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GOP lawmakers voice frustration with leadership response to Trump riots

Several GOP lawmakers on Friday voiced frustrations with how House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney spokesperson on Gaetz: 'In Wyoming, the men don't wear make-up' Biden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop House GOP leader says he has 'concerns' over Cheney's impeachment vote MORE (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseBoycott sham impeachment The Memo: Biden gambles that he can do it all Biden under pressure to deliver more COVID-19 shots MORE (R-La.) responded to this week's deadly Capitol riots by Trump supporters.

“I’m furious,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

“I think there is some concern growing not recognizing the historic nature of what happened to our democracy on Wednesday. And just doubling down on the hard-right type of message during that moment was troublesome,” another member said.

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More than five GOP lawmakers who spoke to The Hill said that with the exception of House Republican Conference Chair Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump, allies raise pressure on Senate GOP ahead of impeachment Trump establishes 'Office of the Former President' in Florida Cheney spokesperson on Gaetz: 'In Wyoming, the men don't wear make-up' MORE (Wyo.), leadership’s response fell far short of what was needed at the time.

Cheney, the highest-ranking GOP woman in the House, is so far the only member of leadership to directly denounce President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE for Wednesday’s mob attack that left at least five people dead.

“We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty. There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame,” she tweeted.

While McCarthy and Scalise both condemned the violence, some members of the GOP conference argued that they could have done more to speak out against Trump’s role in the insurrection.

“I've already talked to the president, I called them. I think we need to make a statement to make sure that we can calm individuals down,” McCarthy said on an appearance on Fox News on Wednesday amid the chaos.

“Well, I don't know who these people are. Remember we have a big crowd — there's people who can get into a crowd," he said. "I don't know who they are and don't have any report but this part: Whatever is happening is unacceptable. There are people that came in here to protest peacefully that could be hurt in this process as well. But what is happening right now is unacceptable.”

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In another interview, with ABC News, McCarthy said, “I begged him to talk to the nation.”

Trump later released a video telling rioters to refrain from destruction and violence, while reiterating his claim that he won the election before, sparking outrage from many within the House GOP conference.

It wasn't until more than 24 hours later that Trump condemned the riots at the Capitol.

Critics argue that in the meantime, the votes by McCarthy and Scalise objecting to the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania furthered the false narrative by Trump that the election was stolen.

"[McCarthy] was explicit in both conference calls and the recent conference meeting that there would be no primarying of members," one source said.

McCarthy and Scalise were among the more than 120 Republicans who voted in favor of challenging the results.

“Two days ago, these people were more than happy to have Trump's endorsement to fundraise off of it, and so that's where over two-thirds of our conference was," one GOP source said.  "So we understand the frustration, but what would have been different?"

"Our party is more with Trump than they are with any of us — that's the reality," the source added.

Some Republican lawmakers went so far as to say the party may need new leadership if they are going to restore confidence in the GOP and make sure they don’t alienate a sizable portion of voters.

They said McCarthy, in particular, put vulnerable members further at risk by not speaking out against Trump’s threat to primary lawmakers who didn’t support the effort to challenge the election results in key states.

“What they did is they led from behind and they did what was just based on their own ambition in politics rather than the right thing to do. And most of us in their heart of hearts got elected to do the right thing,” another GOP lawmaker said.

“It was a constitutional crisis,” the source added. “Those who chose what was politically expedient will be judged by history, and those who made the right vote based on the Founding Fathers will also be judged by history.” 

“And that's how I feel about this whole thing. And what's really sad is the ones that whipped it up, Republican leaders and the president himself, to incite a mob. Shame on them.”

Updated at 7:06 p.m.