As a result of the censures for Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger’s efforts to investigate the Capitol riot on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell became the highest-ranking member of the GOP to defect from the Republican National Committee’s position.
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Following her rebuke of Cheney & Kinzinger on January 6, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that the January 6 attack had been ‘legitimate political discourse.’
During a press conference, McConnell said he still had confidence in McDaniel as the party’s leader, but he suggested her organization overstepped its authority in rebuking two sitting members of Congress.
In addition, he called the riot a ‘violent insurrection.’
The RNC’s place isn’t to ‘single out’ non-conforming members, as McConnell said without naming Cheney or Kinzinger.
McConnell calls Jan. 6 a "violent insurrection" and says the RNC shouldn't have censured Cheney and Kinzinger pic.twitter.com/wcE1EQRH9y
— Jan Wolfe (@JanNWolfe) February 8, 2022
During an interview with reporters following the Senate GOP caucus lunch, McConnell was asked whether he thought the censure was ‘appropriate’ and what McDaniel’s remarks meant to him.
‘Let me give him my view of what happened January the 6th, and we all were here. We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election,’ McConnell answered.
‘With regard to the suggestion that the RNC should be in the business of picking and choosing Republicans who ought to be supported — traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party, regardless of their positions on some issues.’
He said that he supported McDaniel but noted: ‘The issue is, whether or not the RNC should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views than the majority.’
‘That’s not the job of the RNC,’ he argued.
In a press conference after the RNC censure, he avoided a question asking whether inter-party divisions would be a hindrance for Republicans in the November 2020 midterm elections.
During Tuesday’s daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also criticized the censure and RNC’s interpretation of the riot.
‘I think it’s clear to Americans that what happened on January 6 was not legitimate political discourse, storming the Capitol and an attempt to halt the peaceful transition of power is not legitimate political discourse,’ Psaki asserted.
‘Neither is attacking and injuring over 140 police officers, smashing windows, and defiling offices.’
Psaki added, ‘It’s telling to all of us that some leading Republicans have rejected that characterization, including the former president’s national security adviser and the Chief of Staff to the former vice president, who as he put it, had a front-row seat that day, including as rioters chanted for the former vice president to be hanged.’
Psaki referred to statements about the insurrection issued by the former national security adviser for Donald Trump and the former chief of staff for Mike Pence, who recently appeared before the House select committee investigating the January 6 incident.
At the RNC’s annual winter meeting in Salt Lake City on Friday, the party rebuked Cheney and Kinzinger.
After the meeting, McDaniel issued a statement proclaiming, ‘Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line. They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.’
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Kinzinger referred to McDaniel’s statement as ‘dangerous’ as he described his concerns that the US is headed toward civil war.
Republican politicians such as McDaniel’s uncle Mitt Romney, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and McConnell’s deputy John Thune spoke out against the party focusing so much on 2020 and punishing its members.
Although many have stayed silent about the vote, reports indicate that it was not well received on Capitol Hill.
Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming senator who is Cheney’s fellow federal lawmaker, told CNN she has no comment about the censure.
Tom Rice, a Republican representative in the House, told the outlet the topic didn’t even come up during the members’ conference on Tuesday.
‘It was pretty damn embarrassing,’ he said of the censure.
Following the Capitol riot, Rice was one of 10 Republicans, including Cheney and Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Trump.
McConnell’s criticism of the Republican National Committee on Tuesday also distances him from fellow Republican lawmakers.
Kevin McCarthy had already signaled his support for the censure resolution hours earlier.
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In an attempt to explain away the contentious phrase, he claimed that the term ‘legitimate political discourse’ was used to describe RNC members ‘who were in Florida’ on January 6, 2021, but were subpoenaed by the Democrat-led January 6 committee.
‘Everybody knows, anybody who broke in and caused damage, that was not called for,’ McCarthy stated. ‘Those people, I’ve said from the very beginning, should be in jail.’
As he described it, the committee was a ‘Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.’
When then-President Trump spoke at the Ellipse before the violence at the Capitol Building, he told his supporters to protest “peacefully and patriotically.” Out of the hundreds of thousands who marched to the Capitol Building that day, only a few hundred took part in the trespassing and even fewer in the violence.