WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed Tuesday that the Justice Department would only bring charges against former President Donald Trump to hurt his image.
Trump said in a post on his Truth Social website Tuesday morning that he’d been summoned to appear before a grand jury investigating his role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when his supporters stormed the Capitol.
“I guess under a Biden administration, Biden America, you’d expect this,” McCarthy told reporters. “If you noticed, recently, President Trump went up in the polls and was actually surpassing President Biden for reelection. So, what do they do now? Weaponize government to go after their No. 1 opponent.”
McCarthy has long sought to stay in Trump’s good grace since his speakership hinges on support from far-right lawmakers devoted to the twice-impeached former president.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, however, McCarthy blamed Trump for what happened.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said in a speech on the House floor in which he recommended Trump be censured but not impeached for his conduct.
For weeks leading up to the riot, Trump lied about the 2020 election being stolen from him. He invited his supporters to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, for a “wild” protest, riled them up with a speech near the White House and then urged them to march toward the Capitol.
More than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes for their actions in and around the Capitol that day, and nearly 200 have publicly said they were motivated by Trump’s words.
But McCarthy changed his tune within weeks of the riot, blaming “everybody across this country” instead of Trump.
Since taking control of the House of Representatives this year, Republicans have decried a supposed “weaponization” of government against Trump and his supporters, dubiously claiming that the Justice Department is biased against conservatives and protective of President Joe Biden.
“I think the American public is tired of this,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “They want to have equal justice, and the idea that they utilize this to go after those who politically disagree with them is wrong.”
During a hearing last week, several House Republicans baselessly suggested the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol happened because of manipulation by undercover FBI agents and confidential FBI informants. (FBI director Christopher Wray, a Republican appointed by Trump, denied that the FBI caused the riot and said it was “somewhat insane” to think he harbored a bias against Republicans.)
The Justice Department appointed an independent “special counsel” in November to investigate Trump’s efforts to interfere with the transfer of power to Biden or the certification of election results by Congress on Jan. 6. Trump said in his post that he expects to be indicted by the grand jury.
It’s unclear if the grand jury will pursue charges related to the Capitol riot or Trump’s other efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including schemes to overturn vote results in several states. Trump has already been indicted for hoarding classified government documents he was supposed to turn over at the end of his term.
The special House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack recommended four criminal charges against Trump last year, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told HuffPost she didn’t know if there would be an indictment but that it seemed likely.
As for McCarthy’s claim that the Justice Department is conducting a purely political investigation, Lofgren said, “He knows that’s absurd. On Jan. 6, McCarthy spoke the truth, which was this was the president’s fault.”