Kevin McCarthy made countless concessions to become speaker of the House, but one of those deals could pose a major risk to security in the Capitol.
Matt Gaetz, who staunchly opposed the California Republican’s bid for the speakership, revealed Thursday evening to CNN that McCarthy had agreed to release all the security camera footage from the Capitol on the day of the January 6 insurrection. McCarthy also indicated Thursday he was open to releasing the video footage.
The Capitol Police Board says the final decision isn’t even up to McCarthy. The board, which is made up of the House and Senate sergeants at arms and the architect of the Capitol, opposes making the footage public because doing so could inadvertently help the people who overran the Capitol two years ago—as well as people who might want to do it again.
Releasing the footage could reveal strategic locations in the Capitol, such as safe rooms and security cameras. It could also help give people a better sense of the building’s layout, thus jeopardizing Capitol security.
The Justice Department and Capitol Police have previously pushed back on releasing the more than 14,000 hours of footage from January 6. USCP Chief Sean Gallagher said in a court affidavit from July that his department “continues to consider any interior footage of the U.S. Capitol to be highly sensitive information, and that access to it should be strictly limited.”
The Justice Department also argued that releasing the footage could reveal sensitive information pertaining to the cases of people arrested in connection to the insurrection. The FBI has arrested about 900 people connected to the insurrection and has the identities of hundreds more. A total of about 3,000 people could be charged over storming the Capitol, when all is said and done.
It’s not clear what Republicans think they will gain by releasing the footage. Many GOP lawmakers, including Gaetz, Andy Biggs, and Louie Gohmert have previously called for the videos to be made public in an effort to exonerate people connected to the riot. House Republicans have also formed a House Judiciary subcommittee dedicated to investigating ongoing criminal investigations, such as the ones into January 6.
There is also a chance, which Republicans do not seem to have considered, that releasing the footage will backfire spectacularly. The videos could reveal even more damaging information about the Republicans already under scrutiny for their actions before and during the attack.