Loudermilk Defends Capitol Tour Photos: 'Wanted to See the Little Trains'

Barry Loudermilk, a Republican U.S. Representative from Georgia, says that the group of visitors he led through the Capitol complex one day before the January 6, 2021, riot snapped photos of allegedly sensitive areas because children "wanted to see the little trains."

The House January 6 Committee sent a letter to Loudermilk demanding answers about surveillance footage showing him leading a group through the complex as a man snapped photos of areas like security checkpoints and stairwells. The committee also shared footage that purportedly showed the same man threatening top Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as he walked toward the Capitol on January 6.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, Loudermilk said that images of the man snapping photos of an underground security checkpoint were explained by there being children in the group who were eager to catch a glimpse of "the little trains," referring to the small subway system that connects the U.S. Capitol building to several adjacent House and Senate office buildings.

"Actually, what they were taking a picture of was... I took the family, and of course the other folks who were with them, have two young kids that wanted to see the little trains that take congressmen," Loudermilk said. "So I took them to show them where the trolley was, in the Rayburn tunnel."

Rep. Barry Loudermilk
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Georgia, listens to a speaker at a press conference, May 4, 2021, in Marietta, Ga. Loudermilk of Georgia is the latest GOP lawmaker to be asked to cooperate with the House select committee probing the violence that took place on Jan. 6, 2021. AP

Although there is a subway system running under the Capitol complex, no trains were featured in the images released by the committee on Wednesday. Photos allegedly taken by the January 5 visitor included images of Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler's office door and the House Majority staff office.

Loudermilk has maintained that the images show him innocently guiding a group of constituents through his office building, although the Capitol was officially closed to visitors that day. The group did not enter the Capitol building itself.

When asked why visitors would be interested in taking photos of security checkpoints and stairwells, Loudermilk pointed out that the stairwell captured on surveillance footage was near a "golden eagle sconce."

"If you go to that stairwell, there's a golden eagle sconce that's on the wall," he said. "That's what he was taking a picture of. I mean, these are folks who had never been to Washington, D.C., and they were here to visit their congressman. And they were excited."

Loudermilk insisted that he had not responded to the committee because his office had "never" received the panel's letter, nor any emails or phone calls. The committee said that Wednesday's letter was the second it had sent to Loudermilk about the tour, with the first being sent last month.

Capitol Police said on Monday that they did not observe any "suspicious" activity during the January 5 visit in a letter addressed to Republican Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois.

Loudermilk called the letter and the footage released by the committee on Wednesday part of a "smear campaign" and a "false narrative."

"As Capitol Police confirmed, nothing about this visit with constituents was suspicious," Loudermilk said in a statement obtained by Newsweek. "The pictures show children holding bags from the House gift shop, which was open to visitors, and taking pictures of the Rayburn train."

"This false narrative that the Committee and Democrats continue to push, that Republicans, including myself, led reconnaissance tours is verifiably false," he continued.

Newsweek reached out to the January 6 Committee for comment.