Kevin McCarthy can't decide whether Trump incited violence or not

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The House minority leader has gone back and forth for weeks now, vacillating between condemning Trump's actions and insisting he did nothing wrong.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is trying to have things both ways again.

In a press conference on Thursday, the California lawmaker said he didn't think Donald Trump had provoked the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 that left five people dead.

"I don’t believe he provoked, if you listen to what he said at the rally," McCarthy said.

Video of Trump's speech at a rally prior to the Capitol riots in fact showed him egging on his supporters, telling them, "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore," and warning them that the nation would not be reclaimed with "weakness," a continuation of his repeated insistence that the 2020 election was somehow stolen from him. At one point, he suggested he would march with them on the Capitol, though he instead retreated to the White House where he watched the attacks play out on TV.

Trump was later impeached on one article of incitement of insurrection for his role in spurring that violence.

McCarthy's comment on Thursday appears to be a change in tune from previous statements about Trump's apparent responsibility in the Capitol attack.

On Jan. 8, just days after the riots, McCarthy released a statement saying, "Let me be very clear: the violence, destruction, and chaos that unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday was unacceptable, undemocratic, and un-American. When I spoke to President Trump on Wednesday, I told him he had a great responsibility to intervene to quell the mob and start the healing process for our country."

And in a floor speech on Jan. 13, as the rest of the House moved to impeach Trump over the insurrection, he went one step further. "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," McCarthy said. "He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

He added that "the president's immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent."

McCarthy ultimately voted against Trump's second impeachment. However his call for censure drew Trump's wrath anyway.

"Associates who've spoken with Trump say he's used the same vulgarity he used about [Vice President Mike] Pence to describe McCarthy, saying he bowed to pressure with his House floor speech," the New York Times' Maggie Haberman reported, days before Trump left office, referring to the former White House occupant's anger at this second in command for not overturning the 2020 election.

Trump's rage appeared misplaced: Earlier in January, McCarthy had been staunchly defending Trump's claims of widespread election fraud, in an attempt to undermine the November election results and block President Joe Biden from taking office.

On Jan. 3, McCarthy told the Hill he thought it was "right that we have the debate" against certifying Biden's electoral votes, later voting to reject the Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, which had gone for Biden.

McCarthy made the decision even after the pro-Trump and white supremacist extremists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop certification of Biden's win, forcing both congressional chambers to flee for their lives.

In a statement the following day, he insisted he had voted to block Biden's victory due to "concerns" over "changes to election processes" in some states.

McCarthy has since acknowledged Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris's win, congratulating them on Wednesday, following the inauguration.

"Very proud of you both," he said, gifting them with framed photos of their swearing in.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.