House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a new interview that he supports his Republican colleague Rep. Liz Cheney following her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump in the House, but added he has “concerns” and didn’t know her thoughts ahead of her announcement on impeachment.
“Look, I support her, but I also have concerns,” he told Gray TV’s Greta Van Susteren, according to a transcript released Saturday of an interview set to air Sunday. “She took a position as a No. 3 member in conference, she never told me ahead of time. One thing about leadership, if we’re going to work together, we should understand. We know that this is going to become a difficulty. She can have a difference of opinion, but the one thing if we’re going to lead within the conference, we should work together on that as a whole conference because we’re representative of that conference. So I support her, but I do think she has a lot of questions she has to answer to the conference.”
His remarks come as a group of House conservatives’ effort to oust Cheney from GOP leadership is viewed as a long shot by GOP aides watching the process. While it is expected the Republican conference will hold a special meeting on the topic, actually ousting Cheney as conference chairwoman is much harder. The conference would have to vote on a resolution asking her to step down and a majority would have to support it, something that aides don’t believe is possible right now.
Aides previously told CNN that McCarthy is focused on tamping down intra-party fights as the House GOP recalibrate and focus on winning back the House in 2022. A former senior GOP official told CNN that ousting Cheney would be a massive step backward for the party.
McCarthy told Van Susteren he believes that holding the special meeting will “help bring people back together.”
“Look, everybody’s able to vote their district or what they think is most important. Leadership is a little different job, especially when you’re the communications arm of it and the number three person. I think it’s best that within the Republican Party, that we have a lot of different voices,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of questions that have to be answered and we’ve got to be able to do that in a family meeting to help bring people back together.”
He also said “everybody across this country has some responsibility” for the US Capitol insurrection on January 6.
“I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility. Think about four years ago after President Trump was sworn in. What happened in the very next day? The title was resist with people walking in the streets, (Rep.) Maxine Waters saying to confront people, confront them in the restaurants. We had people poor, (Rep.) Steve Scalise got shot,” he said, referring to the 2017 shooting of Scalise and four others at a Republican congressional baseball practice.
He continued, “What do we write on our social media? What do we say to one another? How do we disagree and still not be agreeable even when it comes to opinion?”
When asked about changing his tune on Trump’s responsibility in the attack, he said, “No, I have not changed in that.”
Later Saturday, McCarthy’s office sought to clarify his comments to Van Susteren, saying in a statement, “He has maintained since the attacks that we all have a responsibility to lower the political temperature across the spectrum that has been building for years and unite as Americans -this isn’t the first instance of political violence.”
McCarthy on Thursday broke with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Trump’s role in the insurrection saying, “I don’t believe he provoked if you listen to what he said at the rally.” Those comments came after he had said earlier this month, “The President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
This story has been updated with an additional statement from McCarthy’s office.