Congress claims sovereign immunity prevents Capitol Police from sharing January 6 emails and videos

Judicial Watch continues its fight for access in court.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Judicial Watch is challenging an attempt by the U.S Capitol Police to block the watchdog organization's federal lawsuit to gain access to videos and emails related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.  

Congress, via the police department, is arguing that the videos and emails being sought are not matters of public record and that there is no public interest in their release. Furthermore, the body is claiming that sovereign immunity prevents citizens from suing for their release.

The suit was filed by Judicial Watch under the common law right of access after the Capitol Police refused to provide requested records in response to the group's initial request dating back to January 2021.

The initial request was for emails between the USCP executive team and the Capitol Police board pertaining to the security of the Capitol complex on the day of the riot and emails among the USCP and the FBI, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

The group additionally asked for all video footage from within the Capitol from noon to 9 p.m. on the day of the riot. 

The suit was filed under the common law right of access to public records because Congress exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act. 

"In 'the courts of this country' – including the federal courts – the common law bestows upon the public a right of access to public records and documents ... 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.' ... [T]he general rule is that all three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, are subject to the common law right." The right of access is a precious "common law right ... that predates the Constitution itself," writes Judicial Watch, citing Supreme Court precedent that upholds the public's right to understand what "their government is up to."

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said of the issue, "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. 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."