Jan. 6 judge bemused by Kevin McCarthy handing riot video to Fox News
Jan 6 Insurrection (AFP)

A federal judge presiding over the criminal case of a Jan. 6 protester is calling for access to surveillance tapes of the 2021 Capitol riot that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has announced he's turning over exclusively to Fox News.

The tapes involve relevant information to the case U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras is hearing regarding defendant William Pope of Topeka, Contreras noted Friday via a video conference in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, The Kansas City Star reported.

Pope has been hit with eight charges linked to the riot, including felony civil disruption and obstruction of an official proceeding. The defendant, who is acting as his own attorney, has called on the judge to order the release of the videos which he claims show undercover Metropolitan Police officers inciting protesters. It's a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump supporters and Fox News itself have supported in the past.

“I’d like to hear more from the government on what I’m reading in the papers about production of the CCTV [closed circuit television] video to Tucker Carlson and, after a point of exclusivity, to other news outlets,” Contreras said, the Star reported.

McCarthy sparked a storm of controversy after he decided last month to turn over some 40,000 hours of surveillance video of the Capitol riot exclusively to Fox News, a network that has disseminated Trump's baseless claims about a rigged election. McCarthy said last week that he would make the tapes accessible to other media outlets after an exclusive period for Fox.

Contreras said it's currently confusing which defendants are being granted access to videos that may be relevant to their cases.

Disclosures are apparently being made on a case-by-case basis, and may be decided by McCarthy's office and police, the judge noted.

“I don’t know what ‘case-by-case basis’ means and why the [House] speaker gets to choose which defendants get to see what,” Contreras said. “I know that the Capitol Police is not the speaker’s office. But it seems from what I’m reading in the papers that the Capitol Police has been involved in those discussions.”

The judge demanded a sworn declaration from the Capitol Police within two weeks “as to ... whether there’s been any restrictions whatsoever as to what the press can do with those CCTV videos once they receive them," the Star reported.

“From what I read, [Fox News'] Tucker Carlson seems to think he has unfettered discretion what he can do with those videos …This circuit has said you have to guard privileges like crown jewels. If the press is given unfettered access to these videos, they don’t seem to be treating these things like crown jewels,” Contreras declared.

Pope’s next hearing is scheduled for April 3.

There was no immediate response from McCarthy's office or the Capitol police.