Congressional Republicans have kicked into high gear over the past week to minimize the fallout for the Republican Party caused by Donald Trump and the murderous mob he sicced on the lawmakers at the Capitol. On the one hand, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell finally directly blamed Trump for inciting the riot by feeding his cultists a steady diet of disinformation and baseless lies about the election.
On the other is extraordinary leaked audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explicitly warning members of his caucus not to target other congressional members by name because “it’s putting people in jeopardy.”
The audio of McCarthy’s call with members of his caucus, obtained by Punchbowl News, appears to be from a call he held on Monday last week. McCarthy says the impetus for his warning is based on the FBI briefings he gets on a weekly basis. “I’ve seen something I haven’t seen before,” he says, imploring, “So I’m asking all of you—I’ve called some of you personally, and I want you to know what I’m hearing.”
McCarthy continues, “Do not raise another member’s name on a television, whether they have a different position or not. Let’s respect one another and you probably won’t understand what you’re doing, and I’m just warning you right now—don’t do it.”
Trump, predictably, has been obsessed with exacting revenge on everyone who has crossed him since the siege, particularly Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and the nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach him. The Washington Post reports that because Trump lost his megaphone on Twitter, he has been pushing loyalists to do his bidding and target people on his behalf. “He has encouraged allies to attack them publicly because he no longer has access to his Twitter account and has not been doing media interviews where he could fire his own attacks,” writes the Post.
Clearly McCarthy is concerned someone is going to hurt or even killed as a result of Trump’s revenge campaign. McCarthy’s warning was reported by Axios last week, but the actual audio didn’t become public until this week.
We all must acknowledge how our words have contributed to the discord in America. If you’re on your phone, if you’re texting about what I’m saying, put it down for one moment. Later after this call, I’m going to be getting another briefing from the FBI.
But what we are saying on television when we say a member’s name—in our hearts maybe we think we’re not doing anything … go back the last four years, everybody has done something.
This not the moment in time to do it. The briefings that I’m getting—you can incite something else. The country is very divided and we know this. Let’s not put any member—I don’t care who they are, Republican, Democrat or any person not even in Congress. Watch our words closely.
I get these reports on a weekly basis. I’ve seen something I haven’t seen before. So I’m asking all of you—I’ve called some of you personally, and I want you to know what I’m hearing.
I know you want to defend your vote, you want to defend your positions—and sometimes we get emotional about that, part of our defense is we explain why someone else (audio unclear). That brings damage.
Do not raise another member’s name on a television, whether they have a different position or not. Let’s respect one another and you probably won’t understand what you’re doing, and I’m just warning you right now—don’t do it. …
I do want everybody to understand—emotions are high. What you say matters, let’s not put other people in danger. Let’s watch what words we’re using, and let’s definitely not be using other members names in any media … take a moment, take a deep breath. Do not do that because it’s putting people in jeopardy.
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