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McCarthy urges against protests, violence if Trump is indicted

Speaker says Republicans should investigate whether New York probe involves federal funds

Speaker Kevin McCarthy addresses reporters at House Republicans' annual issues conference.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy addresses reporters at House Republicans' annual issues conference. (Lindsey McPherson/ CQ Roll Call)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday that people should not protest if former President Donald Trump is indicted, but if they do, “there should not be any violence.”

“If this was to happen, we want calmness out there,” the California Republican said at a news conference on the first day of House Republicans’ annual issues conference.

McCarthy told reporters he wants House Republicans to spend most of their conference having member-led discussions about policy issues. But that didn’t stop reporters from peppering him with questions about Trump’s expected indictment and the former president’s post Saturday on his TruthSocial media account calling for his followers to “protest, take our nation back!”

Although McCarthy said he has not spoken with Trump, he indicated the former president’s suggestion of a protest was not a call to violence. 

“​​I think the thing that you may misinterpret when President Trump talks — when someone says that they could protest, he’s probably referring to trying to educate people about what’s going on,” McCarthy said. “He’s not talking in a harmful way. And nobody should. Nobody should harm one another in this.”

McCarthy’s comments Sunday follow tweets he sent earlier disparaging the grand jury investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg against Trump as “political vengeance” and an abuse of office. Bragg is investigating Trump’s role in covering up a hush money payment his then-lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. 

Federal prosecutors also investigated the matter and declined to prosecute, a fact McCarthy noted when he spoke on Sunday. 

“Lawyer, after lawyer, after lawyer will tell you this is the weakest case out there — trying to make a misdemeanor a felony,” McCarthy said. “The timeline doesn’t work because it’s too long past. And [he’s] doing it after a person for political purposes.”

McCarthy, as first announced in his weekend tweets, reiterated his plans for the House to investigate whether Bragg is using any federal funds to prosecute Trump — and said if so it would give Congress jurisdiction to conduct oversight over the probe. 

The speaker said he spoke with House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan about investigating the matter through his panel’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. He said he expects the Ohio Republican to take action on the matter as soon as Monday. 

McCarthy defended Trump’s right to run for president even if he were to be indicted or convicted of a crime.

“The Constitution allows him to. He has a constitutional right to run,” the speaker said.

Debt limit talk

McCarthy also answered questions on policy topics, including several on the debt limit. He said he spoke with President Joe Biden about it Friday when both were at the annual Friends of Ireland lunch at the Capitol, saying he reminded Biden of the president’s promise that the two would meet again after their February sit-down at the White House. 

“Every day that passes, you put the economy in jeopardy,” McCarthy said he told Biden, repeating comments he’s made publicly about the president not negotiating with Republicans.

Biden has said publicly that he would sit down with McCarthy again when Republicans release a budget blueprint. Biden released his budget request March 9, a month after the statutory deadline, which Republicans blame for delaying their own budget release. 

“Why do we have to have a budget out to sit down and talk about the debt ceiling?” McCarthy said. “We’re not passing a budget, we’re doing a debt ceiling.”

McCarthy said Republicans will not agree to a clean debt ceiling increase “but everything else is up for negotiation.” He floated some policies that the GOP is interested in attaching to a debt ceiling, like work requirements for certain federal benefit programs, border security measures and legislation to boost domestic energy production.

“I told the president — I sat there at lunch — ‘You only like one form of energy. I like all forms of energy, but none of the energy can move forward unless you have a permitting reform. … So how are you going to get the economy moving again? Why can’t we sit down just like almost every other time we’ve been able to do a debt ceiling increase?’” McCarthy said. 

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