House Speaker Mike Johnson announced on Friday plans to release more than 40,000 hours of security footage taken during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, pleasing former president Donald Trump and far-right members of the Republican Party and infuriating some Democrats, who charge that the footage poses a security risk.
“Truth and transparency are critical,” Johnson said in a statement. “This decision will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations, and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials.”
On Friday, roughly 90 hours of security video was posted to the website of the House Administration Committee, which oversees and processes the January 6 footage. Johnson added that a viewing room within the Capitol complex will be made available to members of the public.
The push to make January 6 footage publicly available has been led by some of the most far-right Republican members of Congress, including Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Texas Congressman Chip Roy. Trump, slated to stand trial in March on federal charges related to his attempt to overturn the election, applauded Johnson’s decision.
“Congratulations to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson for having the Courage and Fortitude to release all of the J6 Tapes, which will explicitly reveal what really happened on January 6th!” Trump posted on Truth Social.
The GOP-led Administration Committee handling the footage is chaired by Georgia Representative Barry Loudermilk, who in March launched an investigation into the House Select Committee that investigated the January 6 attack and urged criminal referrals against the former president. As part of its work, the bipartisan congressional committee investigated Loudermilk for a tour of the Capitol he gave to constituents the day before the attack.
“The goal of our investigation has been to provide the American people with transparency on what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and this includes all official video from that day,” Loudermilk said in a statement Friday. “We will continue loading video footage as we conduct our investigation and continue to review footage. As I’ve said all along — the American people deserve transparency, accountability, and real answers supported by facts instead [of] a predetermined political narrative.”
Democrats quickly slammed the decision as posing a serious security risk. “It is unconscionable that one of Speaker Johnson’s first official acts as steward of the institution is to endanger his colleagues, staff, visitors, and our country by allowing virtually unfettered access to sensitive Capitol security footage,” ranking Democratic member of the Administration Committee Joseph Morelle said Friday. “That he is doing so over the strenuous objections of the security professionals within the Capitol Police is outrageous. This is not transparency, this is dangerous and irresponsible.”
Hannah Muldavin, a former spokesperson for the January 6 committee, told Roll Call that the release poses a “serious security concern and shows that [Speaker Johnson’s] allegiance, like Kevin McCarthy’s before him, is to Donald Trump and the ultra-right-wing faction of the House.” Muldavin added that Johnson had not only voted against certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory but also led “the legal campaign to overturn it.”
Johnson confirmed that the videos would blur the faces of private citizens to “avoid any persons from being targeted for retaliation of any kind.” He also estimated that 5% of the videos, which “may involve sensitive security information related to the building architecture,” would not be available.
The footage, which shows how the January 6 rioters breached and entered the Capitol, has long been a point of controversy, with Democrats worried that the recordings could be used to jeopardize Capitol security or mislead the public about the events of January 6. In February, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted exclusive access to the footage to former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who used it to downplay the severity of the attack.
At the time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described Carlson’s use of the footage as “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on television.”