Was the Capitol Hill Attack an Inside Job?

Republican members of Congress have been accused of coordinating with riot organizers

Rep. Paul Gosar and Sen. Ted Cruz are applauded by Republican members of Congress after they objected to the certification of the electoral votes for Arizona. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Speaking live to her Facebook followers on Tuesday evening, New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill made a stunning allegation: On January 5, the day before the U.S. Capitol was stormed by insurrectionists, she had witnessed members of Congress giving groups of people what she called “reconnaissance” tours of the building, which has been closed to the public since March on account of Covid-19. “I’m going to see they are held accountable,” Sherrill, a U.S. Navy veteran, said, “and if necessary, ensure that they don’t serve in Congress.” On Wednesday, she and 33 other lawmakers sent a letter to the head of U.S. Capitol Police, as well as the sergeant-at-arms of the House and Senate, requesting whatever information — from visitor logs to video footage — they have on the tours.

Sherrill didn’t say on her livestream which colleagues engaged in these activities, nor did she offer additional evidence. But her claims tapped into a question that has been on everyone’s minds since the attacks of January 6: Did the insurrectionists have inside help?

There are signs pointing to that possibility. In a now-deleted video on Periscope, Ali Alexander, a right-wing activist and felon behind the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory movement and the “Save America” rally on January 6, said he and three GOP congressmen — Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama — came together to make a plan for the day Congress was set to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory. “We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander said. Their plan was meant to “change the hearts and the minds of Republicans who were in that body, hearing our loud roar from outside.”

And despite Capitol Police asking members not to share their locations during the siege as a security measure, newly-elected GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert, who has ties to Arizona militia and a record of being arrested for “petty crimes,” live-tweeted the moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was removed from the chamber, which critics say put her in danger. Earlier in the day, Boebert had tweeted, “1776,” the rallying cry for insurrectionists who saw the attack on the Capitol as the start of a new American revolution.

They had either studied maps or obtained inside intelligence to help them navigate the labyrinthine Capitol.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on an Instagram Live video on Tuesday that she feared for her life during the attack, in part because of who else was going to be in the room where lawmakers were being held for their safety. “There were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers, and frankly white supremacist members of Congress, in that extraction point who I have felt would disclose my location and would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera,” Ocasio-Cortez said, without specifying who was referring to. Sarah Groh, the chief of staff for fellow Squad member Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, said that after her team barricaded themselves in the congresswoman’s office during the siege, they discovered the office’s panic buttons had all been ripped out. Pressley’s team said they had been able to use them during past incidents, and had no idea when or why they had been removed.

Rioters were also able to locate the unmarked office of House majority whip Jim Clyburn, which suggests they had either studied maps or obtained inside intelligence to help them navigate the labyrinthine Capitol, a task that can be difficult even for longtime members and staffers who know the building inside and out. “Somebody must get to the bottom of how they, with such efficiency and such alacrity, moved themselves in mobs into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. Into the whip’s third-floor office,” Pennsylvania Rep. Madeleine Dean told Politico. “We all joke about the fact that it’s so hard to find some of these offices, and we work in the building,”

And then there’s the matter of how Capitol Police behaved during the siege. While some officers bravely attempted to defend the building, others were seen taking selfies with the insurrectionists, wearing MAGA hats, and giving rioters directions. As a result, two officers were suspended and at least 10 more are currently under investigation. Anonymous Capitol Police officers even told BuzzFeed News that they feared some of their colleagues were sympathetic to the white supremacists storming the complex. According to Reuters, “off-duty police… firefighters, state lawmakers… and at least one active-duty military officer” were among the mob at the Capitol.

The siege is currently being investigated by law enforcement, and the FBI says the evidence they’ve so far gathered is just “the tip of the iceberg.” It’ll be a while before we know if insurrectionists had any inside help, but the signs we’ve seen so far paint a terrifying picture.

Award-winning journalist covering politics, gender, race, activism, and more. Puertorriqueña.