Accused of leading pre-riot tour, GOP rep’s story evolves (again)

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A week after the Jan. 6 attack, some House Democrats said at least one of their Republican colleagues provided a tour of the Capitol the day before the insurrectionist riot. At least publicly, however, they did not mention any names – though we’ve learned quite a bit since then.

About a year ago, Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia issued an angry and defensive written statement, condemning the Democratic accusations, and insisting, “No Republican Member of Congress led any kind of ‘reconnaissance’ tours through the Capitol, proven by security footage captured by the US Capitol Police.”

A House GOP aide later went on to tell The Hill, “There were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.”

As we discussed last week, however, the story took on greater significance when the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack asked Loudermilk to provide the committee with information about alleged tours. It was at that point when the Georgia Republican shared previously undisclosed details: In a statement that appeared to be carefully worded, the GOP congressman acknowledged bringing a “constituent family” into the Capitol complex the day before the attack, though he insisted that this group did not go into the Capitol building on Jan. 5 and did not enter the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.

The official line had changed slightly: The Republican line had gone from “no tours” to an acknowledgment that there was a tour – with a “constituent family.”

Late last week, Loudermilk released this video in which the details of his version of events evolved just a little more:

“On January the 5th, I took a family with young children and their guests who were visiting Washington to lunch in a cafeteria in one of the House office buildings. So what was so awful about this family that caused the committee to make false accusations about them? Well, some were actually wearing red baseball caps. ”

The relevant shifts have been subtle, but real. The official line was that there were “no tours,” but that soon changed. Loudermilk also said on Thursday that he’d met with “a constituent family with young children,” but a day later that became “a family with young children and their guests.”

Also, the public was told there was “no one with MAGA hats on,” which has now also been tweaked: Some of the folks were “wearing red baseball caps.”

It’s not yet clear why the GOP congressman – the beneficiary of a new endorsement from Donald Trump – waited 16 months to disclose these details.

What’s more, as we discussed last week, I continue to be struck by the fact that Loudermilk is willing to talk about this at all. Part of me assumed that the Georgia Republican would ignore the request for information, or say that he intended to talk to his lawyer about the matter.

Instead, Loudermilk issued a press release and a subsequent video in which he disclosed information that he’d previously kept private.

All of which leads to a fairly obvious question: If the GOP congressman is willing to talk about what he knows via written statements, why not just sit down with congressional investigators? Loudermilk could clear the air, explain that his tour was anodyne, and put the matter to rest.

It’d be one thing if he preferred to remain silent and leave the matter unaddressed. But he’s doing the opposite: Loudermilk has now issued two written statements about the underlying controversy.

Wouldn’t it be more constructive to simply answer the committee’s questions directly?