Top GOP lawmaker won't condemn calling events of Jan. 6 'legitimate political discourse'
Those were the words used in a GOP censure resolution of Cheney and Kinzinger.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, refused to condemn a censure resolution targeting two Republican colleagues, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, which included a statement suggesting that the events of Jan. 6 were "legitimate political discourse."
The RNC issued the formal censure for the lawmakers' roles on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
"My understanding is [the statement] pertains to the legitimate protesters that I saw that day," McCaul told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday.
Raddatz pressed McCaul, noting that the "legitimate political discourse" line is still in the resolution, encompassing events that occurred throughout the entire day when some supporters of President Donald Trump assaulted the Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Although McCaul steered clear of condoning any acts of violence or criminality that eventually led to hundreds of arrests, he remained unwilling to denounce his party's resolution.
"I condemn the violence at the Capitol. And those who committed criminal offenses who were violent at the Capitol need to be prosecuted," he said, adding, "And I've said that all along, that that needs to be addressed."
Last November, the Texas congressman earned the endorsement of Trump heading into the 2022 midterm election cycle. McCaul had voted against the second impeachment of the former president in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot.
The lawmaker said he thinks there's a view within the GOP that Democrats are "politicizing" and pursuing the "weaponization" of Jan. 6. but that "the truth needs to come out, you know, with respect to this."
"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. That's why Republican National Committee members and myself overwhelmingly support this resolution," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement after the vote.
Once more, Raddatz pressed: "I just want to ask you this again, do you stand by the RNC's actions and statements?"
"As I understand it, they're referring to the peaceful protesters when they said that. I do not agree with that statement if it's applied to those who committed criminal offenses and violence to overtake our shrine of democracy," McCaul qualified.
While McCaul would not say whether he agrees with the decision to censure his colleagues, he did encourage party unity.
"Should they have been censured?" Raddatz pressed.
"You know, that's -- that was a -- I'm not a member of the RNC," McCaul responded. "I wasn't privy to the resolution."
"I can tell you, from a messaging standpoint, the Republicans need to unify," McCaul said, adding, "What are we going to do for the country to get the majority back in Congress? To get the White House back in 2024?"
On Thursday, the ranking Republican member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee moderated a classified briefing on Capitol Hill led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as Russia continues to build up its military presence around Ukraine.
"Did you come away thinking it was certain that Russia would invade?" Raddatz asked.
"You know, I would say, the conditions are there," McCaul said. "It's more likely than not. I think the noose is being prepared. It's around Ukraine right now as we speak."
President Joe Biden ordered 3,000 U.S. troop deployments to Eastern Europe on Wednesday to reassure NATO allies amid the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
But McCaul criticized the Biden administration's approach, saying he believes an invasion of Ukraine "emboldens and it empowers Putin" and that the U.S. isn't doing an adequate job of deterring such a move.
"The deterrence has not been there and deterrence is key," McCaul said.
McCaul said he is working with a bipartisan group of senators that appears to be closing in on a deal that would impose crippling sanctions on Russia for its hostilities against Ukraine.
"I'm working with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a bill that we hope to get out this week that will stand up the deterrence where the administration has failed to provide not only the lethal aid to Ukraine but also the sanctions necessary, devastating sanctions, including Nord Stream 2. That is the biggest leverage -- that energy pipeline that President Biden gave him in Europe," McCaul said.
"How does this end? If -- if they invade and you put those sanctions on, how does he respond?" Raddatz asked. "Where does this go from here? And you have a huge refugee crisis."
McCaul responded that "at the end of the day" we're going to see a "resistance movement in Ukraine."
"That's why we're sending them sniper rifles, ammunition. Remember, the majority of Ukraine is not pro-Russia anymore. Unlike before Crimea, they don't like Russia, and there's a resistance movement there," McCaul said.
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