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McCarthy doubles down on refusal to cooperate with Jan. 6 probe

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States
  • Kevin McCarthy
    Kevin McCarthy
    American politician

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday doubled down on his refusal to cooperate with the House select committee's probe into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol -- one year to the day that the Republican leader took to the House floor and said former President Donald Trump "bears responsibility" for the attack.

When asked Thursday about his criticism of Trump, McCarthy said, "My criticism was to everyone" and shifted blame to Capitol security more generally, "Why were we so ill-prepared that day?"

Pressed on why he won't cooperate, McCarthy accused the select committee of abusing its power before he finally, briefly, addressed his conversation with Trump.

"My conversation was very short, advising the president of what was happening here," he said, unwilling to talk at length. "There is nothing that I can provide the Jan. 6 committee -- for legislation moving forward."

PHOTO: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy holds his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2022.  (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
PHOTO: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy holds his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

"There is nothing in that realm. It is pure politics," he added, appearing defensive and cagey.

McCarthy would not answer questions on whether he would defy a subpoena if the Jan. 6 select committee opts to pursue that course of action.

Asked about a reported Jan. 11 phone call with Trump during which the former president was said to have admitted he bore "some responsibility" for Jan. 6, as mentioned in House Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson's letter to McCarthy, he replied, "I don't remember that call."

The House GOP leader faces questions about what he knew before, during, and after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol -- especially details on his interactions with Trump. The committee, in a letter to McCarthy, asserts that he "may have also discussed" with Trump the possibility that he would resign, be impeached or censured, or that he could be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.

PHOTO: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy sued in federal court to stop proxy voting, calling the practice 'wrong.' Dozens of Republican members have used the practice since it took effect in May 2020. (ABC News)
PHOTO: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy sued in federal court to stop proxy voting, calling the practice 'wrong.' Dozens of Republican members have used the practice since it took effect in May 2020. (ABC News)

McCarthy, in a response on Wednesday evening, said he would not cooperate with the House select committee's probe after the committee asked him to voluntarily provide information.

While the California Republican said in May of last year that he would testify before an "outside committee," he now argues that his statements and private conversations around the attack have already been widely dispersed in the public domain and that he has "nothing else to add."

MORE: GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy says he won't cooperate with Jan. 6 committee

"It is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee's abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward," McCarthy added, in language echoing the former president.

McCarthy has attacked the select committee's integrity after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of five of McCarthy's nominees for the committee -- Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Indiana Rep. Jim Banks -- citing concerns with "statements made and actions taken by these members" supporting Trump's efforts to overturn the election. McCarthy, in turn, pulled all his nominees.

PHOTO: Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol speaks as the committee meets to hold Steve Bannon, Oct. 19, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol speaks as the committee meets to hold Steve Bannon, Oct. 19, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE)

Two Republicans, at the invitation of Pelosi, sit on the committee -- Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming -- who hasn't ruled out issuing a subpoena to McCarthy.

"I wish that he were a brave and honorable man," she told Capitol Hill reporters Wednesday. "He's clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward, and we'll get to the truth."

MORE: Pressure on McCarthy forces reckoning over Trump: The Note

Earlier on Capitol Hill, ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott pointedly asked Pelosi about McCarthy's refusal to cooperate.

"I personally think he has an obligation as we seek the truth to help with that, but it's up to the committee as to what they do next," Pelosi replied.

PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2022.  (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
PHOTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13, 2022. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

One year ago, the House voted to impeach Trump for "incitement of insurrection." At that time, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., in written testimony to Trump's second Senate trial said that McCarthy told her that he spoke to Trump as supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, but Trump refused to stop them.

MORE: McCarthy says he would testify about conversation with Trump during Jan. 6 Capitol assault

According to Herrera Beutler, McCarthy told her Trump blamed Antifa agitators for the Capitol attack and responded, when told they were Trump supporters, "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks ot the press on Jan. 13, in Washington, D.C. (Pool/ABC NEWS)
PHOTO: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks ot the press on Jan. 13, in Washington, D.C. (Pool/ABC NEWS)

In his new book "Betrayal," ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl recounted McCarthy imploring Trump to call off the attackers in the midst of the evacuation of House leaders, only to get a response that built on the false allegation that the election was stolen: "They are more upset than you because they believe it more than you, Kevin."

Karl was front and center at McCarthy's Thursday press conference, but the GOP leader did not call on him for a question.

McCarthy, from the House floor one year ago, when the former president was impeached, said that Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters." A couple of weeks later, he visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and posted a photo with the former president giving the appearance all had been forgiven.

ABC News' Political Director Rick Klein contributed to this report.

McCarthy doubles down on refusal to cooperate with Jan. 6 probe originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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