McConnell declines to say whether Trump should be charged criminally for Jan. 6 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who condemned former President Trump two years ago for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, declined Wednesday to say whether Trump should now be criminally charged for those actions

McConnell, asked about a possible indictment of Trump, stated that he does not plan to “critique” GOP candidates for president.  

“I’ve said every week out here that I’m not going to comment on the various candidates for the presidency. How I felt about that I expressed at the time, but I’m not going to start getting into sort of critiquing the various candidates for president,” McConnell told reporters when asked whether it would be legitimate for the Justice Department to charge Trump in connection with efforts to stop Congress’s certification of President Biden’s 2020 election victory.  

Minority Leader Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Trump announced Tuesday that special counsel Jack Smith had informed him in a letter that he is the target of a grand jury investigation related to Jan. 6. 

The target letter cites three statutes that Trump may be charged under, including the deprivation of rights, conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States and tampering with a witness, according to news outlets.  

McConnell excoriated Trump on the Senate floor in February 2021 at the conclusion of his second impeachment trial for provoking a mob of supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol and overrun its security to stop the certification of the 2020 election.  

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said.  

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More than 1,060 people have been charged by federal prosecutors because of their actions that day, and more than 600 people have pleaded guilty, according to a database compiled by National Public Radio.  

More than 80 people have been convicted on all charges, while only two people have been acquitted on all charges. 

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Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) said Tuesday that being “practically and morally responsible” didn’t necessarily warrant criminal charges and that prosecutors would have to hew closely to the law and facts of the case.  

“Practically and morally is something very different than legally, and I think that’s what the Justice Department has to look at. They’ve got to look at the law, the facts as they’ve interviewed people, and then make a determination about whether laws were broken,” he said.    

GOP senators hold back on defending Trump as he faces new indictment 

The revelation that former President Trump faces a possible grand jury indictment connected to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and his efforts to hold on to power has landed like a bombshell on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers saw firsthand the violence unleashed that day. 

Some GOP lawmakers rushed to Trump’s defense, but many Republicans in the Senate held back from defending the former president, who has been accused of stoking the Jan. 6 mob and who waited before calling on protesters to disperse.  

The expected indictment separately poses a tough political problem for many Republicans critical of Trump, who remains wildly popular with the party’s base. 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who hasn’t spoken to Trump since December 2020, stayed quiet about the news of yet another indictment against his onetime ally, who is now leading the Republican presidential primary field by 30 points in national polls.  

Minority Leader Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. (Greg Nash)

His top deputies, Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), reacted with caution.

Asked whether it would be “legitimate” for special counsel Jack Smith to charge Trump for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Thune said it would depend on the facts and evidence presented.  

“That’s going to depend on whether or not laws were broken," he said. "So clearly, I don’t know what they’re looking at. But I’m sure we’ll know in due time.” 

Cornyn dodged the politically charged topic altogether, arguing the Justice Department has the authority to investigate whether Trump broke the laws in trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election. 

“I think that’s entirely within the purview of the Department of Justice and has nothing to do with the United States Senate,” he said.  

Asked if Smith is a “credible prosecutor,” he said, “I have no knowledge of anything approaching that.” 

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who called the indictment of Trump last month for violating the Espionage Act “political” and “rotten,” was the only senior member of the Republican leadership to accuse the Justice Department of acting on political motives.  

“It looks like the president is targeting his most popular opponent. Isn't that interesting? Sounds political to me,” he said.  

Asked if he saw any qualitative difference between the 37 felony counts federal prosecutors brought against Trump last month for refusing to turn over classified documents he kept improperly at Mar-a-Lago and new charges related to Jan. 6, Barrasso saw both indictments as political attacks.  

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“The administration is siccing its dogs on the former president of the United States and their most formidable opponent,” he said.  

Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) only said, “It’s a never-ending story, that’s my comment.”  

The generally muted response from Senate Republican leaders posed a stark contrast with House Republican leaders, who rushed to Trump’s defense.  

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested the Justice Department is bringing new charges against Trump because he is leading the Republican presidential field by double digits and pulled ahead of President Biden in a recent poll.  

“Recently, President Trump went up in the polls and was actually surpassing President Biden for reelection. So what do they do now? Weaponize government to go after their No. 1 opponent,” McCarthy said Tuesday. 

“This is not equal justice. They treat people differently and they go after their adversaries,” he said. 

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to reporters during a media availability in Statuary Hall of the Capitol on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

McCarthy’s comments reveal how his views of Trump’s culpability for the attack on the Capitol have evolved since January 2021, when he told GOP colleagues that Trump “bears responsibility for his words and actions ­— no if, ands or buts.” 

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) accused the Justice Department of waging a politically motivated prosecution to distract from a whistleblower’s claims that senior administration officials interfered with an Internal Revenue Service investigation of Hunter Biden.

“Now you see the Biden administration going after President Trump once again, and it begs that question, ‘Is there a double standard? Is justice being administered equally?’” Scalise asked at a press conference.  

Other Trump allies in the House joined the attack against the administration.  

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) claimed Biden’s Justice Department did little to prosecute Black Lives Matter protesters who breached a federal courthouse in 2020 or to prosecute threats against conservative Supreme Court justices. 

“But if you’re President Trump and do nothing wrong? PROSECUTE. Americans are tired of the double standard!” he tweeted.  

Another Trump ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), attacked Smith on Twitter as a “lousy attorney” and pointed to the Supreme Court overturning his conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). 

“He only targets Republicans because he’s a weak little bitch for the Democrats,” she tweeted. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) asks a question during a hearing on Wednesday, June 21, 2023 to discuss the report from Special Counsel John Durham about the “Crossfire Hurricane” probe into allegations of contacts between Russia and former President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Senate Republicans, many of whom have made clear they don’t want to see Trump as the party’s nominee for president in 2024, however, broke with their House GOP colleagues over the claim that the Justice Department is operating a “two-tier” system and holding Trump to a special standard. 

“I think you’ve got to go where the facts lead you and determine whether or not laws are broken. But there shouldn’t be two systems of justice; everybody should be held accountable and there ought to be equal justice under the law,” Thune told reporters. 

“Clearly in these circumstances, it’s a politically charged environment. I think it puts an even higher burden of proof on the Justice Department given the perceptions that people have about that but this has got to be driven by the law and the facts,” he said.  

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

McConnell excoriated Trump on the Senate floor at the end of his 2021 impeachment trial for inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol hallways and ransacked the Senate parliamentarian’s office. 

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he declared, referring to the violence and chaos that resulted in injuries to more than 100 Capitol police officers.  

One officer, Brian Sicknick, died of natural causes while defending the Capitol.  

Thune said just because the Senate Republicans’ top leader called Trump “practically and morally” responsible, that did not necessarily warrant criminal charges.  

“Practically and morally is something very different than legally, and I think that’s what the Justice Department has to look at. They’ve got to look at the law, the facts as they’ve interviewed people, and then make a determination about whether laws were broken,” he said.   

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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted twice to convict Trump on impeachment charges — including on the charge of inciting the Jan. 6 riot — warned his House GOP colleagues about relentlessly attacking the Justice Department.

He voiced concern about "the diminution of institutions in which we rely as a society." 

"A democracy works when we have confidence in the justice system, in the legal system, in our prosecutors and so forth. If we constantly attack and diminish them, that weakens the democracy," he said. 

Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 footage sparks bipartisan outrage

Fox News host Tucker Carlson whipped up a firestorm Tuesday on Capitol Hill, sparking bipartisan backlash and igniting tensions with Capitol Police by downplaying the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on his prime-time program as “mostly peaceful chaos.”

His show divided Republicans, with a number of GOP senators ripping his portrayal of the incursion at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, who rarely offers opinions on political issues, said the Monday night show was filled with “offensive and misleading conclusions about the Jan. 6 attack.”

“The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,” Manger wrote in a memo to lawmakers.

“Those of you who contributed to the effort to allow this country’s legislative process to continue know firsthand what actually happened.” 

The segment was the first of two installments planned for this week relying on security footage granted to Carlson by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Carlson was expected to air more clips from the footage during his show on Tuesday evening. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a scathing rebuke of Carlson and Fox on Tuesday, holding up a copy of the memo and saying he wanted to associate himself “with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol police about what happened on Jan. 6.” 

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) holds up a letter from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger during a media availability following the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. McConnell supports Manger’s view against the released video footage to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson of the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol. (Greg Nash)

“It was a mistake, in my view, [for] Fox News to depict this in a way completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official in the Capitol” described, McConnell said.

It’s an unusual position for the host of one of Fox’s most-watched programs, who, while often a magnet for the ire of the left, seldom gets such direct criticism from those on the right. 

Carlson, who has previously criticized McCarthy on his show, suggested at the start of the year that the new House Speaker release all Jan. 6 security footage in order to win support from detractors threatening to block his path to the gavel. McCarthy later gave Carlson exclusive first access to the footage, but has denied that release came as a result of negotiations for the Speakership.

Though McCarthy and other Republicans said last week that footage released for broadcast would be subject to a Capitol Police security review, and Carlson said as much on his show, Capitol Police said it saw just one of the several clips that Carlson aired on Monday: An interior door that Carlson said was blurred as a result of security concerns.

“We repeatedly requested that any clips be shown to us first for a security review,” Capitol Police told The Hill on Monday. “So far we have only been given the ability to preview a single clip out of the multiple clips that aired.”

A senior GOP aide with knowledge of the process of releasing the footage said the Capitol Police provided a list of what would be considered security sensitive, and only one clip that Carlson wanted to air met that standard, which Capitol Police then cleared.

The same camera angle was released without any blur on the door during the 2021 impeachment of former President Trump.

“We worked with the Capitol Police to identify any security-sensitive footage and made sure it wasn’t released,” McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar said in a statement.

A representative for Fox News declined to comment on Tuesday. 

A number of lawmakers offered pointed and direct criticism of Carlson’s first use of the footage.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), meanwhile, told multiple news outlets said that Carlson’s show on the Jan. 6 footage was “bullshit.” 

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told CNN: “To somehow put that in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)

Sen. Kevin Cramer is among the Republicans that have criticized Tucker Carlson airing Jan. 6 footage. (Greg Nash)

Carlson at the same time won plaudits from other Republicans who have similarly criticized and downplayed the attack. 

“When will judges begin applying justice equally? Doesn’t look like “thousands of armed insurrectionists” to me,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a tweet after thanking McCarthy and Carlson for showing the footage.

“I've seen enough. Release all J6 political prisoners now,” Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.) said in a tweet as Carlson’s show aired.

Trump also weighed in on the footage, praising Carlson and McCarthy over its publication and calling the tapes the Fox host played for his audience “irrefutable.”  

Carlson aired the footage after being granted access to the trove of security tapes by McCarthy, prompting outrage from Democrats and pundits who raised concerns that the tapes could threaten Capitol security procedures and amplify conspiracy theories.

Former President Trump

Former President Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. (Greg Nash)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor on Tuesday called Carlson’s show “one of the most shameful hours we’ve seen on cable television,” saying he was “furious” with both Carlson and McCarthy. He called on Fox News and its owner Rupert Murdoch to tell Carlson to not run more footage on Tuesday evening. 

“Speaker McCarthy has played a treacherous, treacherous game in catering to the far right,” Schumer said.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who was one of the members on the Jan. 6 committee, is among those who have raised security concerns over the release of the footage, noting it could be used to map the Capitol and the evacuation path of lawmakers.

He called Carlson’s show and conspiracies about Jan. 6 pushed through his documentary a “central part of the GOP agenda and playbook as they try to get Donald Trump elected to the White House again.”

“They didn't even apparently honor their agreement with the Capitol Police to provide the clips in advance. So there can be some attempt to contextualize whatever silly potshots they're taking,” he told The Hill.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (Annabelle Gordon)

“The absurd part is they act like their fragmented and disoriented potshots from Capitol security footage are the only documentary record of what happened. There are thousands and thousands of hours that have already been published – not just security footage – but also [by] media that were present and insurrectionists themselves. The whole world was watching and everyone knows exactly what happened. They are involved in a fraudulent enterprise here,” he added. 

Among the unfounded theories Carlson floated in his Monday program were suggestions that federal agents helped incite the violence, though he stopped short of providing evidence to prove it. He also cast doubt on the circumstances surrounding the death of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick.

It was something Manger deemed “the most disturbing accusation from last night” in asserting his death “had nothing to do with heroic actions on Jan. 6.”  

“The department maintains, as anyone with common sense would, that had Officer Sicknick not fought valiantly for hours on the day he was violently assaulted, Officer Sicknick would not have died the next day,” the chief said.

The top-rated host last year produced and published a multi-part documentary series dubbed “Patriot Purge,” which purported to tell an alternative story of the attack and features at least one subject who suggests the event may have been a “false flag” operation. 

The publication of the tapes also comes as Carlson specifically and Fox more generally are taking intense heat from critics over revelations the company’s top executives and talent embraced and discussed Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election on air but privately cast doubt on them. 

“They believed the election they had just voted in had been unfairly conducted,” Carlson said Monday of the people who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. “They were right. In retrospect, it is clear the 2020 election was a grave betrayal of American democracy, given the facts that have since emerged about that election,” he said. “No honest person can deny it. Yet the beneficiaries of that election continue to lie about what is now obvious.” 

Manger dismissed those conclusions in his Tuesday letter.

“TV commentary will not record the truth of our history books,” he wrote in his letter. “The Justice system will. Truth and justice are on our side.” 

Alexander Bolton contributed.

Capitol Police says it reviewed just one Jan. 6 clip Tucker Carlson showed

U.S. Capitol Police say they saw just one of the many clips from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol that Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired on Monday night, after he was granted access by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“We repeatedly requested that any clips be shown to us first for a security review,” Capitol Police told The Hill on Monday. “So far we have only been given the ability to preview a single clip out of the multiple clips that aired.”

The limited consultation comes after McCarthy said Capitol Police would be consulted before the video aired to address security concerns.

“We work with the Capitol Police as well, so we’ll make sure security is taken care of,” McCarthy told reporters last week.

Carlson said on his show that his team checked with Capitol Police before airing the footage, and that their reservations were “minor” and “reasonable.” 

His show blurred the details of an interior door in the Capitol due to those concerns.

The same camera angle of the door was previously released during the impeachment trial of former President Trump in 2021, without any blurring of the door, picturing senators and staff evacuating.

The disagreement over whether Capitol Police were meaningfully consulted comes as Carlson says he will release more of the roughly 44,000 hours of unseen footage he now has access to. 

A senior GOP aide with knowledge of the process of releasing the footage said that there was coordination with Capitol Police. 

The Capitol Police gave a list of what would be considered security sensitive, the aide said. 

When Carlson’s team picked out the clips to air, only one of those – the clip with the door – was considered to be security sensitive based on that list, and then given to the Capitol Police to review. 

The Capitol Police then cleared that clip, with the details of the door being blurred.

“We worked with the Capitol Police to identify any security-sensitive footage and made sure it wasn’t released,” McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar said in a statement.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight, also said last week that the footage given to Carlson to air would be cleared for security purposes.

“It’s basically controlled access to be able to view tapes. Can’t record, can’t take anything with you. Then they will request any particular clips that — that they may need, and then we’ll make sure that there’s nothing sensitive, nothing classified — you know, escape routes,” Loudermilk said.

A representative for Fox News did not immediately return a request for comment. 

“This action clearly does not coincide with promises of safety and security and endangers everyone who visits and works in the Capitol complex,” Rep. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), top Democrat on the House Committee on Administration, which oversees Capitol Police, said in a statement to The Hill. 

During his primetime show on Monday, Carlson aired the first portion of never-before-seen angles of footage from the attack by Trump supporters, downplaying the violence that broke out during the incident describing the scene at one point as “mostly peaceful chaos.”

“‘Deadly insurrection.’ Everything about that phrase is a lie,” Carlson said during his show Monday night. “Very little about Jan. 6 was organized or violent. Surveillance video from inside the Capitol shows mostly peaceful chaos.”

The agreement to consult Capitol Police over the footage comes after Democrats and several who worked on the Jan. 6 panel raised the alarm over the security fallout that could result from sharing the footage.

"When the Select Committee obtained access to U.S. Capitol Police video footage, it was treated with great sensitivity given concerns about the security of lawmakers, staff, and the Capitol complex,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who served as head of the Jan. 6 panel, said at the time.

“Access was limited to members and a small handful of investigators and senior staff, and the public use of any footage was coordinated in advance with Capitol Police. It’s hard to overstate the potential security risks if this material were to be used irresponsibly.”

This story was updated at 3:02 p.m.

McCarthy’s Tucker Carlson decision ‘despicable,’ says Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said that Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) decision to share security footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol exclusively with Fox News host Tucker Carlson was “despicable” and damaging to security.  

Asked whether he would share the security footage of the attack, some of which was aired publicly during former President Trump’s 2021 impeachment hearing and during the hearings of the House select Jan. 6 committee, he said it would need to be reviewed by experts.  

“Look, I think what McCarthy did was despicable, damaged our security,” Schumer said of his House Republican counterpart. “Certainly … when he listens to a small group of the MAGA right, he’s going to run into trouble himself.” 

“As for releasing it, security has to be the No. 1 concern,” he said.  

McCarthy decided last week to grant Carlson access to all of the Capitol’s security footage from Jan. 6, sparking widespread controversy given Carlson’s work on a 2021 documentary series that framed the attack on the Capitol as a “false flag” operation intended to turn public opinion against former President Trump and his supporters.  

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday dodged a question about whether he agreed with McCarthy’s decision to share sensitive footage with Carlson, who entertained Trump’s claims of a stolen election on his show while privately expressing extreme skepticism about them.  

“Going back to when Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] was Speaker, my main concern is the security of the Capitol,” the GOP leader said tersely.  

Asked if sharing the footage may compromise Capitol security, McConnell reiterated “security of the Capitol,” which he said “was obviously severely threatened on Jan. 6” was his top concern.  

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), the chair of the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight, said Tuesday that footage from Jan. 6 would be subject to a security review before going to Fox News.  

“It’s basically controlled access to be able to view tapes. Can’t record, can’t take anything with you. Then they will request any particular clips that — that they may need, and then we’ll make sure that there’s nothing sensitive, nothing classified — you know, escape routes,” Loudermilk said in response to a question from The Hill. 

Emily Brooks contributed.  

Many Senate Republicans aren’t protecting Trump after Jan. 6 panel’s nod to criminal charges

Senate Republicans are stepping out of the way of the House Jan. 6 committee’s recommendation that the Justice Department prosecute former President Trump for crimes related to the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

GOP senators, especially those allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), say the Jan. 6 committee interviewed “credible” witnesses and added to the historical record in a substantial way, even though they have qualms about how Democrats have tried to use the panel’s findings to score political points.  

Now they say it’s up to Attorney General Merrick Garland or Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith to investigate or indict Trump, but they’re not waving federal prosecutors off from prosecuting the former president.  

“The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day,” McConnell said in a statement, pointing the finger squarely at Trump in response to the House Jan. 6 committee referring four criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department.  

It was McConnell’s strongest statement blaming Trump for inciting a crowd to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, since he denounced him on the Senate floor in February of that year.  

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said in February 2021 after voting on technical grounds to acquit Trump during his second impeachment trial.  

Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said, “It’s up to Justice now.”  

Asked if he thought the committee had conducted a credible investigation of Trump, Thune replied, “They interviewed some credible witnesses.” 

Thune said the makeup of the panel was partisan because it comprised seven Democrats and only two anti-Trump Republicans, but he acknowledged, “They did interview a lot of folks that had a lot of knowledge of what happened and they were people who I think were very credible.”

Retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of McConnell’s leadership team, said the Jan. 6 committee’s final report, which will be made public Wednesday, is “important.” 

“I think the referrals are not as important as the report. The report’s important, even though it came out of a partisan process,” he said. 

“But the testimony is the testimony, and they were able to get the testimony from most of the people they wanted — not everybody but most — and I think most of the significant figures. That is the historical record,” Portman explained. “That’s very important.”  

The Jan. 6 panel on Monday made four criminal referrals alleging Trump incited insurrection, obstructed an official proceeding of Congress, conspired to defraud the United States and conspired to make a false statement.  

The referrals don’t require the Department of Justice to bring criminal charges against the former president, but they put more pressure on federal prosecutors to act.  

The panel also recommended the House Ethics Committee investigate House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and several allies — Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — and what they did in the lead-up to and on the day of the attack on the Capitol.  

House Republicans are expected to dismantle the Jan. 6 panel after they take control of the chamber in January.  

Trump shrugged off the criminal referrals in a statement posted to Truth Social, his social media platform.  

“These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” he posted.  

Former President Trump speaks at an event

Trump has announced a new bid for the White House, but it’s been clear for weeks amid a series of controversies surrounding Trump and a disappointing midterm election outcome for the GOP that a number of Republican senators would rather move on from the former president.

Only one Republican senator, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), has publicly endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid.  

Others have raised concerns about Trump’s viability in the 2024 general election or blamed him for derailing their chances of winning key Senate races in Pennsylvania and Georgia this year.  

Republican senators speaking to the media on Monday did not entirely embrace the Jan. 6 panel, by any means, but most did not embrace Trump.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), another member of the Senate Republican leadership team, said she thought the Jan. 6 committee's investigation “was a political process” and that she had “never seen” Congress recommend the Justice Department prosecute someone before.  

But she added that Trump “bears some responsibility” for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

“I don’t see that this changes anything. Let’s get the Electoral Count Act passed. That will clear up some of the ambiguity that came about that day,” she said, referring to legislation the Senate will take up this week to clarify that the vice president has a solely ministerial role when Congress convenes in joint session to certify the results of a presidential election.  

The bill is intended to eliminate the possibility that a future president tries to get the vice president to throw out slates of electors when presiding over a joint session of Congress, as Trump pressured then-Vice President Mike Pence to do on Jan. 6.   

McConnell, Thune, Portman and Capito all voted to acquit Trump after his second impeachment trial when he was charged with inciting insurrection. 

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Many Senate Republicans, however, voted that way on technical grounds because Trump at the time of the trial was no longer in office.  

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachment trials, said, “There’s no question that President Trump deserves culpability for inciting the riot on Jan. 6 and for failure to act to protect the vice president and the Capitol of the United States.”

“Whether there are criminal charges associated with that would have to be determined by experienced prosecutors, and that’s what the Justice Department will determine,” he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who also voted to impeach Trump, said he would leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do. 

“I am not a lawyer and certainly not a prosecutor,” he said, adding he wasn’t surprised about the recommendation to prosecute.

“I don’t know the legal basis of it, but you know what I think of what the president did that day,” he said.  

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, said she was not surprised by the criminal referral by the House committee.  

“Obviously they spent considerable time and [went into] great detail over many months they have investigated this,” she said. “It’s really up to [the Department of Justice] where they go next.” 

“I think it’s going to be important for us to read this report that will be coming out Wednesday,” she said.  

Asked about McConnell’s statement that the entire nation knows Trump is responsible for the Jan. 6 attack, Murkowski replied, “I agree. I voted to impeach him.”   

McConnell on Jan. 6 criminal referral of Trump: ‘Entire nation knows who is responsible for that day’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday issued a terse response to the House Jan. 6 select committee’s decision to refer criminal charges against former President Trump to the Justice Department.  

“The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day. Beyond that, I don’t have any immediate observations,” McConnell said in a statement reacting to the House panel voting to refer four criminal charges against Trump to prosecutors in connection to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

The committee, made up of seven Democrats and two Republicans, recommended the Justice Department investigate Trump for inciting insurrection, obstructing an official proceeding, conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring to make a false statement.  

The panel also recommended a formal ethics investigation of the role that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and several allies — Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — played on Jan. 6 and in the days before.

McConnell's statement responding to the action on the other side of the Capitol was bolder than those from some members of his leadership team.

Retiring Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (Mo.) said he “had no idea” of the details of the referral.  

Incoming Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said, “I never heard of Congress instructing [the Justice Department] in that way."

She said the committee’s work was “obviously politicized.”  

McConnell denounced Trump on the Senate floor in February 2021 after the former president was acquitted on the impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection.  

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” McConnell said, after voting to acquit the president on the technical grounds that he no longer held the office.  

Since then, McConnell has regularly declined to comment when asked what responsibility Trump bore for spreading the unsubstantiated belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.  

Jan. 6 committee launches ethics complaint against McCarthy, other GOP lawmakers

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol escalated its clash with Republican lawmakers on Monday, recommending a formal ethics inquiry into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and other top allies of former President Trump for their refusal to cooperate with the probe.

The recommendations to the House Ethics Committee mark a milder step than the criminal referrals to the Justice Department that the select committee made Monday against Trump and several members of the former president’s inner circle for their role in the Capitol riot. 

But as a political matter, the ethics complaints will shine a bright light on the actions of McCarthy and three other prominent House Republicans — Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) — in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the attack. Those actions ranged from attending Jan. 6 planning meetings with Trump at the White House, as Jordan had done, to having conversations with the then-president in the midst of the riot, as McCarthy had done. 

The committee had initially requested that those four lawmakers, among others, appear voluntarily before the panel. When the Republicans refused, the panel issued subpoenas for their testimony in May, almost a year into the sweeping investigation into Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his 2020 defeat. 

None of them complied with the inquest, arguing the select committee was, from the start, a political witch hunt orchestrated by Trump’s adversaries — most notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — to damage Trump’s chances of winning another term in the White House. Heightening those accusations, Trump last month announced his entrance into the 2024 presidential race.

During Monday’s gathering on Capitol Hill, the last in a long series of public forums to air its findings, the select committee argued that ignoring congressional subpoenas — even for sitting lawmakers — sets a dangerous precedent that will hobble Congress’s powers to function effectively as an oversight body.

It’s unclear if the Ethics panel will launch an investigation based on the select committee’s new recommendations. Unlike most other standing committees, membership on the Ethics panel is evenly divided between the parties. And the committee strives — at least rhetorically — to avoid the divisive partisan politicking that practically defines some of the other panels. 

Yet with just weeks left in the 117th Congress, there’s a small and closing window for the committee to launch any new probes while Democrats are still in the House majority. And it’s unlikely that a GOP-led Ethics panel would take the remarkable step of investigating the role of sitting Republicans in an event as polarizing as the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Indeed, in a sign of how partisan Jan. 6 has become, McCarthy — who is vying to become Speaker next year and has outsize influence over committee chair spots — is vowing to investigate the Jan. 6 investigation as a first order of business in the new Congress.  

Heading into Monday’s forum, panel members seemed resigned to the idea that they had little recourse against McCarthy and the other Republicans who refused to cooperate in the short window before the panel sunsets.

"We don't have a lot of time right now," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of the two Republicans on the select committee, told reporters last week. "That's the reality of where we're at."

By their own telling, each of the Republicans has information pertaining to the Jan. 6 attack that is relevant to the investigation. 

McCarthy had called Trump from the Capitol amid the attack, urging the president to call off his supporters, and he later went to the House floor to say Trump bore responsibility for the rampage. But despite initially supporting an outside investigation into the riot, McCarthy reversed course after Trump opposed the idea. 

Jordan, another close Trump ally, was among the most vocal proponents of Congress’s effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in certain closely contested states. He’d attended a meeting at the White House in late December of 2020, just weeks before Jan. 6, to help plan the Republicans’ strategy for blocking Congress’s vote to formalize President Biden’s victory. And he was on a conference call on Jan. 2, 2021, for the same purpose. Jordan also spoke with Trump more than once on Jan. 6. 

Russell Dye a spokesperson for Jordan dismissed the referral as “just another partisan and political stunt made by a Select Committee that knowingly altered evidence, blocked minority representation on a Committee for the first time in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, and failed to respond to Mr. Jordan’s numerous letters and concerns surrounding the politicization and legitimacy of the Committee’s work.”

Perry, who rose in prominence as a staunch Trump defender during the former president’s first impeachment, has caught the attention of Jan. 6 investigators for his role in pushing Trump to install Jeffrey Clark as head of the Justice Department after the election. Clark was sympathetic to Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign, and Republicans saw him as an ally in the effort to use the Justice Department to keep Trump in office. 

Biggs, a former head of the far-right Freedom Caucus, had been a part of a campaign led by Arizona state lawmakers to seat a slate of alternative electors who would side with Trump despite his loss in the Grand Canyon State.  

A fifth GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.), had also been a target of investigators for his coordination with the Trump White House leading up to Jan. 6 as well as his combative speech on the Ellipse that morning, when Brooks, clad in body armorurged the crowd to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” 

Brooks, who lost a bid for Alabama Senate this year, is not returning to Capitol Hill next year, and the Jan. 6 committee did not include him on its list of ethics referrals.

Updated at 3:24 p.m.

Five takeaways as the Pelosi era ends

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) momentous decision to step down from Democratic leadership marks a watershed moment in Washington politics, sending tremors across a Congress where she’s guided her party for the last two decades.

The development carries broad implications for the workings of Capitol Hill, promising to pave the way for a younger generation of Democratic leaders, who will take over with Republicans controlling the House, while altering the image of the party after 20 years with Pelosi at the helm.

Here are five takeaways as the Pelosi era is set to end.

A woman in charge 

Pelosi is a historic figure, becoming the most powerful elected woman in U.S. history when she assumed the Speakership in 2007, then repeated the feat again in 2019 after a long stint in the minority. It’s a distinction she still holds.

From that unique perspective, she championed bill after bill to advance women’s causes — including efforts this year to codify Roe vs. Wade following the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate abortion rights. And Pelosi’s speech on Thursday from the House floor — where she introduced herself as not only Speaker, but “a wife, a mother, a grandmother” — was thick with references to the progress women have made since she was first elected 35 years ago — and the long strides that remain. 

“When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90,” she said. “And we want more.”

Pelosi’s legislative legacy is well known: She muscled through proposals as consequential as ObamaCare, the sweeping Wall Street reforms that followed the Great Recession and the massive climate package signed by President Biden this year. 

More than that, she carved a well-earned reputation for counting votes and convincing reluctant lawmakers to support controversial legislation, even when it damaged them politically. 

The combination made her among the most effective Speakers in U.S. history — and inspired women to follow her into politics.  

“She’s broken glass ceilings and been a true role model for generations of women — including myself,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).  

A unifying speech 

Pelosi comes from a family steeped in the traditions of the Democratic Party — her father was a member of the House through much of the 1940s — and she can be fiercely partisan in her confrontations with Republicans on countless issues of politics and policy. But her speech on Thursday avoided the type of partisan fire breathing that’s become routine on Capitol Hill. 

Instead, Pelosi sought to meet the moment with a message of unity and high ideals, invoking legendary Republican figures like Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln to make the case that fighting for the country’s founding principles is a shared business. 

“We owe to the American people our very best, to deliver on their faith,” she said. “To forever reach for the more perfect union — the glorious horizon that our founders promised.”

If there was a partisan jab at the Republicans on Thursday, it was not what Pelosi said but what she left out. In referencing the presidents she’s “enjoyed working with,” Pelosi mentioned George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden — but not Donald Trump. 

It was a glaring omission, though it didn’t appear to bother the handful of GOP lawmakers who were in the chamber to hear the speech.

“I thought it was very positive,” said Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), who was among those Republicans on hand. “I was happy to be there.” 

Changing of the guard 

Pelosi’s decision paves the way for a “new generation” of liberals to rise in the Democratic ranks, breaking the leadership logjam that the “big three” — Pelosi, Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.) — have formed over their two-decade tenure.

“For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect,” Pelosi said in her remarks.

Minutes after the Speaker’s decision, Hoyer — who has served as Pelosi’s No. 2 for years — announced that he would also step back from Democratic leadership next year, setting the scene for a seismic shakeup at the top echelons of the caucus that will usher in a new slate of liberal leaders. Clyburn has said he intends to remain in leadership, but has not indicated which position.

The announcements were music to the ears of younger, restive lawmakers whose ambitions have been frustrated for years by the leadership bottleneck at the very top. 

But that changing of the guard, while officially put into motion on Thursday, has been the talk of Washington for months. Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Caucus Vice Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) are viewed as the heirs apparent to the “big three.”

None of them, however, announced bids on Thursday, opting to make their longtime leader the focus of the day.

“We’re all just trying to process what we heard and honor the legacy of Speaker Pelosi, what she’s meant to that chamber, what she’s meant to the California delegation and what she’s meant to me personally,” Aguilar told reporters. “Those are the things I’m reflecting on right now.”

But while Pelosi and Hoyer are both on their way to becoming rank-and-file members, they’re viewing the move differently.

“I feel balanced about it all,” the Speaker told reporters in the Capitol. “I’m not sad at all.”

Hoyer, on the other hand, asked how it feels to step out of the leadership, responded, “Not good.”

A divided Congress and country

Party polarization has worsened dramatically over the course of Pelosi’s years on Capitol Hill. And the House chamber during Pelosi’s speech was a glaring portrait of the stark partisan divisions that plague both the Congress and the country. 

On one side were Pelosi’s Democratic allies, who filled virtually every chair and cheered her numerous times during the 16-minute address. On the other were just a handful of Republicans — and hundreds of empty seats.

The Republicans who were on hand — including Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) — were glowing in their characterization of the outgoing Speaker, even as they emphasized their policy differences.

“It has been historic,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.). “She’s been strong for her conference all this time. There’s a rivalry with opposite teams and all that stuff, but you know, at the end of the day, we all try to remember and reflect on how you get along with people.”

Still, the empty GOP seats were a ready reminder of the tensions that linger between the parties, particularly following last year’s attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) was among the absent Republicans. And some Democrats said they weren’t surprised by the GOP no-shows. 

“I have unfortunately come to expect an utter lack of regard for civility, collegiality, institutional respect, and frankly even respect for the American public,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said of the Republicans. 

“The American public sent them a message, whether they want to accept it or not, last Tuesday. Which was: We want less of that. We want less divisiveness, less anger, less of this craziness and a lot more civility and respect,” he continued. “And it’s as if they heard nothing.”

Warning about democracy 

The final chapter of Pelosi’s tenure as Democratic leader will be marked by her dogged defense of American democracy — even when it put her in direct conflict with her political foes.

As Speaker, Pelosi led two impeachments of former President Trump, established a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and ensured that the House would reconvene after the rampage to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election — in the very chamber rioters had infiltrated.

In her remarks on Thursday, Pelosi took pains not to attack Republicans, but argued clearly for the importance of safeguarding America’s founding principles if the country is to survive. 

“American Democracy is majestic – but it is fragile,” the Speaker said. “Many of us here have witnessed its fragility firsthand – tragically, in this Chamber. And so, Democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm.”

Pelosi’s decision to step down came just a day after the formal midterm results had turned the House to Republican control. But it was Democrats who had overperformed at the polls, preventing the considerable gains that GOP leaders had expected. 

In warning about the fragility of democracy, Pelosi made the case that voters recognized it, too.

“Last week, the American people spoke,” she said. “And their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law and of Democracy itself.”

Five things to know about Andy Biggs

Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) on Monday night announced that he’ll challenge House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) to become the Republican conference’s nominee for Speaker of the House. 

“We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives. And it’s a new world, and, yes, I’m going to be nominated tomorrow to — to the position of Speaker of the House,” Biggs said on Newsmax.

The Arizona lawmaker had argued last week that the party should reconsider rallying behind McCarthy, who announced his bid the day after the midterm elections.

McCarthy won an internal vote on Tuesday to become the House Speaker, 188-31, but will still have to gain a majority of 218 votes in his favor when the next Congress begins on Jan. 3, assuming a fully sworn-in House.

Republicans’ anticipated “red wave” failed to rush over the nation with hoped-for GOP wins in the midterms. Democrats were able to buck historical precedent and hold on to power in the Senate and put up a tougher-than-expected fight for the House. 

Now, a week after Election Day, votes are still being tallied to determine which party will snag the lower chamber majority. Republicans believe they’ll grab control with a slim majority.

Here are five things to know about Biggs as he makes his bid to take the top Speaker spot and challenge longtime GOP leader McCarthy:

Served as Freedom Caucus chairman

Biggs was formerly the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a far-right bloc now led by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.).

The caucus is known for its confrontational tactics and willingness to criticize House GOP leadership, making the group a potential challenge for McCarthy if he does become Speaker. 

The group has also pressed GOP leadership to make rule changes that would empower individual members in the House Republican Conference, including a tweak that would let any member to make a “motion to vacate the Chair,” or oust the Speaker. 

Introduced articles of impeachment against Mayorkas

Biggs has introduced articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a target of conservatives critical of the Biden administration’s policies and action on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“Mayorkas and [U.S. Attorney General Merrick] Garland have purposefully made our country less safe, politicized their departments, and violated the rule of law. In some instances, they have instructed their subordinates to disobey our laws. That is unacceptable,” Biggs said earlier this year.

“Next January I expect the House to pursue my impeachment articles against Mayorkas,” he added.

McCarthy has also expressed that impeachment could be possible for Mayorkas if the secretary was found to be failing in his task to secure the border, though the likelihood of any success for such an initiative is low, even in a chamber with a slim GOP majority. 

Friendly with Sen. Sinema

Biggs and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), who has been accused by others in the Democratic Party of apathy toward some of the party’s issues, have been friendly since their days working together in the Arizona legislature.

"I love Andy Biggs. I know some people think he's crazy, but that's just because they don't know him," Sinema said of Biggs, according to New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns in their book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.” 

Biggs is one of the most conservative members of Congress and has resisted President Biden's 2020 win in Arizona, which Biden flipped from red to blue.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) on Sunday said Sinema “did nothing” to help the state's Democrats in the midterm elections and accused her of wanting her party to lose.

Considered a Senate bid

The Arizona Republican weighed a bid to jump from the lower chamber up to the Senate.

Biggs said last year that he was “seriously considering” a run as former President Trump readied to boost his supporters in their midterm bids. 

Biggs, a longtime ally of the former president, would have faced off against incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who was projected last week to defeat Republican challenger Blake Masters in one of the races that was key to boosting Democrats to hold their Senate majority.

The congressman ultimately decided to run for a fourth term in the House and is projected to win his district by a wide margin.

Subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee

The former Freedom Caucus chairman has come under scrutiny for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot after he touted Trump’s false claims of election fraud during the 2020 presidential election. 

The House select committee investigating Jan. 6 subpoenaed Biggs and a handful of other GOP House lawmakers, including McCarthy, after they refused to voluntarily testify.

The committee alleged that Biggs was involved in “plans to bring protestors to Washington for the counting of Electoral College votes” and "efforts to persuade state officials that the 2020 was stolen.” 

The panel named Biggs among a number of Republican lawmakers who asked for presidential pardons for their role in trying to overturn election results in certain states on Jan. 6.