by Julie Kelly
Judge G. Michael Harvey sounded floored.
During a detention hearing this week for Robert Morss, arrested last month for his involvement in the Capitol protest, a federal prosecutor told Harvey she needed permission from the government before she could turn over to him a slice of video related to Morss’ case. Joe Biden’s Justice Department continues to seek pre-trial detention for people who protested Biden’s election on January 6; prosecutors want to keep Morss, an Army ranger and high school history teacher with no criminal record, behind bars until his trial can begin next year.
But assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson hesitated when Judge Harvey asked to see the footage captured by the U.S. Capitol Police surveillance system cited as evidence in government charging documents.
“Why haven’t I seen the video?” Harvey asked Jackson on Wednesday afternoon. She told the judge he could have access to the body-worn camera recordings and public source videos but that the USCP footage is under a protective order, which is common in most January 6 cases.
After Morss’ defense attorney said the photographs in the charging documents did not accurately reflect the video evidence the government gave to her under discovery requirements, Harvey demanded to see it for himself. “And anything you show to me . . . I’ll issue a minute order to release it to the public as well.”
Jackson informed the court she would submit the missing video evidence on Friday.
The hearing is the latest example of how hard the USCP and Justice Department are fighting to keep more than 14,000 hours of surveillance video under wraps. Lawyers for the USCP insist the recordings can’t be released for fear doing so will give wannabe insurrectionists too much information about the inside of the complex; the Justice Department claims the footage is “highly sensitive” government material.
Defense lawyers and media companies are fighting for fuller access to videos used as evidence by the Justice Department. Cherry-picked clips produced by the government are released to the media to support the narrative that January 6 was an armed, violent insurrection perpetrated by domestic terrorists who supported Donald Trump. The Biden Justice Department, in other words, has full control over a massive trove of recordings that shows exactly what happened on January 6.
The selective clips only tell one side of the story—and that’s the story the Biden Justice Department wants the public to see. But in some cases, defense attorneys and news outlets are petitioning the court to make public potentially exculpatory video evidence that would dispute the government’s allegations.
The Press Coalition, a group of 16 national news organizations including CNN, the Associated Press, and the Wall Street Journal among others has joined the attorney representing John Steven Anderson in seeking the public release of a 30-second clip captured by the USCP camera system.
Anderson, 61, suffered a medical emergency on January 6 after he was sprayed with a chemical irritant by an unidentified assailant inside the building. (He has several pre-existing conditions including asthma and hearing loss.) Although Anderson was arrested for trespassing that day and released, he was again arrested in February on a slew of new charges including assaulting a police officer and stealing government property.
His attorney, Marina Medvin, is asking the court to remove the “highly sensitive” designation on the brief clip which shows Anderson being sprayed and then begging for help. “This exculpatory video is of paramount importance to the defense as it contradicts the government’s case and establishes Mr. Anderson’s defense to the serious felony accusations which the government has indicted,” Medvin wrote in a June filing.
Medvin also noted that the government picks and chooses which videos will be made public based on how it helps shape the narrative. “The government has made Capitol CCTV video public when it bolsters or conveniences their case. The government has already utilized CCTV video in their prosecution of Julian Khater and George Tanios, two January 6 Capitol incident defendants, and has made the CCTV footage available to the public.” Khater and Tanios are accused of conspiring to assault Officer Brian Sicknick with pepper spray.
Prosecutors objected to Medvin’s motion, again reiterating the alleged threat posed by publicly releasing footage of the “attempted insurrection” on January 6. “The USCP is concerned that release of the footage without protection, especially to defendants who have already shown a desire to interfere with the democratic process, will result in the release of information regarding the vulnerabilities and security weaknesses of the U.S. Capitol which could be used in a future attack,” the Justice Department replied.
But even the Press Coalition pointed out the Justice Department’s hypocrisy. “The Government . . . in several other riot prosecutions . . . expressly agreed to the release of such ‘select video’ from inside the Capitol. Indeed, in opposing the release of this Video Clip, the Government directly contradicts its own prior positions.”
So, what is Joe Biden’s Justice Department and the USCP trying to hide? If indeed the four-hour disturbance is the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War,” as Biden and Democratic Party talking heads often claim, or that it is akin to the 9/11 attacks and the Oklahoma City bombing, don’t the American people deserve to see every minute of video that documents how the “insurrection” went down?
Much like in the Anderson prosecution, is the government afraid the videos would act as a collective body of exculpatory evidence in the wholesale case that January 6 was a spontaneous uprising incited by Donald Trump rather than a partially, if not mostly, orchestrated disinformation campaign that omits key scenes such as police officers attacking peaceful protesters or USCP officials allowing protesters into the building?
And would it finally show exactly what happened to Ashli Babbitt, a tragic killing that the USCP, Democrats, and news media continue to cover up?
Not since the collaborative effort to conceal the identity of Eric Ciaramella, the so-called “whistleblower” who helped launch Trump’s first impeachment trial has the political world worked so hard to keep secret a name everyone in D.C. already knows. Amid months of speculation, investigative reporter Paul Sperry recently named Lt. Michael Byrd as the officer who shot and killed the unarmed female veteran. Sperry cites February testimony by the House sergeant at arms, who mentioned Byrd as the shooter. (C-SPAN and CNN subsequently scrubbed Byrd’s name from transcripts, according to Sperry.)
Sperry’s calls and emails to Byrd went unanswered; a lawyer for the officer said he wouldn’t confirm Byrd’s identity and “warned that disclosing his name poses a safety risk to the officer.”
D.C. law, according to Sperry, requires the release of the name of any officer involved in a deadly shooting or “serious use of force” within five business days of the incident. Ashli Babbitt was shot and killed more than six months ago.
“The Babbitt shooting has thrust this double standard into the national spotlight,” Sperry wrote.
Of course, double standards abound in everything related to January 6. Capitol protesters are treated as hardened criminals and dangerous terrorists, arrested in pre-dawn raids with some hauled off to a special prison in the nation’s capital to await trials that will be delayed for at least a year while political activists tied to the Left have their cases dropped.
Videos that help perpetuate the “insurrection” narrative are released to the public; videos that undermine that narrative are deemed “highly sensitive” government information and kept secret.
The names of white cops who kill black people are immediately released; the name of a black federal officer who killed a white Trump supporter is concealed by the government and the news media.
Enough with the Capitol cover up: If Americans really deserve the truth, as Democrats routinely insist, it cannot be a selective, politically favorable version of the truth.
Release the tapes. Officially release the name of Ashli Babbitt’s shooter. And release Joe Biden’s political prisoners.
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Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President. Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. She is the co-host of ‘Happy Hour podcast with Julie and Liz.’ She is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University and lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two daughters.