March 28, 2023

A senior staffer to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met this week with Micki Witthoeft, mother of Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot and killed by police as she breached a set of doors to the Speaker’s Lobby on Jan. 6, 2021. The meeting occurred outside McCarthy’s office, according to multiple sources.

Witthoeft also met briefly with House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, this week, Comer’s office confirmed.  

“Chairman Comer saw Mrs. Babbitt in the hallway yesterday after his testimony on the committee’s budget with Ranking Member Raskin and was pleased for the opportunity to exchange hellos,” Comer’s spokeswoman said.

The brief meetings are the latest in a series of inroads with newly empowered House Republican majority made by Babbitt’s mother, relatives of Jan. 6 defendants and even one Capitol riot defendant herself, according to a review by CBS News.

At a Tuesday evening protest event outside the Washington, D.C., jail, Witthoeft said, “We talked to James Comer, we talked to McCarthy’s (staffer) and had a lovely chat in the hallway with Clay Higgins,” Witthoeft said of the Louisiana GOP congressman. “He prayed with us. He was just so genuine. We look forward to working with him in the future.”

At the protest event, Witthoeft also said, “When we speak to these people, they do know there has been an injustice. We’re counting on them to step up and do something about it.”

McCarthy is already under scrutiny over his recent decision to share exclusive access to some of the over 41,000 hours of Jan. 6 police video with Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s team.   

Jan. 6 defendant Victoria White of Minnesota allegedly violated a stay-away order from Washington, D.C. by visiting the Capitol building to meet with congressional staff and the D.C. jail in support of some incarcerated Jan. 6 defendants. At a Feb.10 hearing in White’s criminal case, prosecutors and court officials argued White had violated pretrial release conditions. After hearing arguments, a federal judge ordered White to request and receive approval from court officials before making any future trips to the Capitol or congressional office buildings. White’s defense attorney said her conditions of release did not explicitly bar her from supporting Jan. 6 defendants or traveling to the Capitol.

“I am going to bar visits to the Capitol unless they are approved,” Judge John Bates said of White at a recent hearing, according to a transcript of the proceedings obtained by CBS News. “That is a condition that has been imposed on other defendants relating to the January 6th events, and I think that makes sense here as well.” 

Speaking to CBS News, Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican of Florida, acknowledged meeting with White on Capitol Hill when she visited. 

“There are serious issues about how a lot of Jan. 6 defendants have had their constitutional rights violated,” said Donalds. “They’ve been held for extended periods of time.”

Other House Republicans have also taken meetings with Jan. 6 supporters and relatives of defendants. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican of Georgia, told CBS News, “We’re actually looking at doing oversight of the D.C. jail,” where dozens of Jan. 6 defendants have been held in pretrial detention.  

Greene said there is a possibility some defendants’ relatives could be called as witnesses at a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, a panel on which Greene sits. Greene also said there is consideration of subpoenas for officials with oversight of the jail.

Retired Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonnell, who was injured during the Capitol attack, said it is hypocritical of McCarthy to allow staff to meet with Babbitt’s mother. Gonnell told CBS News, “He is creating a narrative that nothing happened. It’s a total betrayal of what I risked my life for on Jan. 6.” 

Efforts to reach Witthoeft were unsuccessful Wednesday. Higgins’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During a protest Tuesday by relatives and supporters of Jan. 6 defendants’ relatives and supporters outside the D.C. jail, leaders of the protest said they expect to to attend this week’s Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference in Maryland. Top congressional Republicans, activists and former President Donald Trump are scheduled to speak at the event.

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