As Congress debated the second impeachment of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., demanded an immediate investigation into colleagues she said led people through the Capitol on Jan. 5 in what she termed a “reconnaissance for the next day,” when insurrectionists took part in a deadly siege on the legislative branch.
Her request was directed by letter to the acting House sergeant at arms, acting Senate sergeant at arms and United States Capitol Police, citing “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, the day before the attacks on the Capitol.”
“The tours being conducted on Tuesday, January 5, were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol,” Sherrill wrote. “These tours were so concerning that they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms on January 5.”
The letter was signed by fellow Democrats including New Jersey Reps. Frank Pallone, Tom Malinowski, Bill Pascrell Jr., Donald M. Payne Jr., Albio Sires and Josh Gottheimer.
“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,” reads the letter. “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.”
Sherrill’s letter comes after Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a former U.S. Army captain, last week requested a wide-ranging investigation — that includes reviewing actions of congressional colleagues — by Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who leads the Government Accountability Office.
In a letter co-signed by 107 House Democrats, Crow asked the agency to review the “impact of rhetoric by government and elected officials that contributed to or led to the insurrection” as well as “efforts by government and/or elected officials to limit preparation, coordination, or response, particularly regarding the use of force and arrests.”
Crow said members of Congress found to have been involved in the attack should be expelled from Congress, prohibited from holding elected office again and prosecuted criminally.
“If you’re involved in what was an insurrection, a criminal attack on the United States Capitol, to try to derail our democracy, you should be subject to criminal prosecution,” Crow said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC.
Chuck Young, a spokesman at the Government Accountability Office, confirmed the agency received Crow’s request but said it has not launched an investigation yet. “It still needs to go through our formal review process before decisions are made,” he said in an email, noting that the GAO does not usually duplicate efforts by other investigators.
The office of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said law enforcement agencies are reviewing why “panic buttons” were removed from her congressional office before the riot. Aides discovered the buttons were gone, the Boston Globe first reported, while they were taking cover and pulling out gas masks during the attack.
“Our staff has used these devices before and they are regularly tested and maintained,” Ricardo Sanchez, Pressley’s press secretary, said in a statement. “The matter has been raised with the relevant agencies and is currently under investigation.”
Weeks before the riot, right-wing activist Ali Alexander, who organized “Stop the Steal” rallies around the country, said three Republican lawmakers – Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama – helped him plan and “schemed up” the Washington rally.
“We’re working with members of Congress while other people are trying to showboat,” Alexander said in a Dec. 21 video that went viral, according to the Arizona Republic.