GOP blurring faces in Jan. 6 security tapes, says Speaker Johnson

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Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said that House Republicans are blurring the faces of those who breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 before releasing more security footage in order to protect them from retaliation by the Department of Justice.

“We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other concerns and problems,” Johnson said in a press conference on Tuesday.  

“We’re working steadily on it. And we’ve hired additional personnel to do that,” Johnson said. “And all of those tapes, ultimately at the end, will be out so everybody can see them.”

After Johnson’s remarks, his deputy chief for communications clarified that the blurring would be done to prevent all forms of retaliation, and that Justice already had access to raw footage.

“Faces are to be blurred from public viewing room footage to prevent all forms of retaliation against private citizens from any non-governmental actors. The Department of Justice already has access to raw footage from January 6, 2021,” Deputy Chief for Communications Raj Shah wrote in a tweet.

Last month, House Republicans put an initial trance of security footage from Jan. 6 online, where it is available through the public. The House Administration Oversight Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), has led the effort to re-investigate Jan. 6 and the Democratic-controlled select committee that probed the attack — and particularly former President Trump’s role in it — in the last Congress. 

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The original plan for the committee was to publicly release security footage clips that were specifically requested by media outlets. But with the change in Speaker from Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to Johnson, the House Administration Committee is now proactively reviewing all footage and posting as much online as possible, as well as allowing members of the public to request time at the in-person terminals.

Johnson had said when the footage was originally released last month that processing of the clips “will involve blurring the faces of private citizens on the yet unreleased tapes to avoid any persons from being targeted for retaliation of any kind.” 

But his comments on Tuesday were notable in that he suggested DOJ charges were a specific retaliation risk.

Some of the clips that were released by the committee have been taken out of context or misrepresented, such as by individuals online speculating that federal agents had largely pushed the Capitol attack.

One clip that circulated questioned whether a rioter was flashing a federal badge. But that clip actually showed a man holding up a vape device; he was sentenced to 51 months in prison, according to NBC News.

“I don’t think partisan elected officials in Washington should present a narrative and expect that it should be seen as the ultimate truth,” Johnson said of Jan. 6.

“The release of the January 6 tapes is a critical and important exercise. We want transparency,” Johnson said. “House Republicans trust the American people to draw their own conclusions.”

This story was updated at 2:24 p.m.

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