Pa.’s Scanlon says she saw tour groups in the Capitol before attack

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Protesters enter the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A Pennsylvania Democrat is now among the ranks of members of Congress who say they saw suspicious tour groups in the U.S. Capitol in the days before pro-Trump extremists stormed the building on Jan. 6 to disrupt the counting of electoral votes.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, asserted she had seen “people getting tours in the day or two preceding the attack on the Capitol.”

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J. claimed in a Facebook live broadcast on Tuesday that she had seen congressional colleagues leading groups on “reconnaissance” tours of the Capitol the day before the attack, the Washington Post reported.

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Sherrill, who is a former Navy helicopter pilot, said she saw “members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 for reconnaissance for the next day,” the Post reported. She did not identify which lawmakers she saw leading the groups, the newspaper reported.

On Thursday, said her colleague’s account “rang a bell for me,” and that it struck her as unusual because tours of the Capitol have been long been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I saw the tours, I thought it must be new members who didn’t know the rules,” she said. “I noted it. It was unusual. But I didn’t look at it with the same level of detail as [Sherrill] did. I don’t have her foreign policy experience. We need answers on how this happened.”

When she was asked whether she could specifically identify the lawmakers leading the tours, Scanlon said she couldn’t tell if they were being led by colleagues or staff.

“I don’t know all the new members of Congress yet,” she said, adding that, the tours “could have been conducted by a member. My impression was that it was a staff member.”

Scanlon said she had the impression the people on the tours were “Trump supporters because there was a lot of red,” and they weren’t wearing their masks correctly. She could not say on which day she saw the tours.

“I can only say that I can confirm that I saw a tour, 6-8 people, in the tunnels that lead from the office buildings to the Capitol,” she said.

Scanlon, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, castigated Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, who were caught on video declining masks as they sheltered in a crowded Capitol meeting room on the day of the attack. Scanlon was not in the room last week. 

“It’s just completely irresponsible,” she said. “A lot of members of Congress are very angry and I share their anger.”

Four lawmakers have since tested positive for COVID-19 since the attack, Reuters reported Thursday.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press