Democrats call for probe of “suspicious” Capitol visit ahead of Jan. 6 riot

Washington, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- Nearly three-dozen Democratic Party lawmakers have signed a letter calling for a prompt investigation into a “suspicious” visit to the United States Capitol complex by a group of apparent supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump on Jan. 5, the day before the deadly storming of that legislative building by a pro-Trump mob.

The letter to the acting chief of the US Capitol Police and the acting House of Representatives and Senate sergeants-at-arms said there were “unusually large groups of people throughout the Capitol who could only have gained access to the Capitol Complex from a Member of Congress or a member of their staff.”

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the missive added.

A large crowd of tens of thousands of Trump supporters gathered at the president’s urging in Washington on Jan. 6, the day a joint session of Congress was being held in the nation’s capital to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.

A few hours after a speech that day by Trump at The Ellipse (a park south of the White House) in which he once again claimed the Nov. 3 election was marred by fraud and encouraged the crowd to march to the Capitol, dozens of his supporters stormed entrances on the east and west sides of the legislative building.

That eruption of violence led to the deaths of one Capitol police officer and four protesters, including a woman who suffered a gunshot wound.

The episode forced the Capitol to be placed under lockdown for several hours. Lawmakers convened there again on the night of Jan. 6 and certified Biden’s victory in the wee hours of Jan. 7.

The Democratic-controlled House moved quickly against Trump after the Capitol riot, voting 232-197 on Wednesday to impeach him for “incitement of insurrection.” Trump, who has become the first president in US history to be impeached on two occasions, will face a trial in the Senate after he leaves office on Jan. 20.

The letter signed by 34 House Democrats, including some “who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity,” said members of the group that attacked the Capitol “seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”

An “immediate investigation” therefore is needed to look into “the suspicious behavior and access given to the visitors,” they wrote.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, a former US Navy helicopter pilot and one of the signatories of the letter, first expressed her concerns in a Facebook video on Tuesday night in which she alleged that the outside groups had arrived at the invitation of members of Congress to take part in a “reconnaissance” mission ahead of the events of Jan. 6.

The letter dated Jan. 13 also mentioned the unusual nature of the visit by a large number of outside groups considering the coronavirus restrictions.

“The tours being conducted on Tuesday, January 5, were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol. These tours were so concerning that they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms on January 5,” it added. EFE-EPA


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