Extraordinary allegations have been levelled at members of the US Congress who are accused of taking Trump fanatics on "reconnaissance" missions through the Capitol building a day before the insurrection under the guise of "public tours".
A group of about 30 members of Congress, led by Democrat Mikie Sherrill, has written to Capitol Police requesting an investigation into the visitors allowed in the day before the deadly riot, on January 5.
"Many of the members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognise suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex," Sherrill said.
"This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic."
The uptick in visitors was so noticeable that it got reported to the sergeant at arms on January 5.
Yesterday, Sherrill claimed to have witnessed some Republican members of Congress leading visitors in what she called "reconnaissance" of the building. She did not specify which members of Congress she was referring to.
In a Facebook Live video, the former navy helicopter pilot claimed she saw first-hand "members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol on January 5th, a reconnaissance for the next day".
The claims came hours before Donald Trump became the first US president to be impeached for a second time.
In her video, Sherrill detailed the frightening events that unfolded as she and her colleagues attempted to certify the election while a mob of Trump supporters tried to stop them.
"I think most of you know how proud I've always been to be an American," she said. "And to be part of this great country. One of the things that is a birthright is our democracy … the peaceful transition of government.
"As I was sitting in the House chamber, I began to get reports on my phone. I heard that the building where members have their offices across the street from the Capitol was being evacuated.
"I heard there were crowds gathering … and that the Vice President had been evacuated. Shortly thereafter I watched Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, evacuated from our chamber. And then the doors were shut and locked. We attempted to continue the debate but that became impossible as crowds … started banging on the doors. And so we were told to get out the gas masks in case we had to egress through tear gas.
"Then we were told that we had to get down … because they were worried that an active shooter was going to get into the chamber. As I was on the floor I heard other members making calls home, afraid that would be the last call that they ever made.
"I called my husband and told him I was okay. I told him I had to go and as I was getting ready to leave the chamber, I noticed a colleague … was having a little bit of trouble. I helped her down the stairs.
"We were concerned, worried around every corner that we might find the mob. I was told later that members of that mob were carrying zip ties and wearing body armour and were willing to take prisoners.
"We made it to the secure location and then, in an act that shows the bravery of so many members of this body … as we were holed up in the chamber by a mob of domestic terrorists violently trying to overthrow our ability to certify the election, they went back hours later into that very chamber so we could finish the debate and certify the election.
"We had armed members of a mob incited by the President. Militias that the President of the United States called to the Capitol … to ensure we did not have a peaceful transition of power."
She said she planned to hold members of Congress who allegedly assisted the mob accountable.
"I also intend to see that members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol on January 5th, a reconnaissance for the next day, those members of Congress that attempted to help the President undermine our democracy … I'm going to see that they are held accountable."
The Washington Post reported that several Capitol Police officers have been temporarily relieved of their duties amid investigations into suspected ties to rioters and for showing "inappropriate support for last week's attempted insurrection".
– with Sam Clench