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McConnell calls Jan. 6 a 'violent insurrection,' breaking with RNC

The Republican National Committee recently referred to the events of Jan. 6 as "legitimate political discourse."

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell disagreed Tuesday with the Republican National Committee’s recent censure of two GOP lawmakers, as well as its characterization of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“We all were here. We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next. That’s what it was,” McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters at his weekly news conference.

His remarks added to a backlash from Democrats and numerous Republicans after the RNC approved a resolution Friday accusing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., of “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” a reference to the Jan. 6 committee. Cheney and Kinzinger are the only GOP members of the House panel.

McConnell also said Tuesday that the RNC shouldn’t be “in the business of picking and choosing Republicans who ought to be supported,” adding that the national committee’s role is to back all members of the party.

“The issue is whether or not the RNC should be, sort of, singling out members of our party who may have different views from the majority. That’s not the job of the RNC,” he said.

Image: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters following a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Feb. 8, 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters following a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Feb. 8, 2022.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

McConnell's comments also contrast with those of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who has evaded questions about the RNC's depiction of Jan. 6. But McCarthy criticized Cheney and Kinzinger when asked about the censure resolution.

"This is a pure political committee. I think those two individuals would have a hard time ever coming back to Congress," McCarthy said Friday on Fox News. (Kinzinger is retiring; Cheney is running for re-election but faces a GOP primary challenger.)

The tactical split between the two Republican leaders points to their contrasting strategies for the 2022 midterm election.

McCarthy's approach is to stay closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, energize core GOP voters and rely on conservative enthusiasm to power Republicans back to the House majority, while counting on Trump's support to become speaker. McConnell has sought to distance his caucus from some of the radical undercurrents in the conservative wing of the party and attract swing voters by making the November election a referendum on President Joe Biden.

"On the substance, I don't think it was a good idea," Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said of the RNC resolution.

Other Republicans said it was a distraction from the GOP's goal of maximizing its prospects in the midterm election.

But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said most Republicans in his state "probably agree" with the RNC's move, although he declined to say whether he agreed with it.

"Listen, whatever you think about the RNC vote, it reflects the view of most Republican voters," he said. "In my state, it's not helpful to have a bunch of D.C. Republicans commenting on the RNC."