Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the House Republicans, believes President Trump “bears responsibility” for the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol—but still doesn’t support impeachment, he said during the impeachment debate Wednesday.
“He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action of President Trump,” McCarthy said on the House floor.
“And the president’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and essential resolution would be prudent. Unfortunately, that is not where we are today,” he added.
McCarthy insisted impeachment in “such a short time frame would be a mistake.”
“No investigations have been completed. No hearings have been held. What’s more, the Senate has confirmed that no trial will begin until after President-Elect Biden is sworn in,” McCarthy said. “But here is what a vote to impeach would do. A vote to impeach would further divide this nation.”
McCarthy did not provide evidence that Trump’s first impeachment had divided the nation.
He was among the 100-plus House Republicans to vote against certifying Arizona and Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes, based on unfounded allegations of voter fraud, after rioters stormed the Capitol.
But on Wednesday, McCarthy was insistent that Biden “won the election” and will be sworn in as president next week.
“The presidency in this Congress will face immediate challenges that must be addressed,” he said. “I stand ready to assist in that effort. With good faith, good will, and an open hand.”
Five people died in the insurrection last week, including one Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, who was reportedly struck in the head with a fire extinguisher by a rioter.
After the riot, McCarthy’s Senate counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) broke with him, acknowledging Wednesday night that Biden was president-elect. And, after House Democrats began drawing articles of impeachment, media outlets reported that McCarthy wouldn’t force his caucus to vote to acquit.
So far, six House Republicans have announced they wouldn’t vote for impeachment, including the third-ranking member of the caucus, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY). Joining Democrats in the impeachment vote are Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Fred Upton (R-MI) and John Katko (R-NY).
A final House vote on impeachment is expected some time Wednesday night. On Wednesday, a spokesperson for McConnell said the Senate trial likely wouldn’t begin until after Biden is sworn in to office, confirming a Washington Post report.
In his speech, McCarthy went on to acknowledge that antifa were not the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 riot, rebutting some of his colleagues’ claims.
“There is absolutely no evidence of that,” McCarthy said. “And conservatives should be the first to say so.”