Rep. Mikie Sherrill said she saw members of Congress leading "reconnaissance" tours through the Capitol building the day before the riot

By Sean Neumann
January 14, 2021 04:49 PM
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Aftermath of riots in the U.S. Capitol
| Credit: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The aftermath of last week's U.S. Capitol riot took a startling turn this week, when Democratic members of Congress accused Republicans of helping insurrectionists plan the violent Jan. 6 events.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill said Tuesday night on Facebook Live that she had previously witnessed multiple members of Congress leading groups through the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 5.

The New Jersey congresswoman referred to what she witnessed as "reconnaissance" tours, led by her colleagues the day before the deadly pro-Donald Trump riot, incited by the president's false claims over his election loss.

Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in connection with the insurrection. Trump, 74, was impeached for a second time Wednesday for his role in the riot and Sherrill says she intends to hold GOP lawmakers accountable for "abetting" the president's incitement.

Rioters at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021
| Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty

Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot, described the harrowing scenes inside the Capitol in a recent interview with PEOPLE and spoke out against some of her Republican colleagues who have continued to repeat Trump's false election claims, which in part sparked the riot.

"I'm hoping that they realize that the real harm that their actions have done to our country and our democracy and I hope they stand down," Sherrill said. "But they have not yet decided that this is harmful to our country."

On Wednesday, Politico reported that 34 Democratic representatives in the House signed a letter asking U.S. Capitol Police to investigate what they called "suspicious behavior" in the Capitol complex on Jan. 5.

"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 lawmakers wrote, adding that "the ties between these groups inside the Capitol Complex and the attacks on the Capitol need to be investigated."

Spokespersons for the Capitol Police and the Department of Justice did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment about whether there are ongoing investigations into the lawmakers' claims.

Rioters breach Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021
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Pro-Trump rioters breach the U.S. Capitol building
| Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

On Monday, The Intercept reported that right-wing activist Ali Alexander had alleged on three separate occasions that GOP Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar had helped plan the Jan. 6 events, which led to a violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

"We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting," Alexander, a pro-Trump activist, claimed in a now-deleted social media video.

A spokesperson for Rep. Brooks denied the representative knows Alexander. The spokesperson called the activist a "political grifter with a dubious past" and sent a statement from Brooks, who, according to his office, "has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is" and "has not in any way, shape or form coordinated with Ali Alexander on the January 6th 'Save America' rally."

Alexander has previously pled guilty to felony charges of theft and credit card abuse in Texas, Politico reported. Since last week's insurrection, he has been banned from major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Spokespersons for Biggs and Gosar did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment on Thursday. A spokesperson for Biggs told Fox News this week that the Republican lawmaker is "not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point."

The Washington Post reported Gosar had referred to Alexander as a "true patriot" in a tweet last November, amid the early days of Trump's push to overturn the 2020 election results. Alexander was one of the leading organizers behind the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rally last Wednesday, Politico reported.

Gosar has not addressed alleged ties to Alexander or any of his alleged involvement in planning the U.S. Capitol riot, though he has continued to post on social media blaming "Antifa" for the violence and has continued to parrot the president's false election claims. Gosar's siblings are among those calling for the Republican lawmaker to resign after the U.S. Capitol riot.