In a bizarre attention-grabbing maneuver, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) claimed this morning that Capitol Hill police took unauthorized photos of his office last fall.
He made the surprising claim on Twitter, saying that on Nov. 22, 2021, “special agents dressed like construction workers” questioned one of his staff members about photographs that they had supposedly taken two days before.
According to Nehls, on Nov. 20 — days before the fateful, construction-garbed encounter with Nehls’ staff — one or more Capitol Police officers infiltrated the Texas representative’s office and took pictures of what the congressman described as “confidential legislative products.”
It’s a weird set of claims, and one that comes as Nehls and other Republicans seek to shift blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection away from Trump and the rioters and onto what they describe as inept Capitol Police leadership. Nehls sought to cast the Thanksgiving-week encounter as a form of political persecution.
Fellow travelers on the right immediately pounced on the allegation: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) suggested on Tuesday that the DOJ was intercepting his mail. The president of the right-wing advocacy group Judicial Watch, meanwhile, accused Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of creating a “secret police” force to hunt down freethinkers like Nehls and Gohmert.
Hours after Nehls made his accusation, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger issued a statement that didn’t line up with Nehls’ account at all.
Manger said that the door to Nehls’ office was “left open and unsecured,” noting that officers on the force are “directed to document that and secure the office to ensure nobody can wander in and steal or do anything else nefarious.”
“The weekend before Thanksgiving, one of our vigilant officers spotted the Congressman’s door was wide open,” the statement reads. “That Monday, USCP personnel personally followed up with the Congressman’s staff and determined no investigation or further action of any kind was needed.”
A copy of a Capitol Police report from the incident obtained by TPM describes elements of the encounter. It does not mention any photographs.
On Nov. 20, the report says, a USCP officer found Nehls’ “staff only door wide open with no one in the area.”
The officer entered, and then saw a white board with text about body armor and an accompanying map of the Capitol campus.
The officer “noticed a White Board with suspicious writings mentioning body armor with an outline of the Rayburn Building next to the Longworth building with an ‘x’ marked at the C Street entrance of the Rayburn,” the report says.
The officer departed, the report says, locking the door. The report doesn’t address the photo that Nehls said was taken, or the follow-up conversation with the ersatz construction workers. It was created on Nov. 23, 2021 — one day after the alleged follow-up encounter.
“If Capitol Police leadership had spent as much time preparing for January 6 as they spent investigating my white board, the January 6 riot never would have happened,” Nehls fumed to The Federalist, which published an article about the incident on Tuesday morning.
The Federalist explained the map as a way to help an intern find an ice machine, and said that the body armor was a reference to legislation that would ban the procurement of China-made body armor.
Nehls told various outlets that he asked the Capitol Police Inspector General to investigate the November encounter, and that the IG’s office would do so.
In the year since the insurrection, Nehls has focused on shifting blame for the attack away from Trump and the rioters and onto the Capitol Police, accusing them of lax security measures that allowed the insurgents to enter the building.
On the day of the Jan. 6 attack, Nehls behaved rather differently. Trapped on the House floor with several other members of Congress, he helped barricade a door, and attempted to talk down an insurgent who was breaking through a glass panel as plainclothes officers trained their guns at him.
Gohmert made a similarly bizarre claim on Tuesday that also fed the notion of a vast surveillance state run by Pelosi and directed at conservatives. Gohmert claimed that he had received constituent mail with “DOJ MAILROOM” and “X-RAYED” stamps, suggesting that not only were the feds reading and x-raying his mail, but that they wanted him to know they were doing it.
“Given reports breaking today of an Inspector General’s investigation being opened after another Republican member alleged Speaker Pelosi’s Capitol Police were in his personal office photographing his work product, the Democrat’s spying on political opponents appears to know no end,” Gohmert wrote.