WASHINGTON D.C. – Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group that files Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits to investigate alleged misconduct by government officials, announced that their legal battle to obtain emails and videos related to the riots at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021 from the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) are being actively opposed by Congress.
The investigation being conducted by Judicial Watch centers on the shooting death of Ashli Babbitt on the day of the riots by a member of the United States Capitol Police (USCP). Babbit was among a group of rioters who had breached the Capitol Building and were attempting to break through a barricaded doorway in a hallway that led to the chamber where members of Congress were in the process of being evacuated.
The death of Babbit was ruled “lawful and within Department policy” and “potentially saved members (of Congress) and staff from serious injury and possible death” following a USCP investigation, although some have continued to question the legality of the shooting, with Republican representative Paul Gosar claiming that Babbit had been “executed.”
According to Judicial Watch, their lawsuit – originally filed on January 21, 2021 – requested email communications “between the U.S. Capitol Police Executive Team and the Capitol Police Board” as well as “Capitol Police Board with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security” concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
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In addition, the legal filing also requested “all video footage from within the Capitol between 12 pm and 9 pm on January 6, 2021.”
However, Judicial Watch announced back in February that it had filed an opposition with the court after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the activist group’s requests cannot be complied with, saying that “sovereign immunity” prevents members of the public to sue for the release of the email and video records in question, according to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“The Pelosi Congress (and its police department) is telling a federal court it is immune from all transparency under law and is trying to hide every second of its January 6 videos and countless emails,” he said. “The hypocrisy is rich, as this is the same Congress that is trying to jail witnesses who, citing privileges, object to providing documents to the Pelosi rump January 6 committee.”
As Congress itself is not subject to that Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch is instead pursuing the matter via its lawsuit under the common law right of access to public records, saying that people have a right to transparency from their government and that there are previous Supreme Court rulings that would back up their case.
“The Supreme Court was unequivocal in stating that there is a federal common law right of access ‘to inspect and copy public records and documents.’” the lawsuit says.“[T]he general rule is that all three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, are subject to the common law right.”