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Mike Johnson admits to protecting Jan 6 rioters from charges

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson appeared to admit that he is protecting people who breached the halls of Congress on January 6 from potential prosecution from the US Department of Justice.

Mr Johnson has pledged the release of thousands of hours of raw footage from the attack on the US Capitol, fulfilling a promise to far-right members of his party who have downplayed the riots and accused federal law enforcement of selectively prosecuting political opponents who stormed the halls of Congress.

“We have to blur some faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against, and to be charged by the DOJ, and to have other, you know, concerns and problems,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson played a central effort among House Republicans to reject Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election, a campaign supported by baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud that fuelled the Capitol attacks.

More than 1,200 people have been charged in connection with the siege, including more than 400 people accused of assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers and staff, according to the Justice Department. More than 100 people were charged with using a weapon or injuring officers.

Footage of the event – as thousands marched to the Capitol, broke through police barricades, climbed through windows, ransacked offices and occupied House chambers – was livestreamed by participants and widely broadcast.

Congressional Republicans have sought to rewrite the narrative of the attack, even before a House committee spent months painstakingly investigating the events surrounding Mr Trump’s attempts to reverse his loss to Joe Biden. State and federal prosecutors later charged the former president with conspiring to unlawfully overturn election results.

GOP officials have since echoed Mr Trump’s attacks to accuse the Justice Department and the White House of launching politically motivated prosecutions against him and his supporters.

Last month, the newly-elected House speaker announced a first tranche of 90 hours of security footage, with 44,000 hours of tape expected to be released over the next several months. A public viewing room has also been set up inside the Capitol to review the footage.

Raj Shah, deputy chief of staff for communications for Mr Johnson, said faces will be “blurred from public viewing room footage to prevent all forms of retaliation against private citizens from any non-governmental actors.”

In a statement last month, Mr Johnson said the footage will allow “millions of Americans, criminal defendants, public interest organizations, and the media an ability to see for themselves what happened that day, rather than having to rely upon the interpretation of a small group of government officials.”

Mr Trump thanked Mr Johnson “for having the courage and fortitude” to release the footage.

“We trust the American people to draw their own conclusion,” Mr Johnson said on Tuesday. “They should not be dictated by some narrative and accept that as fact. They can review the tapes themselves.”

The Independent has requested comment from the Justice Department.