WASHINGTON — House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday he agreed that the Capitol riot was a violent insurrection, the clearest answer he’s given after dodging the issue this week.
Asked Wednesday about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) description of the riot as a “violent insurrection,” McCarthy said he agreed.
“No one would disagree with that,” McCarthy told reporters.
Plenty of Republicans disagree with the term “violent insurrection” ― several House members have even suggested that federal agents actually tricked Trump supporters into ransacking the Capitol.
The Republican National Committee censured Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Friday for sitting on the Democrat-led panel that’s investigating the attack on the Capitol. “Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” the censure resolution said.
McCarthy’s response to the RNC resolution has stood in stark contrast to that of McConnell, who unequivocally rebuked the body for what it did.
The House GOP leader, on the other hand, has avoided clear statements. On Tuesday, he said “everybody knows” there was legitimate political discourse on Jan. 6, 2021, later clarifying that he meant to say “anybody who broke inside was not” engaged in legitimate political discourse.
He also made excuses for the RNC, insisting it had not intended the term “legitimate political discourse” to refer to the riot — something he repeated on Wednesday, arguing that the RNC had been referring to subpoenas served on people who weren’t in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Had they explained out what they were talking to this wouldn’t be controversial at all because they weren’t referring to people who had broken into this building,” McCarthy said.
The resolution did not mention any subpoenas or even say that the committee had strayed from its mission to investigate the attack on the Capitol. Still, McCarthy said the resolution was fine, even though its clear meaning is different from what he says was intended.
“The RNC put out their resolution,” he said. “I think they have a right to do [with] their resolution what they wanted to.”
As for Cheney, McCarthy said a New York Times story about how little time she spends with Wyoming Republicans, who voted to oust her from the state party last year, gave him the impression “she shifted to focusing on maybe running for president” instead of holding her seat in Congress.
HuffPost asked Cheney if it’s true she might run for president like McCarthy mentioned.
“It won’t surprise anybody that truth is not Leader McCarthy’s strong suit,” she said.
Cheney gave McCarthy no credit for saying he agreed that the Capitol riot was a violent insurrection.
“Leader McCarthy has been among those leading the effort to prevent any investigation of the attack and try to embrace former President Trump and whitewash what happened,” Cheney said.
In the immediate aftermath of the riot, McCarthy stated the obvious: Donald Trump bore responsibility for the attack. Within days, he started backtracking, saying Trump hadn’t provoked the attack, that maybe “everybody across this country” bore responsibility for what happened.
In recent weeks, as Trump has made increasingly provocative statements ― such as his pledge to consider pardons for rioters he thinks are being treated unfairly by law enforcement ― McCarthy has been relatively quiet, eschewing his weekly press conferences and trying to avoid reporters. Republicans expect to win the House in the upcoming midterm elections, and if McCarthy wants to become speaker, he needs the support of a majority of the House GOP conference, which is still loyal to Trump. So McCarthy wants to avoid provoking the former president.
Trump is certainly paying close attention to what lawmakers say, putting out a statement Wednesday in response to McConnell’s remark that the riot had been part of a violent insurrection meant to stop the transfer of power.
“Mitch McConnell does not speak for the Republican Party, and does not represent the views of the vast majority of its voters,” Trump said. “He did nothing to fight for his constituents and stop the most fraudulent election in American history.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism