House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed during a meeting with two Capitol Police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6 that President Donald Trump didn’t understand the severity of the violence that was unfolding as he waited hours to call off his supporters.
Public comments, testimony and reporting from that day established almost immediately after the insurrection that Trump in fact spent the afternoon planted in front of the television, watching as his supporters ransacked the Capitol and assaulted those trying to defend it.
“I’m just telling you from my phone call, I don’t know that he did know that,” McCarthy told the officers, describing his call with Trump on Jan. 6.
The June 2021 meeting was attended by McCarthy, former Capitol Police officer Michael Fanone, Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, and Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Capitol Police officer Brain Sicknick, who died following the attack. The three were urging McCarthy to take seriously a congressional investigation of Jan. 6.
Fanone recorded the meeting, and shared the audio with CNN, which broadcast excerpts of it. He also writes about it in a forthcoming book.
“The President’s statements that day were B.S. Saying — you know, you were on the phone with him. While you were on the phone with him, I was getting the shit kicked out of me, almost losing my life,” Fanone told McCarthy.
“The way that he, you know — saying, ‘this is what happens when you steal an election.’ ‘Go home. I love you.’ What the fuck is that?” Fanone continued. “That came from the President of the United States!”
At various moments, CNN reported, McCarthy defended Trump, making false claims about his level of awareness of the insurrection.
“He wasn’t watching TV,” McCarthy said at one point.
“He knew what was going on,” Gladys Sicknick replied. “He knew what was going on. People were fighting for hours and hours and hours. This doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“I’m just telling you, from my phone call, I don’t know if he did know that,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s call with Trump that day was explosive, devolving into a screaming match. According to one account of the call that McCarthy gave to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Trump trollingly claimed to McCarthy that antifa was responsible for the attack. When McCarthy told him that the attackers were Trump supporters, the President memorably replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”