Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday pushed back on Donald Trump’s calls for protests if he is ultimately indicted, instead calling for “calmness” and urging against any violence.
His remarks during a press conference came a day after the former president predicted he would be arrested on Tuesday amid reports that New York Defense Attorney Alvin Bragg was preparing for the possibility of charging the former president in connection with allegations he paid hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels.
“I don’t think people should protest this, no,” McCarthy told reporters during the first night of the House GOP’s three-day annual issues retreat. “We want calmness out there.”
The ex-president on Truth Social called for his followers to “Protest, take our nation back,” when attacking the investigation and its chief investigator Saturday. But the top House Republican sought to smooth over Trump’s wording, in a throwback to a frequent GOP tactic during his four years in the White House, suggesting he likely meant to “educate” people about the actions by Bragg.
“I think President Trump, if you talked to him, doesn’t believe that either. I think the thing that you may misinterpret when President Trump talks and someone says that they can protest, he’s probably referring to my tweet: educate people about what’s going on. He’s not talking in a harmful way, and nobody should.”
McCarthy, however, said in a follow-up question that he has not spoken to Trump, but he has spoken to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chair of the House Judiciary Committee and its weaponization subpanel.
But not all agreed with McCarthy.
Just feet away from the stage where McCarthy and other members of leadership argued against protests, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told reporters that people have the right to protest, though she denounced any potential political violence in reaction to a possible Trump indictment.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling for protests. Americans have the right to assemble, the right to protest. And that’s an important constitutional right. And he doesn’t have to say peaceful for it to mean peaceful. Of course, he means peaceful,” Greene told reporters. “Of course, President Trump means peaceful protests.”
Greene, an ardent Trump loyalist who supported McCarthy during his speakership race, similarly attacked the probe as “corrupt” and a “witch hunt,” while comparing it to what happens in communist countries.
And she also defended the California Republican’s response when asked directly about it, saying that while “people have the right to choose,” that she’s “said the same thing” as McCarthy. (Greene noted she won’t go to New York to protest, instead planning to go to Trump’s rally in Waco, Texas, later this month.)
Looming over Trump’s latest protest remarks are memories of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in 2021, when he encouraged followers to turn out to protest the presidential election results.
Nevertheless, Republicans do seem in agreement that they oppose Bragg’s efforts, with McCarthy already issuing various tweets over the past two days vowing to have relevant committees probe whether federal funds “are used to facilitate the perversion of justice by Soros-backed DAs across the country,” referencing billionaire liberal donor George Soros.
NBC News reported Friday that law enforcement and security agencies across various levels of government were preparing for the possibility of an indictment as early as this week, including taking security precautions in the event of violent outbursts.
When pressed whether such funds are really used that way, he said he doesn’t know but plans to probe the matter to find out.
“I don’t know, did you read my tweet?” McCarthy asked one reporter asking about where he believes the funds come from. “I said I need to investigate. So I don’t have I don’t have the answers.”
When asked if there is any evidence the DA could obtain that could convince him that charges were warranted, McCarthy deflected by hammering the DA as being politically motivated. And he also argued that Trump, if he is ultimately indicted, isn’t barred from running for president under the Constitution when asked if it would be appropriate for him to continue campaigning.
And there could be more action coming from the new majority in the coming days.
“I talked to Chairman Jim Jordan today. I think you’ll see action tomorrow,” said McCarthy.
“He’s not talking in a harmful way, and nobody should,” the House speaker said of the former president.