Judicial Watch Sues US Capitol Police for Emails, Videos Related to Jan. 6 Riot

February 17, 2021 Updated: February 17, 2021

Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Capitol Police to obtain videos and documents pertaining to last month’s breach of the Capitol building.

The organization said in a statement that it filed the lawsuit under the common law right to access public records, after the Capitol Police “refused to provide any records” in response to a Jan. 21 request.

Email communications between the Capitol Police’s executive team and the Capitol Police Board about security on Jan. 6 were sought by the conservative-leaning watchdog group. It also requested emails between the Police Board and the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security about security details that day—as well as all video footage from inside the Capitol between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Jan. 6, according to Judicial Watch.

“The public has a right to know about how Congress handled security and what all the videos show of the US Capitol riot. What are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer trying to hide from the American people?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, referring to the Democratic speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.

The organization noted that Congress exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act, which is a federal law passed in 1967 that requires the full or partial disclosure upon request of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the federal government.

The Capitol Police stated in a Feb. 11 letter that the materials sought by Judicial Watch don’t constitute “public records,” Judicial Watch said.

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and Doorkeeper Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving, and former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund have been invited to testify next week before the Senate Homeland Security committee, according to lawmakers.

“The security failures that led to the breach endangered not just the Vice President and the Congress, but the peaceful, democratic transfer of power itself. The American people deserve a complete accounting of those failures,” lawmakers wrote last week in a letter regarding their request.

Separately, the union representing the Capitol Police delivered an overwhelming vote of “no confidence” in the department’s leadership, including Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman.

About 92 percent of union members voted “no confidence” in Pittman, who became the agency’s chief two days after the breach. Around 97 percent voted “no confidence” in Capitol Police Capt. Ben Smith, according to the union, while other leaders also received a high degree of “no confidence” votes.

“The current leadership is just a continuation of the past regimes on this Department and there needs to be accountability,” U.S. Capitol Police Labor Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a Feb. 15 statement.

“Their failures are inexcusable. This vote, which the majority of the officers in the bargaining unit participated in, shows they have lost our trust. The anger in this department is widespread and the trust that has been broken is not going to be regained.”