The jury trial of Richard Barnett, the man famously photographed with his feet on a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office on January 6, 2021, is underway in Washington, D.C. Nearly two years to the date of his arrest, Barnett finally had a chance to defend himself in court on multiple charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding.
But it was not the fiery, outspoken Barnett who provided the most jaw-dropping testimony in the trial so far. To the contrary, one of the government’s own witnesses confirmed under defense cross-examination that “agents provocateur” were heavily involved in instigating the events of January 6.
Captain Carneysha Mendoza, a tactical commander for U.S. Capitol Police at the time, testified Wednesday how a group of agitators destroyed security barriers and lured people to Capitol grounds that afternoon:
Defense Counsel Brad Geyer: Isn’t it true that you had a lot of people, a large quantity of people walking down two streets that dead-ended at the Capitol?
Mendoza: Yes, sir.
Geyer: And would it be fair to say that at least at some of the leading edges of that crowd, they contained bad people or provocateurs; is that fair?
Mendoza: It’s fair.
Geyer: Dangerous people?
Geyer: Violent people?
Geyer: Highly trained violent people?
Geyer: Highly trained violent people who work and coordinate together?
It was a stunning admission, representing the first time a top law enforcement official stated under oath (to my knowledge) that a coordinated, experienced group of agitators engaged in much of the mischief early that day. Under further questioning, Mendoza acknowledged those same individuals “pushed through barriers, removed barriers, threw barriers over the side, removed fencing, and eased the flow of people into places where they shouldn’t be.” This happened around 1:00 p.m., the same time the joint session of Congress convened to debate the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Hiding the pivotal role of still unidentified—and uncharged—agitators on January 6 is just one reason why the government has successfully sought to conceal thousands of hours of footage captured by the Capitol police’s security system before, during, and after the protest.
As I explained in May 2021, Capitol police immediately designated roughly 14,000 hours of surveillance video as “security information” that should not be released to the public.
Thomas DiBiase, general counsel for Capitol police, the technical owner of the video trove, signed an affidavit in March 2021 objecting to the widespread dissemination of footage “related to the attempted insurrection.” DiBiase claimed the agency wanted to prevent “those who might wish to attack the Capitol again” from accessing interior views of the building.
The Department of Justice subsequently labeled the footage as “highly sensitive government material” subject to strict protective orders in court proceedings. Defendants must comply with onerous rules before viewing any surveillance video associated with their case.
There are, of course, exceptions for any party helping to enforce the “insurrection” narrative. For example, the House committee handling Donald Trump’s post-January 6 impeachment was allowed to use portions of the super-secret reel. So, too, was HBO in producing its January 6 documentary. The January 6 select committee aired extensive if highly selective surveillance footage during their televised performances.
And that brief clip of Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) running in a hallway on January 6? It was clearly an image intended to mock his alleged cowardice that day. And, of course, it was Capitol surveillance video.
If it’s safe to place the video in the hands of Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the biggest deceiver in Congress, and random HBO film producers, then it’s safe to place all the footage in the hands of the American people. Which is why calls by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to fully release the surveillance video are a welcome, and necessary, step in providing a complete account about the events of January 6 to the public.
(The Committee on House Administration, now under Republican control, is one of two congressional committees with access to the full library of video.)
The recordings, Gaetz said in an interview this week, “would give more full context to that day rather than the cherry-picked moments that the January 6 committee tried to use to inflame and further divide our country.”
That demand undoubtedly will be met with fierce resistance by the same lawmakers, government agencies, and media organizations incessantly bleating about the need to “tell the truth” about what happened before and on January 6.
So, what exactly will the tapes reveal?