Donald Trump did not incite the mob that ransacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the latest thinking from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Last week, the California Republican said in a floor speech that Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack that left five people dead, and said Trump “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”
But on Thursday, the day after Trump departed the White House, McCarthy told reporters that he now does not believe the former president “provoked” the attack.
“I don’t believe he provoked, if you listen to what he said at the rally,” McCarthy said at a press conference.
A spokesman for McCarthy did not respond for an explanation of the leader’s irreconcilable statements.
McCarthy is one of the two most powerful Republicans in Congress. The other — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — has called out Trump and other Republicans who falsely claimed the election had been stolen, which incited the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the election results.
Trump told the crowd at a rally near the White House that day, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” before encouraging the crowd to “walk down Pennsylvania Avenue” to the Capitol.
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said Wednesday. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
Most Senate Republicans followed McConnell’s lead and voted against objecting to the election results. Most House Republicans followed McCarthy’s lead and voted in favor of objecting to the election, even after the deadly mob had trashed the Capitol.
Rank-and-file House Republicans are now trying to throw Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) off McCarthy’s leadership team because she voted to impeach Trump for his obvious provocation.
McCarthy voted against impeachment, but backs Cheney. He also initially blamed Trump for the attack, but is now apparently trying to appeal to his conference by softening his criticism — but he can’t do without contradicting himself or lying.