How Colbert show staffers got kicked out of two House office buildings

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You cannot be in a House or Senate office building or anywhere in the United States Capitol without a guard.

Even if you’re Triumph, the comically insulting dog.

United States Capitol Police (USCP) arrested seven production staff from “The Late Show” starring Stephen Colbert — eight if you include the puppet dog — and charged them with unlawful entry last Thursday night.

Fox is told they were knocking on the doors of the House Republicans offices in the Longworth House Office Building and being “disruptive, loud” and “theatrical” as they taped comedy sketches for the Late Show around 8.30pm. Capitol Police got fed up and arrested the crew near the office of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., on the sixth floor of Longworth.

The problem is that the “Colbert 7” weren’t even supposed to be inside the Capitol complex. Especially at this hour.

Here is some context:

The House and Senate Radio/TV Galleries have an accreditation process for “electronic” journalists, such as TV. The Radio/TV Correspondents Association (RTCA), made up of journalists who cover Congress, generally determines who and which organizations are eligible for a permanent or temporary press pass to cover Congress. For example, CBS News is eligible. A group from The Late Show does not. It’s entertainment.

Stephen Colbert discusses the May 24, 2022 mass shooting in Texas and urges Americans to vote wisely in the midterm elections.
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US CAPITOL POLICE ARREST STEPHEN COLBERT STAFF AT OFFICE BUILDING, CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL ENTRY

Fox learns that Colbert’s crew requested credentials to cover the January 6 committee hearings. But the House Radio/TV Gallery has put the kibosh on that. The issue never even reached the RTCA. Late Show people are not considered “news” reporters.

Still, members of Colbert’s team showed up last week at the Cannon House office building for the committee hearing investigating last year’s riot.

The United States Capitol Police required a special “overlay” in addition to standard press credentials to cover or approach the area where the 1/6 Committee is conducting its hearings. But Colbert’s team seems to have ignored some of these parameters. They arrived earlier in the day Thursday to conduct interviews with members of the Jan. 6 committee, Reps. Adam Schiff, D-California, and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. They also interviewed D-Mass rep Jake Auchincloss. However, Auchincloss is not a member of the panel investigating the riot.

The Colbert group was busy in the area of ​​the Cannon House office building where the January 6 committee held its hearing last week. The USCP started them from the building because they didn’t have the proper credentials. However, Fox learned that the Late Night crew returned and were let into the House office buildings by an Auchinclos aide shortly after 4:30 p.m. and Thursday. Fox learns that the Auchinclos staff member has been told he has more interviews to do.

Which brings us to the sixth floor of Longworth on Thursday night.

The same group of officers who kicked Colbert’s crew out near the courtroom earlier in the day encountered them again. They lacked an escort. They weren’t accredited. The officers therefore summoned a captain from the USCP.

When they arrived, the captain decided they had to stop the Colbert 7. After all, they weren’t supposed to be in the Capitol complex at this hour unattended. This was augmented by the fact that they were fired from the Cannon building earlier in the day.

Fox learns that the Colbert team cooperated with the USCP.

If there is a “protest” on Capitol Hill, USCP officers typically give violators “three warnings” before beginning arrests. The first warning warns protesters that they are breaking the law and are being asked permission. The second warning mirrors the first. The USCP arrests suspects if they do not comply with the third warning.

However, a source familiar with the investigation told Fox, “It was not a protest. It was illegal entry.”

A source close to the investigation told Fox USCP there was no need to give them “three warnings” like what would happen at a protest.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY speaks to the media after a Democratic political luncheon, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of NY speaks to the media after a Democratic political luncheon, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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It is rare to arrest people in the House and Senate office buildings after hours. The USCP periodically encounters “lost” people, wandering through buildings after an evening reception and not finding their way. These are honest mistakes and they are handled differently. The USCP arrested a group of ‘squatters’ who entered the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., in the Hart Senate Office Building several years ago during office hours . They refused to leave when the office closed. Schumer’s aides called the USCP. The USCP arrested these people after the “three commandments” to leave.

Federal authorities have charged 132 people with “knowingly entering or remaining in a building or restricted area without lawful authority” in connection with last year’s riot. One person bears this as his only load. The FBI has also charged many of these same suspects with far more serious crimes in addition to “unlawful entry”. Members of the “Colbert 7” could face up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine if found guilty. However, Fox learns that a court would likely view the Colbert suspects very differently from those who were part of the riot.

Just last week, a court found Couy Griffin of “Cowboys for Trump” guilty of a misdemeanor for entering the grounds of the Capitol — even though he never approached the Capitol itself. A court sentenced Griffin to two weeks in jail. Griffin had already spent 20 days in jail. Griffin therefore received credit for time served and was sentenced to 60 hours of community service plus one year of supervised release. He will also have to pay a fine of $3,000.

Gracyn Dawn Courtright pleaded guilty to entering a building with restricted access after last year’s riot. Courtright was sentenced to one month in prison. She obtained a year of supervised release after her sentence and had to perform 60 hours of community service. Courtright was also fined $500.

There are also implications for the committee’s investigation in all of this.

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The Jan. 6 panel recently released what it called video of a “surveillance visit” allegedly given by Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., the day before last year’s riot. The video shows Loudermilk showing people around the House office buildings and an individual taking pictures in curious places. Loudermilk said he knew some of the people who came to his office on January 5 last year. But he didn’t know any others who were waiting for the tour.

The Jan. 6 committee video showed a man – who was supposedly part of the tour given by Loudermilk – heading for the Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening to “run out” everyone from Schumer to the president of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, DN.Y., to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y.

Investigators interviewed the unnamed man. But he was never charged.

Republicans understandably pointed out that the only people arrested for inappropriately wandering around a House office building were those on Colbert’s show.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Republican members slam President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the end of the war in Afghanistan, during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Republican members slam President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the end of the war in Afghanistan, during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Officials tightened congressional security after September 11, 2001. You can imagine the concerns about Capitol security after the riot. That’s not to mention concerns about a conflagration after the Supreme Court issues its decision on abortion in the days or weeks to come. That’s why there’s growing concern about people lingering in House office buildings after hours, whether or not they’re comedians for a late-night TV show.

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In fact, officials have also dismissed Smigel (and Triumph) from other venues, ranging from the 2004 Boston Democratic National Convention to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Congress has always been the target of comedians. The January 6 committee hearings are no exception.

College football coach Lou Holtz perhaps summed it up best:

“The problem with a sense of humor is that the people you use it with aren’t in a very good mood,” Holtz said.

And that may be the disposition of some legislators after this incident. And the United States Capitol Police.

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