House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol 'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot MORE (R-Calif.) on Thursday repeated his claims that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Raise the debt limit while starting to fix the budget 'Justice for J6' organizer calls on demonstrators to respect law enforcement MORE (D-Calif.) and the Democrats should be faulted for the violent insurrection carried out by a pro-Trump mob.
It's an argument McCarthy and Republicans have kept going back to this week as four police officers have publicly called them out for not accepting responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack, which led to five deaths and 140 officers injured.
The four officers testified on Tuesday that reckless words and actions by former President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE and his GOP allies were to blame for the Jan. 6 attack.
One officer described Trump as a mob boss who had effectively hired a "hit man" to attack the Capitol.
But McCarthy, standing on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday, insisted to reporters that Pelosi and her party were solely responsible for the security breakdown at the sprawling complex that fateful day. It's the same argument he made moments before officers began their testimony on Tuesday.
He said the Speaker was aware there could be violence at the Capitol as early as Dec. 14, and that Pelosi left McCarthy and other Republicans out of conversations with the House sergeant-at-arms about calling for reinforcements from the National Guard.
Early intelligence reports had begun to circulate within Capitol Police about a threat to Congress related to the election. A joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 was held to certify the Electoral College win of President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE. Trump had repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was stolen, claims that were echoed by many in the GOP.
Pelosi aides have said she was not briefed at the time on the intelligence of a threat to Congress.
Capitol Police do not report directly to Pelosi or the leader of the Senate — who was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally House to act on debt ceiling next week MORE (R-Ky.) at the time.
They do report to a board that includes the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms and the architect of the Capitol.
Pressed on whether McConnell was equally responsible for the security collapse, McCarthy said, no, it was “fundamentally different.”
McCarthy did not provide a specific example of what was fundamentally different, though he said Democrats on the House Administration Committee are appointed by the Speaker. That panel has oversight jurisdiction over Capitol Police.
The House GOP leader is a top ally of Trump's and has sought to deflect criticism form the former president related to Jan. 6 in recent months.
McCarthy did condemn Trump for not calling off the violent mob of his supporters in a floor speech on Jan. 6. “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said at the time.
But he has shifted considerably since then.
Asked if he stood by those statements critical of Trump's role on Thursday, McCarthy did not place any blame at Trump’s feet and said his earlier remarks were more about making sure that help was being sent to the Capitol “as fast as possible.”
“When I called the president, I was telling him about what was happening to the Capitol because none of you would know unless you were in the Capitol,” McCarthy said, detailing his Jan. 6 frantic call with Trump as the attack was underway.
Then, he quickly pivoted back to blaming Pelosi.
Pelosi's team has aggressively pushed back against GOP efforts to tie Pelosi to the security lapse. Her office has said that congressional leaders do not oversee the everyday decisions surrounding Capitol security — a responsibility of the Capitol Police Board — while asserting that the Speaker never denied a request to activate the National Guard.
"Now that the bipartisan Select Committee is beginning its work, the only tools left in House Republicans’ arsenal are deflection, distortion, and disinformation," her office said in a statement.
During the first hearing of the special Jan. 6 committee this week, four officers who defended the Capitol testified that rioters repeatedly told police as they were beating them that Trump had sent them to the Capitol. One, Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn, didn’t mention Trump by name but likened him to a mob boss who had hired a hitman.
"If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, the person who hired them does," Dunn told the Jan. 6 committee members.
"There was an attack carried out on Jan. 6. And a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that," he said.
Mike Lillis contributed.