A fellow member of Congress on Monday said that he had seen Rep. Lauren Boebert giving a tour to a large group of people in the days before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He did not accuse her of any wrongdoing, but Boebert has said that his statement was false nonetheless.
"We saw Congressman Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the third and the sixth (of January). I don't remember the date," said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, in a CNN appearance Monday morning.
Cohen said he didn't have any evidence that the tour group was doing anything nefarious or that its members were involved in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.
Boebert has explicitly denied that she gave any tour whatsoever through the Capitol in that timeframe. Instead, in a letter to Cohen, she said that she brought her family into the building to take pictures on Jan. 3.
"All of your claims and implications are categorically false. 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," she wrote.
"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."
Boebet's letter continued: "I’d like to repeat myself in condemning the attacks on the U.S. Capitol. The violence that took place on January 6th was indefensible and these criminals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I do not support unlawful acts of violence and support the rule of law. Myself and my entire family are deeply saddened by the loss of life that occurred. We are praying and asking for peace and civility during this coming week and as the country looks to heal from the events of January 6th."
The uproar is part of a broader, unsubstantiated allegation that insiders, supposedly including members of Congress, played a role in the security breach that forced elected officials to scramble for cover and left multiple people dead.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a New Jersey Democrat, said on Tuesday, Jan. 12, that she had seen unnamed "members of Congress" bringing groups to the Capitol for possible "reconnaissance" the day before the insurrection. She said the tours were unusual given security and COVID-19 restrictions.
Last Wednesday, Sherrill and 33 other members published a letter calling for an "immediate investigation into the suspicious behavior and access given to visitors to the Capitol Complex." The letter claimed that "many" of the signatories had spotted an "extremely high number of outside groups" in the complex on Jan. 5.
The idea that Boebert specifically gave a tour first surfaced on that same day, when Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney said on MSNBC that he had heard secondhand accusations about insurrectionists getting a tour.
He never named Boebert, but in the same statement he mentioned new members who "believe in conspiracy theories and who want to carry guns into the House Chamber." (Boebert has refused to allow Capitol police to search her bag and has insisted that she can carry her gun in the building.)
Boebert responded to Maloney with a letter categorically denying that she gave a tour and accusing him of "extremely offensive, shameful and dangerous" behavior. Maloney replied that he'd never said Boebert's name in public.
On Sunday night, Boebert again told CPR News that she had not given any tours.
"I have never given a tour of the U.S. Capitol to any outside group or 'insurrectionist.' In fact, the only people I ever had in the Capitol with me were my young children, husband, mom, aunt and uncle," she said in a statement provided by her office.
She continued: "My mother was the only one of those family members in Washington D.C. on the 6th. During the protests, my mom was locked in a secure location, not in the U.S. Capitol, with my staff and she never left their sight."
Rep. Cohen made his allegation in an interview with CNN anchor Jim Sciutto on Monday morning.
"She had a large group with her. Now, whether they were people who were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know," Cohen said.
Cohen theorized that Boebert might have simply had guests "coming to be with her on this historic occasion and just wanting to give them the opportunity to have a tour."
Rep. Cohen also claimed that another congressman, Rep. John Yarmuth, had witnessed the tour. Neither Cohen nor Yarmuth's offices immediately responded to a request for comment.
When Sciutto asked if Cohen had evidence that anyone he saw was involved in later lawbreaking, Cohen said "absolutely not." But Cohen simultaneously said that Boebert was "not on the home team. She was with the visitors." He did not explain what that meant.
In her response, Boebert said that Cohen had "repeated irresponsible lies in order to elevate your own political relevance and to further fuel the division of our country," adding that his actions were "irresponsible and dangerous."
Boebert has been a focus of national attention during her first days in office. Her name began trending on Twitter following her tweets from Jan. 6, including one that proclaimed the day was "1776." That message came hours before the riot. Boebert denounced the violence that happened later that day and rejected calls for her resignation.
Stina Sieg contributed to this reporting. This article was updated with a statement from Boebert.