McCarthy feared GOP lawmakers inciting violence after Jan 6, audio show

Leaked audio recording published by The New York Times reveals that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was concerned that the rhetoric of his GOP colleagues before and after the Capitol riot could provoke violence.

His personal remarks at the time contrast sharply with his public comments over the past 16 months, which downplay the disturbing behavior of some members of his party and vs. House Select Committee attack investigation.

“He puts people in danger,” McCarthy said of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a conference call with GOP leaders on January 10, 2021, audio recording reveals.

In media appearances after Jan. 6, Gaetz attacked Republicans who were critical of former President Donald Trump, including Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyoming), who has since been ostracized by other Republicans for her work on the Jan. 6 committee.

“And he doesn’t have to do that,” McCarthy said of Gaetz during the call. “You know, we saw what people would do in the Capitol, and these people came prepared with a rope and everything.”

“The tension is too great. The country is too crazy,” he continued. “I don’t want to look back and think that we did something or missed something and someone got hurt. I don’t want to play politics with any of this.”

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, suggested that Gatz might even be breaking the law.

“What he’s doing is potentially illegal,” Scalise said.

Days after January 6, 2021, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy privately raised concerns that members of his own party were inciting violence. In the months that followed, he responded to the equally extreme rhetoric of some members of his party, defending them or remaining silent.

Somodeville Chip via Getty Images

GOP leaders also raised concerns about Rep. Mo Brooks, an Alabama Republican who told Trump supporters to “fight like hell” at the January 6 rally before several rally participants descended on the US Capitol to try to stop the electoral vote count.

“Do you think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments?” McCarthy asked colleagues before commenting on Brooks. “That’s almost something that goes further than what the president said.”

Republican leaders also discussed comments from several other GOP representatives, including Lauren Bobert of Colorado, Barry Moore of Alabama and Louis Gomert of Texas.

At one point, after hearing about Moore’s inflammatory tweet, McCarthy considered whether some lawmakers like Trump should be removed from Twitter.

“Can’t they take their Twitter accounts too?” he asked.

McCarthy suggested that he tell delinquent lawmakers to curb their behavior.

The Times has received audio recordings for an upcoming book, It Won’t Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future.

Last week, the newspaper published another recording of the same call. In it, McCarthy could be heard telling his colleagues that he would advise Trump, “I recommend that you resign” in the wake of the January 6 attacks.

Since then, the California Republican has repeatedly lied about his comments and insisted that the Times report was false, despite audio recordings to prove it.

Although McCarthy initially said that Trump was “responsible” for the attack on the Capitol last year, he changed his position within a week, saying that Trump did not provoke the riots after all. By the end of the month, he had been to Trump’s resort in Florida and had his picture taken with the former president.

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