This week the Office of Inspector General issued an official investigative report on the events of November 2021, when Rep. Troy Nehls said U.S. Capitol Police improperly investigated his office and activities.
In February, Nehls claimed that U.S. Capitol Police intelligence officers illegally entered his office in November and photographed legislative information and work. He speculated that the actions came because of his criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the select committee investigating the Capitol events on Jan. 6, 2021.
In an interview with Timcast in February, Nehls said, “I’ve been very, very vocal and very critical of the intelligence sections, specifically [assistant] chief [Yogananda] Pittman, who had all the intelligence on the Jan. 3 assessment.”
“We knew the Capitol was the target. So the point is, is that this is more than just mere coincidence. I’ve been very vocal about the the death of Ashley Babbitt. And I’ve done interviews on that and said that that shooting was not justified in any form or fashion, and should have gone to a grand jury,” Nehls continued.
Since that time, Nehls has been criticized for his assertions about the events of November. This prompted him to continue his efforts to discover the truth.
The @CapitolPolice Intelligence Division investigated my office illegally and one of my staffers caught them in the act.
— Congressman Troy Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) February 8, 2022
On Feb. 4, 2022, Nehls requested that Michael Bolton, the now-retired inspector general, open a formal investigation into the events of November. Timcast has obtained and reviewed the Inspector General’s (IG) report and will share important details confirming Nehls’ concerns regarding the events.
Nehls has maintained that Capitol Police illegally entered his office and took photographs of its contents. He has stated that they conveyed possible nefarious meaning to the contents, which they used to point to his involvement in illegal or improper activities that would put the U.S. Capitol at risk.
The congressman said that the Capitol Police first entered his office on Nov. 20, 2021, which the IG report confirms. Then, Officer Diaz stated the office door was “wide open,” and the office was unattended. The officer claimed this was part of a routine but heightened security check.
After seeing no one was present, Officer Diaz took pictures of a whiteboard containing the words “body armor, China, and import” and a drawing of a U.S. Capitol building with an X on it. He reported the image as suspicious and turned over the report to Officer Thomas Andriko of the Threats Assessment section.
Then on Nov. 22, according to Nehls, officers dressed as “construction workers” attempted to re-enter the Congressman’s office, where they encountered one of Nehls’ staff members. During the encounter, they inquired about the photo and contents in question.
According to Thomas Manger, Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, the inquiry produced sufficient evidence to dismiss concerns, and there was no ongoing investigation.
Nehls and his staff have maintained that a door to their office can’t remain open unless manually propped open with another object. One former staff member told investigators that “gravity” causes the door to close and noted that the team had a habit of “locking the doors after hours.”
Nehls and his team have admitted that a staff member may have left the door unlocked, but leaving it propped open was not possible. In the IG report, Nehls claims are substantiated. The investigation found that all three doors leading to the internal offices “close automatically when released.” Additionally, all three doors “automatically lock when closed.” The report notes that the only manner of keeping the door open would be to prop open the door with another object or leave the lock bolt engaged while the door is opened.
In the IG report and the initial report filed by officer Diaz, he states that the door was “wide open and the lights were on,” prompting him to enter the office. In the official report, Officer Diaz says that “nothing was propping the door open during a later interview.”
Diaz’s statement contradicts the facts of the report and the condition of the premises. The investigative report notes that no prior maintenance or modification had been done to the office doors before or following the events of November 2021.
The IG report also verifies that the three officers who returned to Nehls’ office the following Monday to inquire about the report were dressed in plain clothes as part of their assignment. It notes that one officer was wearing “Carhart pants” that day. The report substantiates Nehls claims they were dressed much like construction workers.
Nehls has continued to express that he was the focus of a wrongful investigation, one that insinuated he was involved if nefarious actions that put the Capitol and other lawmakers at risk.
During the return visit of the plain-clothed officer on Nov. 22, 2021, the three officers spoke to former staffer Jay Campbell. Campell told investigators that during the barely minutes-long encounter, he was given the impression that due to the contents of the photograph, Nehls was being investigated for “importing Chinese body armor into the loading dock” of the U.S. Capitol.”
Campbell clarified that the verbiage captured in the photo taken in the office referred to legislation being drafted by Nehls to stop the importation of Chinese body armor. He also clarified that the “X” drawn on the map pointed an intern to an ice machine the week prior.
The events all took place when the office was scheduled to be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, something that Campbell explained to the returning officers.
The initial request by Nehls to the U.S. Capitol Police and the Office of Inspector General requested further information that was not provided in the investigation.
Nehls has provided copies of the communication between his office and the U.S. Capitol Police. There was no mention of a photograph taken by Diaz in the initial report, but it appeared later in further documents and a memo which was updated on Jan. 6, 2022. This later update was explained as a clerical delay in the Inspector General’s report.
No records of the internal use or distribution of the report, photo, or investigation have been adequately conveyed. In fact, the IG report concluded that U.S. Capitol Police have severely outdated standard operating procedures. The report notes that more than a half dozen individuals received an emailed copy of the photograph, but no official archive, tracking, or catalogue exists. There is no official record of how many copies of the photograph have been distributed.
This issue raises concerns that members of the U.S. Capitol Police can access and distribute sensitive information obtained from the private offices of lawmakers. Such actions could put at risk the work of legislators and the safety of internal operations within the U.S. Capitol.
The IG report notes no official protocol for taking photographs inside the lawmaker’s offices, nor is there a protocol for using and distributing those items. The issuance of cameras to officers was not a standard practice until early 2021.
The report filed during the initial event is called a PD-76, which the investigative report notes are used when an officer encounters or stops another person. It was an improper report to be filed. This likely raised internal concern that a person was improperly present inside a U.S. Capitol building. The IG report outlines that another report, called a CP-50, was the proper report to be filed. The reporting error was never corrected, nor was it amended to match the standard operating procedures of the U.S. Capitol Police.
The IG report confirms the concerns of Nehls that his office was improperly entered, sensitive information was photographed and distributed, and a follow-up internal investigation took place. The report recommends a complete overhaul of the procedures and systems of the U.S. Capitol Police and further recommends greater oversight of their actions.