House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said former President Donald Trump did not provoke the attack at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, splitting with fellow Republican leader Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and remarks the California Republican made just last week.
"I don't believe he provoked, if you listened to what he said at the rally," McCarthy said Thursday, referencing the rally Trump held with protesters who rioted at the Capitol.
McCarthy, R-Calif., said last week Trump "bears responsibility" in the attack but did not back efforts to impeach him.
McCarthy also denied that he himself played any part in the events leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol despite backing Republican efforts to block counting of Electoral College votes to support Trump.
"I denounce any violence," McCarthy said at his weekly news conference, noting that both parties over the years had challenged the counting of certain states. "This is democracy. We should debate it."
McConnell, his GOP counterpart in the Senate, publicly condemned Trump earlier this week and said the former president provoked the attack.
"The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday, casting a clear shot not only at Trump but fellow Republicans who backed the president's efforts to overturn election results.
McCarthy added that he believes Trump would continue to play a role in the Republican Party and laid the groundwork for a new voting base.
"One thing we learned in the last four years that President Trump brought forward, that he listened to voices that no one else was hearing in either party," McCarthy said. "Those are voices we should continue to hear."
McCarthy said he continued to support Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, over calls for her to resign her post as GOP conference chair. The calls stemmed from Cheney voting to impeach Trump, one of 10 Republicans who backed the Democratic-led effort last week. McCarthy acknowledged the divisions in his conference in the aftermath of the Capitol attack but called them "growing pains" that would subside as the party unifies around policy.
- Christal Hayes
Biden to keep Christopher Wray as FBI director
President Joe Biden will keep Christopher Wray as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a source familiar with the administration's plans confirmed to USA TODAY.
Wray, appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2017 after he fired James Comey, is in his fourth year of a 10-year term.
CNN first reported Biden's intentions to retain Wray, a move that was widely expected. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was noncommittal whether Biden would keep Wray during her first press briefing Wednesday night. She said she hadn't spoken to Biden about the matter.
Ahead of the presidential election, FBI agents in October voiced their support for Wray, warning Trump and Biden, then the Democratic nominee, that his untimely removal could "undermine stability" within the federal government's premier law enforcement agency.
The unusual action by the FBI Agents Association, representing 14,000 active and retired agents, came as Trump was weighing a number of key staff changes after the election, including the dismissal of Wray.
"Unanticipated changes in bureau leadership are challenging and can undermine stability," the association said in separate letters to the president and the Democratic nominee. "Right now, the FBI is confronting an even more daunting threat environment... This country needs stability in leadership of the bureau during these challenging times…"
Wray was the subject of much criticism from Trump.
In 2019, Trump rebuked Wray following the release of a Justice Department inspector general's report highly critical of the FBI work in the Russia investigation that shadowed much of Trump's presidency.
In September, Wray drew Trump's ire for his testimony during congressional hearings when he highlighted the conclusions of intelligence officials who warned that Russia was actively attempting to denigrate Biden's candidacy.
- Joey Garrison and Kevin Johnson
Pelosi mum, but impeachment could be sent to Senate Friday
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused again Thursday to say when she would send the article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection to the Senate, which would set the stage for a trial.
"I'm not going to be telling you when it is going," Pelosi said. "The other questions are about how a trial would proceed. We are ready."
A source familiar with the plan, but not authorized to speak on the record, said the article could be sent Friday, setting the stage for a trial Monday. The plan may be subject to change, the source said.
Pelosi declined a chance to "put a finer point" on timing for the trial. She said she will meet with House members who will serve as prosecutors, called managers.
"It'll be soon," she said.
The timing of the trial has been uncertain because the Senate trial may distract the chamber from confirming President Joe Biden's nominees and debating his legislative agenda. But Democrats are also eager to put the trial behind them.
Trump is charged with encouraging rioters who laid siege to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and then stormed through the halls, smashing doors, windows and antiques along the way.
Trump has said his speech that morning encouraged peaceful protest as Congress counted the Electoral College votes confirming Biden's victory. But lawmakers experienced the result firsthand, evacuating their chambers and then picked through the wreckage afterward.
Once the article arrives, the trial becomes the Senate's first order of business.
- Nicholas Wu and Bart Jansen
With help from Fauci, Biden focusing on pandemic on first full day
President Joe Biden kicks off his first full day in office with a virtual prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral, a final inauguration tradition before turning to his top priority: combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden will make remarks later Thursday on the new steps he's taking to tackle the virus through more executive orders and Dr. Anthony Fauci will make his debut as Biden's top medical adviser.
Fauci will appear at the afternoon's White House briefing, in the press room where he had to step carefully around former President Donald Trump.
Biden emphasized during the campaign he would be following the lead of scientists. That includes putting them out front on public communication, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
"We're having public health experts, medical experts, really leading our communication about the process that is underway to get the pandemic under control," Psaki said on MSNBC Thursday.
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Before she spoke, Fauci had already addressed remotely the World Health Organization, from which Trump had cut ties.
"Given that a considerable amount of effort will be required by all of us moving forward, the United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response, mitigate its impact on the world, strengthen our institutions, advance epidemic preparedness for the future, and improve the health and wellbeing of all people throughout the world," Fauci said.
Biden will build on the executive orders he signed Wednesday with three more health-related actions. He wants to beef up protective equipment and medical supplies through the Defense Production Act. He wants to bolster testing and ensure equitable access to treatment. And he's expected to order masks be worn on planes and trains and to require international travelers to have tested negative for the coronavirus before entering the United States.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: McCarthy now says Trump didn't provoke Capitol attack