House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday he does not believe former President Donald Trump incited the riot at the Capitol earlier this month, pivoting away from comments he made last week that the president bore some responsibility for the assault.
"I don't believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally," McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.
McCarthy previously told House Republicans that Trump bore and also accepted some responsibility for the attacks, according to four Republican sources who were on a private Jan. 11 GOP caucus call. Two days later, McCarthy said on the House floor that "the president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump."
The fresh comments from McCarthy, a staunch Trump ally, diverged from remarks by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Tuesday that Trump "provoked" the Jan. 6 riot.
"The mob was fed lies," McConnell said on the Senate floor on the last full day of Trump's presidency. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."
After Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives last week over the riots, McConnell has signaled his openness to convicting Trump in the upcoming Senate trial. The minority leader's allies have also blamed Trump in the aftermath of the Georgia Senate races earlier this month, when Democrats won the two seats they needed to claim the Senate majority.
McCarthy said Thursday that he hopes Trump, who received a record number of votes for a GOP presidential candidate in 2020, continues to galvanize the supporters that he amassed.
"Every former president still has a role within their party," McCarthy said. "This president brought a lot of great success. He brought people to the party who hadn't been involved before and he should continue to engage in that way."