House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday said his Jan. 6 conversation with President Donald Trump was ‘very short’ and that he had nothing to give the committee investigating the Capitol riot.
A day after he refused a request by House investigators to provide information about his conversations with Trump, McCarthy shrugged off questions at his regular news conference.
Instead he attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the record of the Biden administration.
‘My conversation was very short advising the president what was happening here,’ he said of his Jan. 6 call with the president.
‘There is nothing that I can provide the January six committee for legislation … moving forward.
‘There is nothing in that realm. It is pure politics of what they’re playing.’
Yet in an interview with his hometown newspaper in the aftermath of the violence he characterized the call differently.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy bristled at questions on Thursday about why he would not cooperate with the Jan. 6 investigation, turning instead to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and saying he had nothing to offer the House probe
Last year McCarthy said he had a ‘very heated’ conversation with President Trump as the violence unfolded and he urged him to ‘get help’ to the Capitol. On Thursday, he said their conversation was ‘very short’ and that it would not help the investigating committee
McCarthy admitted last year he said he would help the committee’s investigation, but that was before it became clear that Pelosi was playing politics with it
He told the Bakersfield Californian they had a ‘very heated conversation as the riot was taking place and that he urged the president to ‘get help’ to the Capitol.
Those comments were central to a letter sent by committee chair Bennie Thompson on Thursday asking for more information.
McCarthy rejected that request on Wednesday evening, saying the panel was not ‘conducting a legitimate investigation.’
That set the stage for a combustible atmosphere at the House minority leader’s weekly news conference.
Reporters quizzed McCarthy about why he had publicly criticized Trump after the riot – saying he ‘bears responsibility’ – before changing his tune after a meeting at the former president’s Florida home.
McCarthy claimed he did not single out Trump.
‘My criticism went to everyone on that day: Why was the capital so ill prepared that day? … And how do we make sure it will never be ill prepared again.’
He described a meeting with the head of Capitol Police with lawmakers this week and hinted that Pelosi was to blame for hobbling officers’ efforts.
‘Some of the questions that were asked to the Capitol Police, the chief said that was above his pay grade to make the answer,’ said McCarthy.
‘I asked him well, who’s above you?’
He was also asked why he said in May last year he would provide testimony to the committee investigating the attack, but had apparently changed his mind.
McCarthy said that was two months before Pelosi set down the rules of the committee so that the minority could not appoint their selected individuals.
‘So when you asked me that question, never did I think a speaker would play such politics and then appoint a chairman who starts the committee by saying the only person out of bounds is the speaker,’ he said.
‘Maybe if Nancy Pelosi had done what other speakers would do, and not play politics with it. It could have been a different answer.’
Critics within his own party have already accused the House minority leader of trying to cover up what really happened on Jan. 6.
Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans to openly criticize Trump for his role in the violence and one of only two GOP members of the committee, told CNN: ‘I wish that he were a brave and honorable man.
‘He’s clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward, and we’ll get to the truth.’
Committee chairman Bennie Thompson wrote to McCarthy on Wednesday asking for help with various topics, including his conversations with the president ‘before, during and after’ the riot
Trump has encouraged his former aides and allies not to cooperate with the probe.
McCarthy is seeking Trump’s help in winning control of the House in this year’s midterm election and becoming the next speaker.
The panel has already interviewed about 300 people and issued subpoenas to more than 40 as it seeks to create a comprehensive record of the Jan. 6 attack.
In his letter, Thompson said he wanted McCarthy’s help in gathering information about his conversations with the president ‘before, during and after’ the riot as lawmakers try to understand Trump’s motivations.
He went on to point out that McCarthy himself had said publicly that the president bore responsibility.
‘Further, you shared an account of your communications with President Trump with a local news outlet in your district, which reported that you had a “very heated conversation” with the President as the riot was taking place, and urged the President to “get help” to the Capitol,’ wrote Thompson.
‘Many similar reports appear on and after January 6th from a number of other news organizations.
‘And, in addition to all of those published accounts — which each appear consistent with your public statements at the time — Politico reported that you shared an even greater degree of detail with your colleagues in a widely attended conference call on January 11th.
‘On that call, according to the report, you stated that President Trump had admitted “some degree of responsibility” for January 6th in his one-on-one conversations with you.’