Did Members of Congress Provide ‘Reconnaissance Tours’ Before Capitol Riots?

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Ever since a mob of pro-Trump rioters overwhelmed law enforcement and breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in protest of the 2020 election results, questions swirled about the culpability of U.S. President Donald Trump’s congressional allies in fomenting — or even planning — the riot.

On Jan. 12, during a Facebook live broadcast, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., made the most pointed allegation yet — that on Jan. 5, 2021, some members of Congress gave tours designed to provide reconnaissance to people who participated in the riot:

I … intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted him [President Trump], those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on January 5th as a reconnaissance for the next day, those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd, those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy, I’m going to see that they’re held accountable and if necessary ensure that they don’t serve in Congress.

Sherrill did not name specific lawmakers, but told Politico that, “We’re requesting an investigation right now with certain agencies.” For now the claim remains unproven.

But in terms of the broader notion that members of Congress were involved with people who claim to have helped plan the events of Jan. 6, documentary evidence exists to support those allegations. In a since deleted video, “Stop the [Election] Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he worked with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, and Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, on plans to disrupt the Electoral College certification in Congress:

I was the person who came up with the January 6th idea with Congressman Gosar, Congressman Mo Brooks, and then Congressman Andy Biggs. We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting so that … we could change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud war from outside.

All three have had some connection, whether direct or indirect, to Alexander, as several media outlets later reported.

Gosar, one of the most vocal promoters of president Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, described Alexander as a “true patriot” on Twitter, and linked to Alexander’s account at least 23 times between Nov. 30, 2020, and Alexander’s suspension from Twitter, according to The Washington Post. The two both spoke at a “Stop the Steal Rally” on Dec. 19 in Phoenix, Arizona. Alexander has referred to Gosar as “his great friend.” Gosar has yet to comment on the allegations.

Biggs has denied any involvement with Alexander. However, at the same Phoenix Rally, Alexander played a video of Biggs that had been pre-recorded for the crowd, as reported in the Arizona Republic:

At that rally, Alexander said, “Congressman Andy Biggs sent us a video” message for those in attendance. From his cellphone, Alexander played the 80-second message from Biggs.

“Andy Biggs here, I wish I could be with you. I’m in the D.C. swamp fighting on behalf of Arizona’s residents and freedom fighters all over the country,” Biggs is heard saying. 

He goes on to say, “I wish I could be with you today” and “We are going to keep fighting, and I implore you to keep fighting, too. God bless you for being here today. And God bless this great country.”

When it ended, Alexander leads the crowd in chanting “Biggs, Biggs, Biggs.” 

Biggs spokesperson Daniel Stefanski released a statement explaining that Biggs made the video for Gosar, who did not tell him about Alexander’s involvement.

In that same video, Biggs mentioned Brooks as his ally in the fight over the 2020 election, according to The Intercept. In a statement to that outlet, Brooks stated that he “has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is,” arguing he spoke at the Jan. 6 “Save America” rally at the invitation of the White House alone.   

It is unclear, however, if these same congressmen are the ones Sherrill was referring to with respect to the “reconnaissance tours.”

Even so, at least one other lawmaker has backed up Sherrill’s claims. According to Politico, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said he is aware of “a couple” of colleagues who are being eyed as potentially giving tours.

“I’m going to wait to make sure we get verification,” Ryan told reporters on Jan. 13.

Like Ryan, we are also waiting for that verification. Until then, this claim remains “Unproven.”

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