McCarthy fears Republican lawmakers will put ‘people at risk’ after Jan. 6 2022-04-26 17:25:44


Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, feared in the wake of the January 6 attack that many far-right members of Congress would incite violence against other lawmakers, and identified several of them by name as security risks in private conversations with party leaders.

McCarthy spoke to other Republicans in Congress about his desire to rein in many of the hardliners deeply involved in Donald J. Trump’s efforts to run for the 2020 election and undermine the peaceful transfer of power, according to an audio recording obtained by The New York Times. times.

But Mr. McCarthy did not pursue the tougher steps some Republicans had encouraged him to take, choosing instead to seek a political settlement with the most radical members of the Republican Party in order to advance his career.

McCarthy’s remarks represent one of the strongest admissions from a Republican leader that ordinary party lawmakers played a role in fueling the violence on January 6, 2021 — and posed a threat in the days after the Capitol attack. The audio recordings of the comments were obtained in the report for an upcoming book, This Won’t Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future.

In a phone call with other Republican leaders on January 10, McCarthy mainly cited two representatives, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mo Brooks of Alabama, as threatening the security of other lawmakers and the Capitol complex. But he and his allies discussed several other actors who made comments they deemed offensive or dangerous, including Lauren Poubert of Colorado and Barry Moore of Alabama.

McCarthy said the country was “so crazy” that members were talking and tweeting headlong at such a turbulent moment.

Mr. Brooks and Mr. Gates were the main culprits in the eyes of Republican Party leaders. Mr. Brooks addressed the January 6 crowd on the National Mall, which preceded the Capitol riots, using incendiary language. After January 6, Mr. Gates appeared on television to attack several Republicans who had criticized Mr. Trump, including Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the leadership team.

Mr. Gates’ comments alarmed Mr McCarthy and his leadership colleagues – particularly the reference to Ms. Cheney, who had already been the target of public threats and abuse from Mr Trump’s faction in the party for her criticism of the defeated president. .

“It puts people at risk,” McCarthy said of Mr. Gates. “And he doesn’t need to do that. We saw what the people were going to do in the Capitol, you know, and these guys came ready by rope, with everything else.”

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the number 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, suggested that Mr. Gates might overstep legal limits.

“It’s probably illegal what he’s doing,” said Mr. Scales.

Referring to Mr. Brooks, Mr. McCarthy said Trump loyalists had behaved worse on Jan. 6 than Mr. Trump, who told the crowd gathered at the National Mall to “fight like hell” before his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to disrupt electoral vote counting. “The day American patriots start jotting and kicking,” Mr. Brooks told the gathering.

“Do you think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments?” Mr. McCarthy asked rhetorically. “This is something that goes further than what the president said.”

Speaking of ordinary lawmakers to his fellow leaders, Mr. McCarthy sharply criticized and suggested he would tell them to stop their inflammatory behaviour.

“Our members should start to care about what they’re saying too, and you can’t stand that,” he said, adding an expletive.

Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Scalise did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Brooks on Tuesday dismissed the Republican leader’s criticism and noted that a lawsuit brought against him by a Democratic congressman over his Jan. 6 speech had been dismissed in court.

“Kevin McCarthy spoke before the facts were known,” Mr. Brooks said, adding that he did not remember Mr. McCarthy speaking to him directly about his speech.

During a January 10, 2021 phone call, McCarthy was speaking with a small group of Republican leaders, including Mr. Scalise, Mrs. Cheney and Representative Tom Emer of Minnesota, as well as several of his aides.

Acting on the GOP leadership’s call, McCarthy told colleagues he would call Trump and tell him, “It would be my recommendation to resign.”

The House minority leader has lied in recent days and tried to play down his comments: Last week, after The Times published the comments, Mr. McCarthy called the report “completely false and wrong.” After McCarthy’s denial, the source who secretly shared a recording of the call with the book’s authors agreed to allow The Times to publish portions of the audio. In the days following the announcement of that recording, the Republican leader reiterated his denials and asserted that he never carried out his plan to urge Mr. Trump to resign.

McCarthy’s comments portraying other Republican lawmakers as a threat in Congress illustrate the difference between the way he spoke about his party immediately after January 6, in what he imagined to be outright confidence, and the way he has interacted with those lawmakers in the 15 months since.

In the Jan. 10 phone call, Mr. McCarthy said he intended to speak with Mr. Gates and ask him not to attack other lawmakers by name. The next day, at a larger meeting of all Republicans in the House of Representatives, McCarthy pleaded with lawmakers not to “provoke” but to “respect each other.”

But determined to become Speaker of the House after the 2022 election, McCarthy has spent much of the past year forging a closer political partnership with the far right, showing little public concern that his more radical colleagues might incite bloodshed by their excessive generosity. or hateful rhetoric.

In recent months, Mr. McCarthy has opposed punishing Republican members of Congress accused of inciting violence, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, and most recently Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who posted an animated video on social media depicting the murder of left-wing Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

In Mr. Gosar’s case, Mr. McCarthy told reporters he had spoken to him about the video and noted that Mr. Gosar had issued a statement disavowing the violence. But Mr. McCarthy opposed a decision to censure Mr. Gosar and remove him from his duties on the committee.

Mr. McCarthy also brushed off a remark made by Mr. Brooks last year when, after the arrest of a man in connection with a bomb threat to the Capitol, he said he understood the “citizen’s anger directed at dictatorial socialism and its threat to liberty, liberty and the fabric of American society.”

But just after January 6, McCarthy saw a clear link between some lawmakers’ comments and the potential for future violence. On January 10, he urged fellow GOP leaders to monitor members like Mr. Brooks and Mr. Gates closely and asked them to alert him if they saw any potentially dangerous public communications.

McCarthy said it was particularly unacceptable for lawmakers to attack other lawmakers who disagreed with them over the outcome of the 2020 election: “This stuff needs to stop.”

“The country is so crazy,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to look back and think we caused something or lost something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of that.”

On the leadership call, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Scalise and others discussed several other lawmakers who made provocative comments around January 6, including Mr. Moore and Representative Louis Gommert of Texas. Ms Cheney, who was on the call, noted that Ms. Poibert was a security risk, noting that she had posted a public tweet about the sensitive moves of other lawmakers during the Jan. 6 evacuation.

Mr. McCarthy also inquired about Mrs. Greene and whether she had given a speech at the January 6 rally.

Mr. Moore, as Mr. Brooks, a far-right conservative in Alabama, tweeted the weekend after January 6 about the fatal shooting of hooligan, Ashley Babbitt, by a member of the Capitol Police Force, noting that “it was a black police officer who fired Fire on the veteran white warrior,” and added, “You know that doesn’t fit into the novel.”

Immediately after reading that comment out loud on the call, Mr. McCarthy expressed his wish that the major social media companies ban some members of the Republican convention, as they did with Mr. Trump after the uprising.

“Can’t they pull their Twitter accounts, too?” asked Mr. McCarthy.

Ms. Boebert, Mr. Gohmert, Ms. Greene and Mr. Gaetz did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr Moore declined to comment directly on McCarthy’s comments, but predicted in a statement that Republicans would be “more united than ever after the House retakes in November”.

Just like his handling of Mr. Trump, McCarthy quickly lost his will in the face of the far right, including lawmakers who were directly involved in spurring the January 6 riots. His approach to Mr. Brooks was a case in point.

On the January 10 call, Mr. Scalise told Mr. McCarthy that there had been talk among some Republicans of punishing Mr. Brooks by stripping him of his duties on the committee. Mr. McCarthy did not respond directly to the idea but inquired about the committees that Mr. Brooks holds.

The push to punish Mr. Brooks came from within the Republican Steering Committee, an influential organizational committee that awards committee seats to party members. One committee member, Representative Steve Womack, a retired National Guard colonel from Arkansas, was horrified by Mr. Brooks’ behavior and led the charge to punish him.

At the Steering Committee’s first session after January 6, Mr. Womack played a tape of Mr. Brooks’ speech to his colleagues, including Mr. McCarthy.

“I saw the jaw drop,” Mr. Womack, a sober-minded conservative loyal to the party leadership, said in an interview with the book.

To Mr. Womack’s account, Mr. McCarthy requested that dealings with Mr. Brooks be deferred until the next meeting of the Steering Committee. But when the body came together again later in January, Mr. McCarthy had already lost his appetite for confronting Mr. Brooks.

Mr Womack resigned from the steering committee in protest, warning McCarthy and his colleagues that Republicans would regret their refusal to take action.

“I can’t tell you how angry I was,” said Mr. Womack.

He sent his letter of resignation to Mr. McCarthy but received no response.

Mr Womack said Mr McCarthy’s handling of the episode “demonstrated a lack of leadership”.