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Trump supporters clash with police and security forces outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) Trump supporters clash with police and security forces outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C on Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek October 17, 2022

Video footage of Pelosi and Schumer on Jan. 6 doesn’t prove the Capitol attack was a setup

If Your Time is short

  • During its Oct. 13 hearing, the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol played video footage of congressional leaders hiding and evacuating the Capitol on Jan. 6. On Oct. 14, CNN obtained about an additional hour of the video and published some segments.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter filmed lawmakers during the attack using her handheld camera, according to the speaker’s spokesperson. There was no camera crew.

  • The Jan. 6 attack was not a setup. More than 400 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges linked to the riot, and judges have sentenced nearly 290 people. Damage to the Capitol was estimated at more than $1.5 million.

The footage is a bit shaky. At times, the audio is unclear because of the clamor of movement and the chaos of voices speaking over one another.

Commotion aside, the video gives an unexpected look at legislators’ experience on Jan. 6, 2021. It shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., evacuating to a nearby U.S. Army base. It shows Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling government leaders to request additional security and law enforcement personnel to secure the Capitol. 

For many viewers, the clips highlighted congressional leaders’ confusion, fear and frustration as a mob of violent rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. But some social media users claimed the footage revealed something more nefarious.

"Why were camera crews on standby ready to film Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer during January 6th?" read text in a video shared on Instagram on Oct. 14. "The footage that was released yesterday looks like it was filmed by a movie production company. Lights, camera, action. So much phoniness on both sides. This was a setup and we all know it."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screenshot from Instagram.)

These video clips showing congressional leadership and staff evacuating to Fort McNair, a U.S. Army base near Washington, D.C., and attempting to coordinate a security response to the attack do not prove that the events on Jan. 6 were part of a setup. 

A crowd of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. There is no credible evidence that the attack was a setup. Falsehoods about the attack on the U.S. Capitol, including claims that it was a false flag, were named PolitiFact’s 2021 Lie of the Year. It was a real event with real consequences.

Who captured the footage?

The video was filmed by Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra Pelosi, a documentary filmmaker. It was given to the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and some of the footage was played during the committee’s hearing on Oct. 13.

On Oct. 14, CNN obtained about an additional hour of video and published some segments. 

"This first clip, which runs nearly 17 minutes, is part of a documentary that Alexandra Pelosi has been working on for years," said CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. "It’s edited, and we should warn you — you will hear no shortage of profanity. But this is the vantage point from Alexandra Pelosi in the speaker’s office, on the day of Jan. 6, and following events with her mom."

Featured Fact-check

The Instagram post misleads by claiming a "camera crew" was on standby. Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said there wasn’t a crew that day.

It was just Alexandra Pelosi with a small, handheld camera that she always has with her, he said. 

Jan. 6 attack caused millions in damage, prompted hundreds of arrests 

PolitiFact found no credible evidence that the attack was a setup or was contrived in some way.

Fuelled partly by the false belief that the presidential election had been stolen, hundreds of people — many clad in Trump-branded gear, others in helmets and combat gear — breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, aiming to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.

Rioters overturned barricades, broke windows and clashed with police. The attack forced lawmakers to evacuate, temporarily delaying the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Federal prosecutors estimated that the attack caused about $1.5 million worth of damage to the Capitol building. 

U.S. Capitol Police officers with guns drawn as rioters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (AP)

In the months since, more than 880 people have been charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer. Of those, more than 400 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges linked to the riot, and judges have sentenced nearly 290 people, according to an NPR analysis.

Since the attack, PolitiFact has checked dozens of claims about what happened Jan. 6. We’ve found no credible evidence that the riot was led by disguised antifa activists, that the attack was orchestrated by the FBI or that the breach was a "false flag" attack

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that video footage of Schumer and Pelosi in hiding during the Jan. 6 attack and after evacuating the Capitol shows it "was a setup."

We found no credible evidence that the attack was a setup. Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi recorded some of the unprecedented events on Jan. 6, but that does not prove that the attack was contrived. 

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: The Jan. 6 Capitol attack: A year of debunking false narratives

RELATED: Jan 6. committee votes to subpoena Trump. 3 themes show why

Our Sources

Instagram post, Oct. 14, 2022

CNN, CNN Exclusive: New footage shows congressional leadership at Fort McNair on January 6, scrambling to save the US Capitol, Oct. 14, 2022

The Washington Post YouTube, Jan. 6 committee holds a public hearing - 10/13 (FULL LIVE STREAM), Oct. 13, 2022

The Washington Post, Pelosi said she wanted to punch Trump as Jan. 6 riot began, video shows, Oct. 14, 2022

The New York Times, ‘Do You Believe This?’ Chilling Footage Shows Congressional Leaders on Jan. 6, Oct. 13, 2022

CNN, Congressional leaders are being evacuated from Capitol complex, Jan. 6, 2021

Email exchange with Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Oct. 17, 2022

United States Department of Justice, 21 months since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, accessed Oct. 17, 2022

NPR, Congress certifies Biden victory; Trump pledges ‘orderly transition’ on Jan. 20, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, A far-left group bombed the Capitol in 1983. Here’s how that’s different from the Jan. 6 attack, Feb. 22, 2022

The Washington Post, Jan. 6 riot caused $1.5 million in damage to Capitol — and U.S. prosecutors want defendants to pay, June 3, 2021

NPR, The Capitol siege: The cases behind the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history, accessed Oct. 17, 2022

The Washington Post, Inside the assault on the Capitol: Evacuating the Senate, Jan. 6, 2021

PolitiFact, Why the new false flag conspiracy theory that FBI orchestrated Capitol attack is wrong, June 18, 2021

PolitiFact, No, the storming of the Capitol wasn’t a false flag, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, There’s no proof antifa stormed the Capitol. The rumor spread quickly anyway, Jan. 7, 2021

PolitiFact, The 2021 Lie of the Year: Lies about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and its significance, Dec. 15, 2021

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Video footage of Pelosi and Schumer on Jan. 6 doesn’t prove the Capitol attack was a setup

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