McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) both said they did not watch Tuesday’s opening hearing of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The panel probing the January riot convened for the first time on Tuesday to hear testimony from four police officers who worked to shield the Capitol from the mob of Trump supporters.

“Leader McConnell, did you watch any of the hearing today?” a reporter asked during a Senate Republican leadership press conference.

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“No, I didn’t,” he responded.

“I was busy doing work. I serve in the Senate,” McConnell added when pressed on why he did not watch.

McCarthy sounded a similar note, telling a Politico reporter that he was not able to watch the hearing because he was stuck in “back-to-back meetings.”

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Before the hearing began, McCarthy and his fellow GOP House leaders held a press conference outside the Capitol in which they blamed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.), not former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE, for the insurrection. 

"On Jan. 6, these brave officers were put into a vulnerable and impossible position because the leadership at the top failed," McCarthy said.

The California Republican pulled all his appointees to the select panel last week after Pelosi announced she would be rejecting two of them over their support of Trump's efforts to overturn last year's election results.

After the hearing, McConnell refused to answer when asked what his message was to individuals who downplayed the severity and significance of the attack, referring reporters to earlier statements he made.

“I had a good deal to say about that not once but twice,” he responded. “I don't see how I could have expressed myself more forthrightly than I did on that occasion. And I stand by everything I said on Jan. 6 and Feb. 13.”

In a statement delivered on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, just before the mob descended on the Capitol in an effort to thwart the certification of the Electoral College results, McConnell rebuked the effort from some in his party.

He said the allegations of fraud being peddled by some Trump allies did not meet the standard for challenging the election results before offering a warning of what would occur if the votes were overturned.

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept the election again,” McConnell said.

“I believe protecting our constitutional order requires respecting the limits of our own power. It would be unfair and wrong to disenfranchise American voters and overrule the courts and states on this extraordinary thin basis. ... I will vote to respect the people’s decision and defend our system of government as we know it,” he added.

The Senate GOP leader went even further in his comments on Feb. 13, invoking Trump by name. He said there was “no question, none” that the former president was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

“No question about it. The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell continued.

“And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth,” he added.

The officers who testified before the select committee on Tuesday offered powerful and at times emotional testimony before lawmakers, retelling instances of chaos, violence and destruction that unfolded as a sea of rioters descended on them.