According to the results of a Rasmussen poll released Thursday morning, 80 percent of likely voters believe it’s “very” or “somewhat” important for unseen portions of the massive trove to be viewed by the American people. That figure cuts across party lines: 78 percent of Democrats, 86 percent of Republicans, and 75 percent of independent voters concur with House Republicans’ arguments that the recordings should be made public.
Last month, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to thousands of hours of surveillance video captured by Capitol security cameras throughout the Capitol campus on January 6. Capitol police, which technically owns the footage, claimed in a March 2021 court filing that 14,000 hours of video archived from the hours of noon and 8:00 p.m. had been turned over to the FBI for its sprawling investigation. Carlson announced his team had access to roughly 44,000 hours, presumably covering the entire 24-hour period.
Capitol police and the Department of Justice insist the recordings are “highly sensitive” government material; clips used as evidence against January 6 defendants have been under tight protective orders for two years.
The footage, however, has been shared with numerous parties including the House impeachment committee, January 6 select committee, and entertainment companies such as HBO.
Americans also suspect that federal agencies played an animating role in what happened on January 6. Sixty-one percent believe that “undercover government agents helped provoke the Capitol riot.” Seventy percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats and independents think it’s “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that informants or undercover operatives were involved. Court filings and news reporting confirm multiple FBI informants were embedded in so-called “militia” groups months before January 6. A defense attorney in the seditious conspiracy trial of the Proud Boys suggested last month that up to 15 informants were tasked to the group—a figure almost commensurate with the number of Proud Boy criminal defendants.
And after spending nearly $20 million and monopolizing the media’s attention for nearly two years, the January 6 select committee did not impress the American people. Less than half describe the committee’s work as “excellent” or “good” while 38 percent rate it as “poor.”
Committee members are expressing outrage that Carlson will begin airing part of the secret footage by claiming the release will endanger national security. “If Speaker McCarthy has indeed granted Tucker Carlson—a Fox host who routinely spreads misinformation and Putin’s poisonous propaganda—and his producers access to this sensitive footage, he owes the American people an explanation of why he has done so and what steps he has taken to address the significant security concerns at stake,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the now-defunct committee, said in a statement.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who served on both the impeachment and select committee, warned the effort would benefit America’s enemies. “[This] really is out of Putin’s playbook,” Raskin said during an MSNBC interview in February.
But Thompson and Raskin showed no similar concerns when the committee played multiple clips of Capitol security footage—that included a description of the camera’s location—during nightly, televised hearings that reached an international audience.
It’s unclear when Carlson will air the first set of clips; producers reportedly are now carefully combing through the extensive collection. House Republicans also want to make the video available to defense counsel representing January 6 defendants. Defense attorney Joseph McBride filed a motion in court this week asking the judge to delay the trial of Ryan Nichols, accused of several serious offenses, based on the availability of new evidence. “The Federal Government is the creator of the circumstance we now face. January-Sixth Defendants have universally demanded all available discovery for the past two years,” McBride wrote in a February 27 filing. “Defendant and January-Sixth Defendants have been repeatedly denied for the past two years. The revelation of this newly discovered evidence and the process one must go through to access it has now been thrust upon the Defendant and this Honorable Court.”