The Capitol Police shared thousands of hours of Jan. 6 surveillance camera footage with two key congressional committees investigating the mob attack on the building — and provided “numerous” clips to the Democrats prosecuting Donald Trump’s impeachment, the department’s top lawyer revealed Monday.
The department provided the footage to the impeachment managers in response to a request from top House lawyer Douglas Letter, according to Capitol Police General Counsel Thomas DiBiase, who made the disclosures in a sworn affidavit he submitted in one of the criminal cases stemming from the Jan. 6 riot.
DiBiase said the department also provided more than 14,000 hours of surveillance camera footage — encompassing the hours of noon to 8 p.m. on Jan. 6 — to two key committees investigating the Capitol assault: The House Administration Committee and the Senate Rules Committee.
DiBiase’s comments to the court are the first known acknowledgment from the Capitol Police of the extent of its cooperation with lawmakers investigating the attack. The notoriously secretive agency has said little about the extent of its cooperation with other entities and whether it had shared its materials with lawmakers until now. On Monday, two key House Appropriations Committee lawmakers — who oversee the Capitol Police budget — ripped the department for failing to provide more public details about its response to the Jan. 6 attack.
DiBiase indicated that since lawmakers’ initial request for footage, the department has agreed to provide footage from the entire 24 hour period of Jan. 6. The Capitol Police have also shared the 14,000-hour subset of footage with the FBI and the D.C. Metropolitan Police to support ongoing investigations. And it has shared a “very limited number” of video clips from Jan. 5 to assist the D.C. police with “potential … incidents.”
Despite the disclosure, DiBiase is silent on one crucial question: Whether the department has preserved a broader swath of Jan. 5 footage and shared it with lawmakers who have raised fears about potential “reconnaissance” efforts by would-be rioters the day before the Capitol breach. Democrats leveled the charge in the immediate aftermath of the attack, suggesting Republican lawmakers or aides may have aided the rioters, but have said little to back up their statements since,
In his affidavit, DiBiase revealed that the security footage is “automatically purged” within 30 days under normal circumstances.
DiBiase filed his affidavit in the criminal case of Patrick McCaughey, who is charged with pinning a police officer while another rioter ripped off the officer’s mask. Prosecutors have relied on surveillance footage to bolster their case against McCaughey, and typical evidence-sharing procedures would require prosecutors to share those videos with McCaughey’s defense team.
However, the Capitol Police are raising alarms about sharing surveillance footage with McCaughey or in hundreds of other cases where such footage could come into play. DiBiase said that the agency’s legally authorized policy is to sharply restrict access to such videos because it could be used by bad actors — including many of the alleged insurrectionists now facing charges — to map out the interior of the Capitol and pose a future threat to lawmakers.
“The Department has significant concerns with the release of any of its footage to defendants in the Capitol attack cases unless there are safeguards in place to prevent its copying and dissemination,” DiBiase said.
“Our concern is that providing unfettered access to hours of extremely sensitive information to defendants who have already shown a desire to interfere with the democratic process will result in the layout, vulnerabilities and security weaknesses of the Capitol being collected, exposed and passed on to those who might wish to attack the Capitol again,” he said.
Prosecutors are pointing to DiBiase’s affidavit as they attempt to craft a so-called “protective order” governing the sharing of sensitive information with Capitol riot defendants. They’re working to build an archive of video that would permit defendants to peruse relevant clips but sharply restrict their access and permit prosecutors a chance to object if they feel such footage could be misused or present a risk.
Their efforts to set up such a system has sharply delayed prosecutions, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington has asked for a broad 60-day delay in many of the more than 300 Capitol riot cases as a result.
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