Three police officers appear to be among those chanting “drain the swamp” and “Whose house? Our house!” as protesters invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, the government said in a federal court document filed Friday.
The actions were recorded on GoPro video by a Metropolitan Police officer stationed at the Capitol “in an evidence-gathering capacity,” the document said.
The government’s filing involves the case of a Kansas man charged with multiple felonies in connection with the Capitol riot. William Pope, of Topeka — who is representing himself — has asked the judge to release videos in his case that he says show undercover Metropolitan Police officers inciting protesters to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The footage, from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Electronic Surveillance Unit, “captures the officer shouting words to the effect of ‘Go! Go! Go!’ … ‘Go! Go! Go!’ … and ‘Keeping going! Keep going!’ apparently to the individuals in front of him on the balustrade of the U.S. Capitol’s northwest staircase around 2:15 p.m,” the government’s filing said.
“At other times in these videos, the officer and the two other plain clothes officers with him appear to join the crowd around them in various chants, to include ‘drain the swamp,’ ‘U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!’, and ‘whose house? Our house!’”
The government filed the document after U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered prosecutors to respond to reports that other media outlets would be given the same access to more than 40,000 hours of Capitol Police surveillance footage that House Republicans recently gave to Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He then showed dozens of clips on his programs, downplaying the violence and portraying protesters as mostly peaceful.
Last week, the top lawyer for U.S. Capitol Police filed a sworn affidavit saying House Republicans had disregarded the agency’s requests to examine and approve every Jan. 6 video clip they intended to make public. Thomas DiBiase said he learned through a media report on Feb. 20 that staff from Carlson’s show had been granted access to the footage.
Of the many snippets played during Carlson’s shows on March 6 and 7, DiBiase said, “I was shown only one clip before it aired.”
Contreras ordered Capitol Police to file the affidavit after delaying a ruling earlier this month on Pope’s request to release the sealed videos.
The judge said that before issuing a ruling, he wanted to know more about news reports that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy planned to make the Capitol security footage available to the broader public and to lawyers of defendants charged in the insurrection.
The debate over the release of Capitol security video intensified last month when McCarthy faced criticism for granting Carlson exclusive access to view the footage. McCarthy then said he would make access more widely available.
In its filing Friday, the government told the judge that Carlson’s show was the only media outlet granted access to the videos.
“No media organizations other than the single television show previously discussed has been given access to the material at issue in this case,” it said. “Similarly, it is the government’s understanding that neither the United States Capitol Police nor the Metropolitan Police Department has approved the dissemination of any of the disputed materials… to any media outlet. The government will notify the Court if there is a change in this status.”
In a court filing earlier this year, Pope said one video showed that “undercover police officers were joining the crowd in chants of ‘drain the swamp’ and ‘Whose house? Our house!’ as well as repeatedly yelling at people to move up the northwest steps and physically pushing them forward. This is not a wild conspiracy theory. The facts are in the video recorded by the undercover officer (which remains under seal)…,” he said, calling it “clear evidence of undercover provocateurs.”
In a Nov. 12 filing, the government said it “has disclosed to Pope that the government is not aware of any person who was acting on behalf of any government agency as an ‘agent provocateur’ — that is, as a person who committed or acted to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act — with respect to January 6, 2021.”
Early Friday evening, Pope responded on Twitter to the government’s new filing.
“The government has been hiding video of undercover government operators inciting the January 6 crowd for 807 days,” he wrote. “But today they finally admitted video of these provocateur activities exists.”
Pope has filed a series of motions saying he has a right to the videos. Because attorneys representing Jan. 6 defendants are given full access to the discovery databases in order to prepare a defense, he argued, that same access should be available to defendants acting as their own attorneys. He also said releasing the videos was “in the interest of justice and government transparency.”
But the government countered that the videos aren’t relevant to Pope’s case and that he only wants them unsealed so he can share them with the media and others.
“The defendant has had access to said material and is not seeking modification of the protective order for any purpose other than to share criminal discovery from his case with others,” it said Friday.
Protecting the integrity of the Capitol’s surveillance system and emergency protocols, which include evacuation routes and blind spots in the closed circuit video system, “is a matter of grave national security,” the government said.
“Given the highly volatile nature of the discourse surrounding these cases, releasing the identities of the officers depicted in these videos — officers the defendant now claims to have instigated the entire attack on the U.S. Capitol — would surely put the lives of those officers at risk,” it said.
“The defendant never claims that this evidence needs to be publicly released for some evidentiary purpose. Rather, the sole purpose is to seek pretrial publicity on the issues he perceives as important not to his case specifically, but January 6 as a whole.”
Pope’s ongoing battle for the material has been widely discussed in right-wing circles, and even as his case winds through federal court, he posts continual updates on social media. His Twitter post about undercover MPD officers got thousands of retweets.