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Jan. 6 committee leaders blast McCarthy’s ‘baseless’ claim about Trump’s innocence

Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) participate in a hearing by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on July 27 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Leaders of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol are calling out House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for making “baseless” claims regarding former president Donald Trump’s involvement in that day’s violence.

In a joint statement Saturday, committee chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) criticized a Thursday interview by McCarthy, in which he said the FBI had concluded Trump had “no involvement” in the insurrection.

“Minority Leader McCarthy … has suggested, based on an anonymous report, that the Department of Justice has concluded that Donald Trump did not cause, incite, or provoke the violence on Jan. 6,” Thompson and Cheney stated Saturday, adding that when the report was first published, the select committee queried executive branch agencies and committees involved in that investigation.

“We’ve received answers and briefings from the relevant entities, and it’s been made clear to us that reports of such a conclusion are baseless,” they continued.

Thompson and Cheney also pointedly noted that McCarthy’s statements — including remarks he gave on the House floor on Jan. 13, a week after the insurrection — “are inconsistent with his recent comments.”

The violent Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win left five people dead, including a police officer.

On Jan. 13, McCarthy said in a House floor speech that Trump “bears responsibility” for the Capitol attack and even floated the idea of censuring Trump, though McCarthy did not support his impeachment.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and former president Donald Trump have expanded in recent months on what they said during their Jan. 6 call. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

About two weeks later, after Biden had been inaugurated, McCarthy flew to Florida to meet with Trump. There, they discussed helping Republicans take back the House in 2022, and McCarthy praised Trump’s popularity as having “never been stronger.”

Since then, McCarthy has steadily increased his defense of Trump’s response to the Jan. 6 violence and tried to retract some of his earlier statements about Trump’s culpability. The House GOP leader in May also changed course and supported ousting Cheney, a vocal Trump critic, from her position as Republican conference chair. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has embraced Trump, replaced Cheney in the No. 3 job in GOP leadership soon afterward.

McCarthy has also intensified his attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), first opposing a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6, then pulling all GOP nominees for a bipartisan committee after Pelosi blocked two of McCarthy’s picks.

He has since attacked the select committee, which includes Democrat and Republican members, as a “purely political” vehicle for Pelosi to attack Trump.

On Saturday, Thompson and Cheney stressed the bipartisan committee would continue its work.

“We will continue to pursue all elements of this investigation in a nonpartisan and thorough manner,” they said.

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