The House speaker, Mike Johnson, said he would blur the faces of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6 before releasing new footage to the public, in order to shield the rioters from justice.
In a Tuesday press conference Johnson, who was personally involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, said: “We have to blur some 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.”
Johnson’s office later acknowledged that the justice department already has the surveillance film.
Some Republicans claim the events of that day were mischaracterized. Two years ago, the Georgia Republican congressman Andrew Clyde said that video from the January 6 attack “showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures”.
“If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” he added.
More than 1,200 defendants have been charged in connection with the January 6 attempt to interrupt the certification of the election, according to a tally by NBC News.
More than 400 have been sentenced to periods of incarceration and an additional 1,000 January 6 participants have been identified but not arrested.
Johnson said he planned to release the first tranche of security footage, around 90 hours, to the public because he wants people to do their own research into the Capitol attack.
“We want the American people to draw their own conclusions,” Johnson said. “I don’t think partisan elected officials in Washington should present a narrative and expect that it should be seen as the ultimate truth.”
Raj Shah, former deputy White House press secretary in the Trump administration and currently Johnson’s deputy chief of staff for communications, said in a statement shared online: “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.”
Earlier this month, Johnson said that releasing the film, which totals 44,000 hours, was part of a pledge he had made to far-right members of his party when he was campaigning for his current job.
“This decision will provide millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials,” he said in a statement.
Johnson’s comments come as Colorado’s highest court will hear arguments on Wednesday on whether Trump provoked and participated in the January 6 insurrection – as the January 6 committee found – and if that act requires his removal from the ballot.
The case, the first of several to reach court, will look at if the former president can be disqualified under a section of the 14th amendment that states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to support the constitution is forbidden from holding any public office.
A lower court in Colorado previously found that Trump could remain on the ballot because the insurrection clause does not apply to the office of the president.
Colorado’s secretary of state, Jena Griswold, has said that ruling was “pretty surprising”. Griswold, a Democrat, told Politico: “The court’s decision to say the presidency is excluded from section 3 of the 14th Amendment is the really surprising part. Under that decision, Donald Trump is above the law when it comes to insurrection.”