 footage to Tucker Carlson

House Republicans are curbing the release of Jan. 6 surveillance footage they offered Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson and going on the offensive against Democrats who have spent the past week hitting the move.

Republican leaders stress that no clips are aired without a prior security clearance, and accuse Democrats of neglecting the same precautions during last year’s House investigation — a charge Democrats were quick to dismiss.

Carlson, Fox’s hugely popular conservative pundit, said last week that he would begin airing footage of the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots this week after spokesman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered to do so , which Carlson described as “unlimited” exclusive access to more than 40,000 hours of unreleased surveillance tapes as of earlier this month.

But McCarthy and other Republicans, after days of silence on the issue Tuesday, made it clear that no information would be released to Carlson’s team — let alone shared publicly — before the footage is reviewed to ensure it doesn’t compromise the security of the Capitol complex .

The spokesman said Republicans are working with U.S. Capitol Police to ensure that is the case.

“It’s a lot more hours of tape than we’ve ever been told. They said in the beginning it was about 14,000 hours. It’s roughly almost 42,000 hours. We’re working through this. We also work with the Capitol Police, so we make sure security is taken care of,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol.

“There are certain parts that he wanted to see,” McCarthy said of Carlson, but stressed that the Fox News host’s team specifically said they didn’t want to see any “exit routes.”

“She doesn’t care. They don’t want to show that,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy’s testimony was a shot at the Jan. 6 selection committee for airing footage showing then-Vice President Mike Pence exiting the Senate chamber after rioters stormed the Capitol to prevent Congress from trying to win the president’s election to confirm Biden.

The footage did not show Pence’s full route out of the Capitol, and members of the commission of inquiry said they made efforts to clear each video clip with Capitol Police leaders before they were broadcast.

“What we showed the public was video that we reviewed through the General Counsel and the Chief of Capitol Police,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the committee, which has been defunct since Jan. 6, told reporters Tuesday. “And under no circumstances have we delayed anything that we felt would violate any aspect of the security of this area.”

McCarthy, however, doubted the Democrats’ narrative and said members of the Capitol Police Force informed him directly that not all Jan. 6 selection panel footage was shown.

“Sometimes Capitol Police would tell me they didn’t consult with her on some of those routes either, so that’s concerning,” McCarthy said.

Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McCarthy said he expects the security footage to be released “as soon as possible” but would not “predetermine” the format of such release.

McCarthy told The Hill that he did not personally speak to Carlson about the Jan. 6 footage.

McCarthy also criticized the Jan. 6 selection committee for airing clips showing his staff being evacuated from his office wing.

“They went in and showed our office … because they have a camera in our office. They haven’t spoken to any of us about it,” said McCarthy, who did not cooperate with the Jan. 6 select committee after it issued a subpoena for his questioning.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) also raised concerns about the footage released by the selection committee on Jan. 6, noting that the daughter of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was preparing a documentary on a safe place where convention leaders were kept during the riot.

But Democrats are also pointing fingers and voicing their own doubts that Republicans are implementing strict safety protocols while sharing the footage with Carlson, who downplayed the Jan. 6 violence and promoted conspiracy theories about the insurgency orchestrated by Trump’s political opponents.

Thompson said his office requested — but did not receive — written procedures governing how the many hours of footage are released and then used.

“If they don’t have anything in writing…then I think it’s a bad idea,” Thompson said.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight, said his panel was still work through these procedures.

“We’re working to put together protocols, policies, procedures and timelines,” Loudermilk said.

While Carlson’s team has full access to the tens of thousands of hours of footage, Loudermilk said he will work with the Sergeant-at-Arms and Capitol Police to ensure that any copies of this footage given to Carlson do not pose a security risk.

“There was no release of tapes,” Loudermilk said. “It’s basically controlled access to watch tapes. Can’t pick up anything, can’t take anything. Then they’ll request specific clips that they need, and then we’ll make sure there’s nothing sensitive, nothing secret — you know, escape routes.

The heated debate over releasing the full Jan. 6 footage — and the appropriateness of giving Carlson exclusive access — comes as McCarthy struggles to solidify support from some Republicans who fear the new speaker will lack conservative credibility to take on Biden and the Washington “swamp”.

Some of those critics said McCarthy promised them during the hotly contested speaker election that in exchange for their support he would release the entire library of January 6 footage. Carlson himself also suggested that McCarthy should promise to release the tapes to earn support for the speakership.

McCarthy denied that claim on Tuesday. While he said in other comments and in a donation email that he “promised” to release the footage, he said it was a reference to a question at a press conference last month, not because of negotiations during the election speaker.

“I’m going through this right now,” he said on Tuesday.

It’s unclear if McCarthy’s most vocal Republican critics – whose backing he needs to pass legislation in a tightly divided House – will accept a more limited release of the footage.

Carlson, Fox’s most popular commentator, was among McCarthy’s most prominent, if not the most frequent right-wing critics. And McCarthy’s decision to exclusively share the Jan. 6 footage with Carlson has prompted allegations against the spokesperson is simply spoiled to the popular host to save his own political fur.

“The speaker says this is about public accountability and transparency. But that is completely belied by the fact that he gave it to an extreme figure in the media,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), the Democratic whip.

Carlson’s choice will come under additional scrutiny this week after revelations — made amid an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Fox News — that he was among network pundits angry that Fox had correctly called Arizona for Biden. Carlson expressed concern at the time that the accurate reporting would drive Fox viewers to other conservative outlets, which continued to report on Trump’s lies about a stolen election.

McCarthy defended the pick of Carlson on Tuesday, accusing the Jan. 6 select committee of leaking surveillance footage to outlets favored by Liberal viewers, including CNN and MSNBC.

“Have you ever had an exclusive? I see it all the time on your networks,” McCarthy told a group of reporters that included correspondents from CNN and MSNBC.

For the latest news, weather, sports and streaming video visit The Hill. McCarthy, GOP pump brakes on release of Jan. 6 footage to Tucker Carlson

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