House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he has “concerns” with Rep. Liz Cheney after she broke with Republican leadership to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
In an interview set to air Sunday, McCarthy suggested he was blindsided by the GOP conference chairwoman’s decision, which drew widespread criticism from rank-and-file Republicans and cast a light on the party’s internal divisions in the post-Trump era.
“Look, I support her, but I also have concerns,” McCarthy said on Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren.” “She took a position as a No. 3 member in conference; she never told me ahead of time.”
McCarthy said the Wyoming Republican would have some explaining to do before House Republicans for her decision to join nine House GOP members in voting to impeach Trump for inciting a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month.
“She can have a difference of opinion, but the one thing if we're going to lead within the conference, we should work together on that as a whole conference because we're representative of that conference,” McCarthy said. “I do think she has a lot of questions she has to answer to the conference.”
McCarthy suggested the best forum for that would be in a closed conference setting.
“Let people ask their questions, let her express why she did what she did, where did she come to that conclusion? And let's just have that discussion,” he said.
McCarthy’s comments come as calls have grown within the House Republican caucus to remove Cheney from her leadership post.
Members of the Trump-allied Freedom Caucus began circulating a petition last week among House GOP members that would force a meeting to debate a resolution calling for her resignation.
Cheney, who drew a primary opponent on Wednesday after her vote, has said she has no intentions of stepping down.
"I'm not going anywhere. This is a vote of conscience,” Cheney said last week. “It's one where there are different views in our conference. But our nation is facing an unprecedented, since the civil war, constitutional crisis.”
Some House Republicans have privately chastised McCarthy, who allies say is trying to quell rancor within the party, for not doing more to call out Trump for his role in the failed insurrection that left five people dead.
McCarthy drew criticism on Thursday for saying Trump did not incite the Capitol riot, seemingly contradicting his previous remarks made on the House floor this month that Trump bore some responsibility for the attack.
"I don't believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally," McCarthy told reporters.
When pressed by Van Susteren, McCarthy insisted that “everyone” — including Trump — bore responsibility for the Capitol riots, a comment which provoked heated reactions on social media.
A spokesman for McCarthy clarified the comment later on Saturday, saying the House GOP leader meant that Americans have a shared responsibility "to lower the political temperature" and didn't intend to assign blame to everyone for the riot.
McCarthy said he was also left out of the loop by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s announcement to file articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden on Thursday.
Greene told “the public before she told me,” McCarthy said of the Georgia Republican’s effort to oust Biden from office, which is certain to fail.
McCarthy backed Greene, a staunch Trump supporter who has embraced parts of the QAnon conspiracy theory, on her right to submit the articles, but disagreed with the decision.
“I think it's best, especially with what we have gone through with the Democrats, let's not stoop to their level, let’s believe in the rule of law,” McCarthy said. “I just don't think the timing and the case is right at this time, in this moment."