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Gearing Up for the Tucker Tapes
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Gearing Up for the Tucker Tapes

Plus: A look at lawmakers fighting isolationism as the war in Ukraine enters its second year.

Protesters walk through the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to roughly 44,000 hours of Capitol complex security footage from January 6, 2021. 

McCarthy says the release provides accountability. But for Carlson, it’s an opportunity to promote his own narratives about the attack on the Capitol, which thus far have included conspiracy theories about false flag operations to persecute conservatives.

McCarthy told the New York Times in an interview that he will eventually release the footage more widely—likely after Carlson airs his reports, the first of which could come as soon as next week.

“I promised,” McCarthy said. “I was asked in the press about these tapes, and I said they do belong to the American public. I think sunshine lets everybody make their own judgment.” 

Filtering the footage through Carlson’s show isn’t quite the same as “sunshine,” though.

Carlson has downplayed the attack as a “forgettably minor outbreak” of mob violence. In reality, thousands of rioters seeking to keep former President Donald Trump in office after he lost the 2020 election overran the Capitol building, assaulted police, and forced lawmakers to suspend business and hide in safe rooms for hours. Carlson produced a documentary claiming American law enforcement agencies instigated the attack and the government is using it to persecute conservatives. 

(Disclosure: Dispatch founders Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg quit as Fox News contributors over Carlson’s January 6 documentary, writing that Carlson’s angle wasn’t true, “and it’s dangerous to pretend it is.”)

Carlson has shown a willingness to mislead his viewers. Take editing Kanye West’s most unhinged and antisemitic remarks out of an interview last year, for example. And a court filing made public last week revealed private texts between Carlson and his employees in which Carlson acknowledged the Trump team’s claims about 2020 election fraud were “ludicrous” and “off the rails.” But as my Morning Dispatch colleagues noted earlier this week, he didn’t make much effort to inform viewers of that assessment. In other texts in the filing, Carlson tried to get a Fox News reporter fired for fact-checking Trump’s baseless claims about election fraud, lamenting that it was hurting Fox News.

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, who initially opposed McCarthy’s speakership bid earlier this year, said after McCarthy won the job that releasing the January 6 security footage was part of the deal he made with some Republicans to win their support. 

Gaetz has suggested Republicans will look for cases of police misconduct on January 6. There were some instances that we know of already: The Capitol Police disciplined six officers after the attack for “improper remarks,” “conduct unbecoming,” “failure to comply with directives,” and “improper dissemination of information.” And one former Capitol Police officer was found guilty of obstruction of justice last year after he tried to conceal messages to a January 6 rioter after the attack with advice about how to avoid being caught.

Despite testimony to the contrary, Gaetz believes misconduct was far more widespread and involved other government agencies: “We’re going to be able to see the extent to which the federal agents and assets that were present that day may or may not have increased the level of criminal acuity,” he told Carlson earlier this year of releasing the footage. “We’re going to be able to see their coordination with one another.” 

Democrats slammed McCarthy this week for sharing the video, arguing it represents a security threat. 

“The speaker is needlessly exposing the Capitol complex to one of the worst security risks since 9/11,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a statement. He said the footage is “a treasure trove of closely held information about how the Capitol complex is protected.”

Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chaired the panel that investigated the January 6 attack in the last Congress, told NPR in an interview Thursday that the committee chose not to share specific footage during its hearings in concert with Capitol Police, “because it would compromise the security of the Capitol.”

“We had a rigorous process,” he said of selecting footage the committee used publicly. 

Thompson said some sensitive footage reveals the locations of cameras around the complex and the paths lawmakers took as they were evacuated during the riot, for example.

“Speaker McCarthy ought to understand the gravity of what this decision means to the public,” Thompson said. “I understand he had to make certain commitments to become speaker, but those commitments under no circumstance should jeopardize the safety and security of the United States Capitol.”

A Look at the For Country Caucus

Last week, we wrote to you about the GOP’s fight over Ukraine aid. Today, my colleague Charlotte has a piece on the site about the For Country Caucus and their efforts to push back on isolationists in Congress. She writes:

The working group of about 30 lawmakers—many of whom are also members of the House Armed Services Committee—has found its groove in advancing pragmatic, bipartisan legislation through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The 2022 defense bill included For Country Caucus-backed measures bolstering U.S. resilience against cyberattacks, supporting America’s at-risk allies after the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, and requiring the Pentagon to review its posture in the Arctic, among other initiatives. 

The lawmakers—all former servicemembers themselves—also emphasize veterans affairs. In 2022 they spearheaded the passage of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, which sets aside space on the National Mall in Washington for a memorial honoring Americans killed in the fight against terrorism. The group’s other veteran-focused initiatives include increasing the availability of mental health care and closing loopholes allowing for the double-taxation of federal benefits for former military personnel and their families.

It’s through this common bond of military service that For Country also hopes to shape foreign policy in a highly polarized Congress, particularly as continued U.S. backing for Ukraine becomes a political lightning rod. 

Rep. Tony Gonzales, the GOP co-chair of the group and an early supporter of robust and advanced weapons transfers to the Ukrainian armed forces, said he expects the caucus to be “very united” in pushing for future military aid packages. That also means explaining to Americans why sending their taxpayer dollars abroad protects the peace at home, he added. 

“There is this growing sentiment of, ‘foreign aid is bad,’ and I think that’s where a caucus like the For Country Caucus can be able to bridge why foreign policy impacts domestic policy,” said the Texas Republican, whose 23rd District is home to more military bases than any other. “The reality is if we don’t fill that hole, someone else will—like China, like Russia, like Iran.” 

Read the rest of the story here.

Of Note

Haley Byrd Wilt's Headshot

Haley Byrd Wilt

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.