WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met Thursday with the mother of Ashli Babbitt, the Jan. 6 rioter shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer, one month after McCarthy said he believed the officer "did his job" when he shot her as she jumped through a broken window while members of Congress fled.
NBC News first learned about McCarthy's meeting with Micki Witthoeft on Thursday morning, and McCarthy, R-Calif., confirmed that Witthoeft had requested it.
Witthoeft said the meeting went well. She said they discussed McCarthy's previous comments about Babbitt's death, but she did not go into detail about what he said.
"I felt like it was a good meeting," Witthoeft said. "I thought Speaker McCarthy was delightful."
Former President Donald Trump has criticized McCarthy for his comments about the officer who "shot and killed Great Patriot Ashli Babbitt." The Justice Department did not press charges against the officer, finding there was no evidence to contradict his belief that it was necessary to shoot Babbitt "in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber."
The officer, Lt. Michael Byrd, was exonerated in an internal Capitol Police investigation. His attorney said Byrd "saved lives and helped to end the violent insurrection."
Byrd said in an interview with Lester Holt in August 2021: “If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress. I know that day I saved countless lives. I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”
Witthoeft and McCarthy met a day before several Republican members of Congress plan to visit the Washington, D.C., jail, where a limited number of people charged with being Capitol rioters who have been deemed dangers to the community or who have refused to obey conditions of release are being held.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., and other Republican representatives have pressed for information about the "January 6 detainees" in the jail. All of the Jan. 6 defendants at the jail have had their cases individually assessed by judges and, in many cases, an appeals court, which has determined that pretrial detention is necessary.
The people who had been held before trial included rioters like Daniel Rodriguez, who drove a stun gun into the neck of former Washington Police Officer Michael Fanone, and Samuel Lazar, who is seen on video using a bullhorn to urge rioters to steal police officers' guns.
An analysis on Just Security showed that the Washington Corrections Department is holding just 20 people charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack out of about 1,000 people who have been arrested. Nine of the 20 have been convicted or have pleaded guilty.
There are just three defendants at the jail who are not charged with physically assaulting law enforcement officers on Jan. 6, 2021. One of them, William Chrestman, a member of the Proud Boys, is being held because a judge determined there was overwhelming evidence in support of the case against him and that he is a flight risk.
Another is Jessica Watkins, who was convicted at the first Oath Keepers trial and admitted on the stand that she joined a push against law enforcement after having invaded the Capitol in military gear. Watkins called herself an "idiot" and apologized to the officers on the other side of the line, who she said were protecting others from "my dumb ass."
"In hindsight, I feel like I was gullible," Watkins said on the stand. "I got a steady diet of Infowars and Alex Jones." She compared Jan. 6 to Black Friday, with everyone trying to get in the doors at the same time.
Last, there is Eric Christie. As NBC News first reported in December, Christie got into an hourslong standoff with law enforcement when they went to arrest him. Images of Christie outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 show a hammer hanging from his belt, and the Justice Department said he held on to a baseball another rioter had stolen from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
"BETTER COME IN HERE SHOOTING" Christie is alleged to have told law enforcement when they went to try to arrest him. Once again, a judge determined that holding him until trial was necessary to ensure public safety.