Monday, May 29, 2023

Kevin McCarthy gave Tucker Carlson access to secret January 6 footage. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have little to say about it.

Kevin McCarthy gave Tucker Carlson access to secret January 6 footage. Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have little to say about it.

Top congressional Democrats have condemned the move. But McConnell, along with several House Republicans, declined to offer judgment on it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday declined to comment on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's decision to grant Fox News host Tucker Carlson access to more than 40,000 hours of security footage from the January 6 attacks, repeatedly telling reporters that he was simply concerned about the security of the Capitol.

At his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, the top Senate Republican was asked by several reporters about McCarthy's decision, which was first reported by Axios last week.

"Going back to when Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi was Speaker, my main concern is the security of the Capitol," said McConnell.

He was then asked whether he was supportive of the decision, given concerns raised by other lawmakers that the release of the footage could compromise the security of the building.

"As I said, my main concern, going back to when Speaker Pelosi was still there — the security of the Capitol, which was obviously threatened on January 6," he replied.

He was then asked whether he was concerned about the lack of security screening for lawmakers in light of an effort by House Democrats to close what they describe as a "loophole" in the facility's security.

"Good try," replied McConnell, before again repeating his statement about Capitol security.

An 'egregious security breach'

McConnell's response to McCarthy's decision diverges significantly from those of other top leaders on Capitol Hill, who've pointed to both the security risks arising from publicly releasing footage of secure locations in the Capitol complex and to Carlson's history of whitewashing the January 6 attack.

In respective letters to Democratic lawmakers, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called the tape release an "egregious security breach," while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "grave mistake" that will "only embolden supporters of the Big Lie and weaken faith in our democracy."

McCarthy has defended the move, telling the New York Times that he had "promised" to release the tapes to the controversial Fox News host. Carlson told the Times that he and his team were "taking it very seriously."

Carlson, an influential figure on the right, released a documentary last year making the case that the attack was merely a pretext for the federal government to target conservatives.

McCarthy has said that the footage will eventually be made more widely available, and other news organizations have requested access to the trove of tapes.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Not 'the biggest fan of Tucker'

In brief interviews with Insider at the Capitol on Tuesday, some House Republicans said they wished the footage had been distributed more widely.

But none offered any condemnation or second-guessing of McCarthy's move.

"I don't think we have anything to hide. Transparency is good," said Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for incitement of an insurrection. "I hope they are distributed broadly."

"It's transparency," said Rep. Mike Lawler, who represents a New York district that President Joe Biden carried in 2020. "You know, what's the concern?"

"It should have been released in its entirety to everybody — the media, all the defense attorneys," said Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina. "Anyone who wanted access to it should have access to it."

Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, a self-styled moderate, said he had yet to hear a convincing case that the release of the footage was detrimental to Capitol security, saying "everybody" should have access to it.

He also demurred when asked whether he thought McCarthy had made the right move in giving Carlson the opportunity to view the footage before other media outlets.

"I'm not, obviously, the biggest fan of Tucker, but I'll just leave it at that," said Bacon. "I'm not here to pick fights."

And Rep. Mike Gallagher told Insider that he was broadly unaware of the controversy, pointing to his service as chairman of a select committee on China.

"I don't even know what's going on with that," said Gallagher. "I'm focused on China. Okay? I don't have time for this internal machination stuff."

"I will talk to my colleagues on the House [Administration] Committee, and I will attempt to develop a more educated position on this," Gallagher added, referring to the committee currently in possession of the footage. "I simply don't know the details right now."


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