(CNN) – Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee said that he and a fellow lawmaker personally saw Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado guiding a group of people through the Cannon House Office Building tunnel in the days leading up the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.
Cohen’s accusation is significant because it is the first time a member of Congress has specifically accused another member of giving a tour of the Capitol complex prior to the riot. It comes after several Democratic members have suggested that their Republican colleagues may have been providing the tours as an opportunity for the would-be rioters to get the lay of the land ahead of a planned insurrection.
“Only thing that I’ve seen, Congressman Yarmuth refreshed my recollection yesterday. We saw (Rep.) Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th. I don’t remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her. Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know,” Cohen told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on “CNN Newsroom.”
Cohen continued, “She was a freshman, she might have had a large number of people coming to be with her on this historic occasion and just wanting to give them the opportunity to have a tour. But it is pretty clear that her team is the team — she’s not on the home team. She was with the visitors.”
Boebert sent a letter to Cohen responding to the allegations he made on CNN, disputing the congressman’s characterization and saying his comments “repeat irresponsible lies in order to elevate his own political relevance and to further fuel the division of our country.”
“Let me be clear—all of your claims and implications are categorically false,” Boebert wrote. “I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group. As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the U.S. Congress. Again, the only people I have ever had in the Capitol with me during the 117th Congress are my young children, husband, mom, aunt and uncle.”
Cohen has not reported his observation to the FBI or Capitol Police, a spokesperson for the congressman told CNN.
“He was only reminded of it when he talked to Mr. Yarmuth yesterday,” the spokesperson added.
A spokesperson for Yarmuth confirmed that the congressman recalled seeing a group of people with Boebert earlier this month but would not comment on who those people were.
“On either January 3 or 4, Congressman Yarmuth was in the Cannon Tunnel going back to his office and saw Congresswoman Boebert walking in the direction of the Capitol,” Yarmuth spokesman Christopher Schuler said in a statement. “While Congressman Yarmuth remembers there was a group of people around Congresswoman Boebert, he has no knowledge of who they were or if they were with her.”
While Cohen is the first to specifically name Boebert as someone who may have given the tours, the rumors surrounding her role in the days leading up to January 6 were so heated that the congresswoman preemptively denied any wrongdoing. Boebert sent Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York a letter denying that she gave tours to insurrectionists after an interview on MSNBC in which Maloney accused Republican members of doing so. Maloney never mentioned Boebert by name.
“The only people I have ever had in the Capitol with me are my young children, husband, mom, aunt and uncle,” Boebert wrote in the letter to Maloney. “My mother was the only one of those family members in Washington D.C. on the 6th. During the riots, my mother was locked in a secure location, not in the U.S. Capitol, with my staff and never left their sight.”
Prior to the pandemic, the public had wide-ranging access to the Capitol complex, including the tunnels connecting the member office buildings to the Capitol itself. The Sergeant at Arms banned all tours of the Capitol Grounds at the start of the pandemic, but members of Congress were able to ignore the guidance. Lawmakers or staff led tours have never had to register visitors with Capitol Police, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of overall protocols told CNN.
Capitol Police and the FBI would not say on the record if they are investigating any members of Congress for their role in the planning leading up to the insurrection. USCP has not responded to CNN’s request for comment about whether a tour led by Boebert is something they are looking into.
Still the activity of GOP members during that week, was enough for Democratic members to raise concerns to Capitol Police and the Sergeant at Arms. Their concerns were loud enough that the Capitol Police sent out a memo on January 4 reiterating the Capitol Hill policy that banned tours from the spring and completely shut down the Capitol Building on January 6 to only members and those who had offices there.
This story has been updated with additional developments Monday including a new statement from Boebert’s office.
By Jim Sciutto, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer, CNN
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