The top Republican in the House on Thursday stood firm in not accepting President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, speculated that recounts could turn the tide of President Donald Trump’s loss and welcomed new lawmakers into his conference who have given credence to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
At his weekly press conference, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California cast doubt on the results of the presidential election and said Biden need not receive classified intelligence briefings from the Trump administration until his scheduled inauguration on Jan. 20.
McCarthy quoted Biden’s words from a speech Tuesday to make his case: “‘Look, access to classified information is useful, but I’m not in a position to make any decisions on those issues anyway. As I said, one president at a time. He will be president until January 20. It would be nice to have it, but it’s not critical.’”
McCarthy then said: “I think I kind of stand with Joe Biden. I’ll trust the intel community. He’s not president right now. Don’t know if he’ll be president January 20, but whoever is will get the information.”
The Associated Press, along with several other media outlets, called the race on Saturday for Biden. Despite that, many Republicans in Congress have been reluctant to publicly acknowledge Biden’s victory.
Key GOP senators, including Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Josh Hawley of Missouri, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa — have said there is no reason not to provide Biden with the President’s Daily Brief. Grassley is the Senate President Pro Tempore, the person third in line to be president under the Constitution.
McCarthy is a staunch ally of Trump and held out hope that the election results could be materially changed in the president’s favor, citing a recount by hand in Georgia and a close race in Arizona.
“Let’s let all of them carry out,” he said of races with contested legal challenges and recounts. “And yeah, some of them could switch.”
There has been concern among Democrats in Congress and Republicans outside of it that Trump’s legal challenges and refusal to concede undermine the country’s faith in the election results and erodes a core tenet of democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.
McCarthy said he is not worried about these potential issues and said it doesn’t jeopardize democracy in America.
“Every challenge needs to be heard,” he said.
McCarthy is also unbothered by the arrival of new Republican members: Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert. Both have been associated with QAnon, a conspiracy theory centered on a baseless belief about an anti-Trump “deep state” often tied to satanism and child sex trafficking.
Greene praised Q, the supposed leader, as a “patriot” in 2017. Although Boebert doesn’t consider herself a follower of QAnon, she has expressed sympathy for the movement as recently as May.
“Our party is very diverse,” McCarthy said when asked about Boebert and Greene. “You mentioned two people who are going to join our party and both of them have denounced QAnon.”
“These are new members. Give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they have done and what they will do.” McCarthy added. “I think it’s fair for all.”
Chris Cioffi, Katherine Tully-McManus and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.