Stephen Colbert arguably is one of the loudest celebrity boosters of the January 6 select committee. For months, Colbert, a longtime lover of Democrats and hater of Donald Trump, has covered the events of January 6 on a nightly basis, often using the latest news out of the committee as grist for his opening monologue.
The CBS “Late Night” host recently told his audience that the January 6 hearings are a “must watch” event; in a preview interview on June 8, Colbert asked U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) what Americans could expect to learn from his latest anti-Trump operation, to which Schiff solemnly promised the public would find out “how close we came from losing our democracy.”
The day after former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s televised daytime performance, testimony Colbert claimed “shocked the world,” the once funny-man interviewed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who also sits on the committee. “When you try to overthrow the will of the people, and you try a coup in the United States government, you have to pay for that, period,” Kinzinger told Colbert’s cheering audience on June 30. He also accused his Republican colleagues of committing unspecified crimes. “They need to be shamed for it in the very least,” Kinzinger threatened.
Which was precisely what a team of Colbert’s employees had attempted to do a few weeks earlier. Nine members of Colbert’s production crew were arrested for unlawful entry on the evening of June 16 after Capitol Police received an emergency call about a disturbance at the Longworth House Office Building. Officers found the group lurking outside the office of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a Republican House member the Colbert show mocked in a lengthy skit the very next day, at around 8:30 p.m.
Reports confirmed the crew had been allowed into the building by a staffer for Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), a known antagonist of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), after they had been removed from the Cannon House Office Building hours earlier for attempting to enter the January 6 committee’s hearing room without authorization.
Although the crew was booked and released, Capitol Police in a statement said the Justice Department might consider additional charges.
Colbert, however, downplayed the behavior of his employeea. “This was first-degree puppetry. This was hijinks with intent to goof,” Colbert said on his June 22 show. He insisted his crew had proper permission to remain in the building, that everyone “remained calm,” and all had “passed security clearances.”
But after Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney handling the criminal cases of at least 850 Americans indicted for participating in the January 6 protests, announced his office dropped charges against Colbert’s crew a day before they were set to appear in a D.C. courtroom, a different story emerged.
In a letter sent this week to Reps. James Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Capitol Police described what the “Colbert Nine” did on June 15 and 16—and unsurprisingly, it does not match Colbert’s watered-down version of events.
Far from simply yucking it up with lawmakers or producing hilarity for the show, Colbert’s thugs instead were harassing Boebert and other Republican members of Congress after the building was officially closed for the night and were without a required congressional escort.
According to Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger, a Democratic staffer called the police’s emergency number when he heard a ruckus outside his office, which is next to Boebert’s. “He advised he could hear a man shouting outside his office—and banging on Rep. Boebert’s office door saying, ‘Do you remember me? Do you remember me? It’s me. We’re going to leave something under your door.’”
When police confronted the group, Jake Plunkett, a director for the show, told the officers that they were “credentialed staff.” Two other members of Colbert’s crew then arrived and confessed they had been “wandering around the Rayburn House Office Building” also without necessary credentials. Plunkett also disclosed that the crew was filming “comic skits” outside the offices of Jordan, Boebert, Greene, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The skits involved leaving pretend invitations to a “cocaine orgy,” a reference to a claim made by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) about what happens in Washington, D.C., under the doors of the offices.
So, to recap: Colbert’s thugs unlawfully entered not one but three Capitol buildings on June 16. Members of the group lied to law enforcement, defied police orders, attempted to obstruct an official proceeding of Congress, intended to harass and intimidate lawmakers, and frightened congressional staffers. As I explained here, those offenses are much worse than the overwhelming majority of charges leveled against January 6 protesters by the same office that not only dropped the sole count against the Colbert Nine but declined to bring additional charges.
Matthew Graves may get away with refusing to bring criminal accountability to Colbert’s crew, but House Republicans can bring some measure of public accountability. Capitol Police have turned over “the entire package of information—including all Department paperwork, defendants’ statements, [and] all relevant camera footage” related to the arrests to Jordan and Davis.
They now should do what the January 6 committee still refuses to do, which is provide the public a full, unvetted record of what happened during the June 16 incident at the Capitol complex. Roll the tape.