This Saturday, the two top members of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot — Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — released a statement shredding recent lies from House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about the role of former President Donald Trump in the Capitol violence. As summarized by CNN, McCarthy claimed to a California NBC affiliate that, based on the reported conclusions of law enforcement officials, “Trump played no role in coordinating the insurrection,” but Thompson and Cheney outlined how such is simply not accurate.
In making his false remark about Trump’s involvement in the riot, McCarthy was apparently relying at least in part on a recent report from Reuters that claimed that the FBI had uncovered “scant evidence” of pre-planning behind the deadly Capitol riot. The idea from those on McCarthy’s side would be that the supposed absence of broad pre-meditation would essentially exonerate Trump, since that leaves the responsibility for the violence with the people who were at the Capitol amid the attack. Reality, though, tells a different story. The main issue is broad — it’s not and has never been solely whether Trump incited the crowd that attended an outdoor rally in D.C. on the day of the attack, for instance. For months, Trump laid the groundwork for the assault with his lies that the election had been rigged for Biden.
Furthermore, Thompson and Cheney indicated that the riot investigation committee had been in touch with relevant federal authorities following the Reuters report and confirmed that the truth was significantly more nuanced than that particular piece of reporting let on. As Thompson and Cheney put it:
‘[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 January 6th. When this anonymous report was first published, the Select Committee queried the Executive Branch agencies and congressional committees involved in the 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. We will continue to pursue all elements of this investigation in a nonpartisan and thorough manner. We also remind Minority Leader McCarthy of his statements following January 6th, including his statement from the House Floor on January 13th—which are inconsistent with his recent comments.’
The statement to which Thompson and Cheney pointed was an observation from McCarthy himself that Trump bore at least some responsibility for inciting the Capitol riot. He’s since changed his tune. McCarthy could have reasons to worry about the investigation — he’s been reported to be among the Trump-supporting members of Congress whose communication records have been targeted by the riot investigation committee. He spoke with Trump on the day of the riot, meaning that his communications could provide critical insight into what the then-president was actually doing as the violence unfolded. Recently, the committee asked a slew of telecommunications companies to preserve an array of records relevant to the probe.