WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said Tuesday the Justice Department would only file charges against former President Donald Trump to damage his image.
Trump said in a post on his Truth Social website Tuesday morning that he was summoned to appear before a grand jury investigating his role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when his supporters stormed the Capitol.
“I guess under a Biden administration, Biden America, you would expect that,” McCarthy told reporters. “If you noticed, recently President Trump has risen in the polls and was actually surpassing President Biden for re-election. So what are they doing now? Arm the government to pursue its number one adversary.
McCarthy has long sought to stay in Trump’s good graces since his presidency depends on the support of far-right lawmakers devoted to the twice-impeached former president.
Immediately after the Capitol attack, however, McCarthy blamed Trump for what happened.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by rioters,” McCarthy said in a House speech in which he recommended that Trump be censured but not impeached for his conduct.
For weeks before the riot, Trump lied about stealing the 2020 election. He invited his supporters to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, for a “wild” protest, riled them with a speech near the White House, then urged them to march to the Capitol.
More than 1,000 people were charged with crimes for their actions in and around the Capitol that day, and nearly 200 have publicly said they were motivated by Trump’s words.
But McCarthy changed his mind weeks after the riot, blaming “everyone across the country” instead of Trump.
Since taking control of the House of Representatives this year, Republicans have denounced a supposed “militarization” of government against Trump and his supporters, arguing dubiously that the Justice Department is biased against conservatives and protective of President Joe Biden.
“I think the American public is sick of it,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “They want to have equal justice, and the idea that they are using it to prosecute those who disagree with them politically is wrong.”
During a hearing last week, several House Republicans baselessly suggested that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol happened due to the manipulation of undercover FBI agents and confidential FBI informants. (FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump-appointed Republican, denied the FBI caused the riot and said it was “somewhat insane” to think he harbored a bias against Republicans.)
The Justice Department appointed an independent “special counsel” in November to investigate Trump’s efforts to interfere with the transfer of power to Biden or the certification of election results by Congress on Jan. 6. Trump said in his message that he expects to be indicted by the grand jury.
It’s unclear whether the grand jury will pursue charges related to the Capitol riot or Trump’s other efforts to nullify the 2020 election, including plans to nullify voting results in several states. Trump has already been indicted for hoarding classified government documents that he was supposed to turn over at the end of his term.
The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack recommended four criminal charges against Trump last year, including obstruction of official process and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) told HuffPost she wasn’t sure if there would be an indictment, but it seemed likely.
As for McCarthy’s claim that the Justice Department is conducting a purely political investigation, Lofgren said, “He knows that’s nonsense. On January 6, McCarthy told the truth, that it was the president’s fault.