DOJ says video of 'QAnon Shaman' Fox aired lacks context

It says the few minutes Tucker Carlson showed failed to tell all he did.

March 13, 2023, 3:50 PM

The Justice Department in a new filing put forward its most direct response yet to footage aired last week by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that sought to downplay the actions of the self-described "QAnon Shaman," who was convicted and sentenced to prison for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In a response to a filing from a defendant charged with seditious conspiracy alongside other members of the Proud Boys currently on trial -- who has sought to have his case dismissed in part over the newly-aired footage -- prosecutors argued the roughly four minutes aired by Carlson of Jacob Chansley's movements "lacks the context" of what Chansley actually did during the roughly hour-long period he was inside the building.

They revealed the video aired by Carlson was captured on internal CCTV cameras "only from approximately 2:56 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.," after Chansley had already breached a police line with the mob and "faced off with members of the U.S. Capitol Police for more than thirty minutes in front of the Senate Chamber doors while elected officials, including the Vice President of the United States, were fleeing from the chamber."

Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," screams "Freedom" inside the U.S. Senate chamber after the U.S. Capitol was breached by a mob during a joint session of Congress, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE

"Chansley then entered the Senate Gallery, where he proceeded to scream obscenities while other rioters rifled through the desks of U.S. Senators on the floor below," prosecutors wrote. "In sum, Chansley was not some passive, chaperoned observer of events for the roughly hour that he was unlawfully inside the Capitol."

While they note that it is true one officer was with Chansley as he made his way to the Senate floor after breaching the chamber earlier as the televised video reflects, the officer has said in a statement to prosecutors he was merely "trying to de-escalate the situation."

"...the televised footage fails to show that Chansley subsequently refused to be escorted out by this lone officer and instead left the Capitol only after additional officers arrived and forcibly escorted him out," the filing says.

Prosecutors also dispute that they sought to withhold the video shown on Carlson's show from Chansley or other defense attorneys involved in the Capitol riot cases, including Dominic Pezzola, the defendant in the Proud Boys case famously seen breaking through a window of the Capitol with a police riot shield and who moved to dismiss his case because of the videos aired by Carlson on his show last week.

They say that with the exception of ten seconds of CCTV camera footage aired by Carlson last week that "implicated an evacuation route. .. all of the footage played on television was disclosed to" to Pezzola and Chansley's attorneys by as early as September 2021. And the other 10 seconds were produced as part of a 'global discovery' system accessibly by all Jan. 6 defense attorneys in January of this year.

Chansley is currently in the middle of serving a 41-month sentence after pleading guilty to a felony charge of obstruction of an official proceeding for his participation in the Capitol riot. While his attorney appeared on Carlson's show last week and suggested his team may try and overturn the remainder of his sentence or seek some kind of reparations in light of the video aired of him last week -- they have not filed any such motion as of Monday afternoon.

In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, supporters of President Donald Trump, including Jacob Chansley, right with fur hat, are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, FILE

In response to a request from a coalition of media outlets, the judge overseeing Chansley's case on Monday ordered the release of several additional video exhibits used as evidence at the time of Chansley's sentencing.

One of the videos shows the immediate moments leading up to and after Chansley first entered the building through a door that had just been kicked open by some of the first rioters to breach the Capitol. On one of his shows last week, Carlson suggested there were still outstanding "questions" about how even Chansley entered the building -- even though other exhibits released long ago in the case made clear how he had entered.

The video depicts several rioters screaming and breaking through windows at the Capitol, before showing Chansley and other members of the pro-Trump mob streaming into the building through a door. Roughly a minute later it appears to capture one member of Congress being quickly escorted away by a security detail, just feet from the mob.

Another video exhibit released Monday included police bodycam footage showing a group of officers entering the Senate chamber and clearing out Chansley and a group of other rioters. Chansley infamously left a note behind on the dais where then-Vice President Mike Pence had been presiding over the counting of the electoral college votes that read, "It's only a matter of time, justice is coming."

Chansley can be heard in the video thanking the officers for "being patient with us," and after leaving the chamber can be heard continuing to shout "Freedom!" through a megaphone as he continues walking through the halls of the building.

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