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Fox personality Tucker Carlson this week is releasing security video from the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, using footage provided exclusively to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to falsely portray the riot as a peaceful gathering. James Sasso, who served as senior investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 committee, joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.
This week, FOX personality Tucker Carlson is releasing security video from the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol using footage provided exclusively to him by Speaker Kevin McCarthy in an effort to portray the day as a peaceful gathering.
Tucker Carlson, FOX News Anchor:
It was neither an insurrection nor deadly.
The January 6 Committee knew perfectly well that Brian Sicknick was walking normally through the Capitol after he was supposedly murdered by Trump supporters. To prove that Josh Hawley was a coward, the committee released a video of him loping out of the building on the afternoon of January 6 with a police escort.
But, in fact, the surveillance footage we reviewed shows that famous clip was a sham, edited deceptively by the January 6 Committee. The January 6 Committee lied.
North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis today responded to that this way:
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC):
I think it's bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
If you were just a tourist, you should have probably lined up at the visitors center and came in on an orderly basis.
U.S. Capitol Police in an internal message to officers today said — quote — "The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and the violence that happened before or during these less tense moments."
James Sasso served as senior investigative counsel for the January 6 Committee, and he joins us now.
Thanks for being here.
And we should say that you spent a year investigating the Capitol attack, specifically the people who planned and attended the riot, as well as the domestic extremist groups responsible for most of the violence.
How does it strike you to hear Tucker Carlson say that the insurrection wasn't an insurrection at all and that the January 6 Committee lied?
James Sasso, Former Senior Investigative Counsel, January 6 Committee: It's just objectively not true.
We watched thousands of hours of violence that happened on January 6, between rioter and police officers, rioters and rioters sometimes. The rioters too, if you look at DOJ filings that we covered and some of the defendants we interviewed, things that they said, were pretty explicit about what they were doing there.
They were there at President Trump's beck and call to try to keep him in power at all — by all means necessary. Some of them mentioned going to Civil War or Revolutionary War, depending on which one they wanted to choose. Many of them like Ryan Nichols mentioned dragging, I will just say, members of Congress, although he used more colorful language, through the streets. He mentioned the same about Vice President Pence.
Nicholas Dempsey stood in front of gallows and said members of Congress should all hang. They — a lot of people there were explicitly there to commit violence. And even though a vast majority of the people who were part of the violence that day did not engage in, let's say, hand-to-hand violence or did not destroy the Capitol or did not do any act of violence, the truth is that those who committed those horrible acts would not have succeeded if it weren't for the numbers of people who were there to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
And that is an insurrection. The footage that Tucker Carlson showed was very selectively chosen.
Well, on that point, there will be people who will say, well, the January 6 Committee also selectively chose footage and interviews to stitch together its own narrative, that the committee and Tucker Carlson are both in the storytelling business.
How would you respond to that?
I would respond that we picked footage that showed the facts of the matter and what actually happened that day.
There's nothing to hide in the footage. There's nothing to hide in the interviews that we had with defendants. We put out all of our transcripts. We have backed it up. There — we did have a story that we're telling the American public, but it was a story backed up by thousands and thousands of hours of investigation and fact-checking.
It wasn't as if we just were, like, the narrative we want and go for it. It was what actually happened. And you can see that based on the extensive evidence we put forward and is in our report, and it is in all the public documents as well.
As you mentioned, you interviewed about 30 of the January 6 defendants about their motives.
And you wrote an opinion piece recently for The New York Times where you said — quote — "With the legitimacy of democracy so degraded, revolution appeared logical to these people."
What then is the impact of this effort, this coordinated effort to whitewash January 6 and rewrite that history?
It's dangerous. It legitimizes those feelings that people were already expressing on January 6 and ahead of January 6.
It wasn't as if, magically, people were suddenly were like, oh, it's time to go to war, it's time to overthrow the government. People have been dissatisfied for a long time with the way American political institutions are working. People have a lot of racial resentment that's been building for 50 years.
And President Trump gave them legitimacy. Now that we have an effort to whitewash what actually happened by not showing the violence that happened inside the Capitol that day, two officers who were getting swarmed in the crypt, in Senate hallways. An Oath Keeper confronted and threatened officers, saying: "This is my 'bleeping' Capitol."
By not showing what truly happens, we are telling those people who want to commit more political violence that it's OK. And that's a very big problem in America and a really big problem if we want our democracy to survive. We can't have people out there thinking it's OK to battle each other and to battle people who disagree with them.
James Sasso, former senior investigative counsel for the January 6 Committee, thanks for coming in. Good to talk to you.
Thank you for having me. It's been great.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
Saher Khan is a reporter-producer for the PBS NewsHour.
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