President Trump and close ally House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke about the Capitol riots Monday, and during their heated conversation, the president kept repeating a conspiracy theory that antifa was responsible for the violence.
McCarthy confronted Mr. Trump on this, telling him that it wasn't antifa and that Trump supporters were entirely to blame for the rioting, according to a person with direct knowledge of the call.
Axios first reported on Mr. Trump's attempts to blame Antifa during the call with McCarthy.
But the president also admitted to McCarthy that he is at least partially to blame for what transpired at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday, the GOP leader recounted to fellow House Republicans during a conference call Monday. Multiple Republicans familiar with the discussion with the GOP conference confirmed the details to CBS News.
The call between the president and the top House Republican came on the same day Mr. Trump met face-to-face in the Oval Office with Vice President Pence for the first time since the deadly siege, during which protesters were heard chanting, "Hang Mike Pence!" During his call with Mr. Trump, McCarthy also urged him to call President-elect Joe Biden, the source with direct knowledge of the call said.
However, any fraction of responsibility the president may have taken in that call with McCarthy appeared to have evaporated Tuesday. Twice, upon his departure for a trip to Alamo, Texas (not that Alamo), Mr. Trump called his address to supporters last Wednesday "totally appropriate."
"If you read my speech — and many people have done itm and I've seen it both in the papers and in the media, on television — it's been analyzed, and people thought what I said was totally appropriate," the president said. And he tried to suggest that elements responsible for "horrible riots in Portland and Seattle and various other places...was a real problem."
McCarthy's outreach to senior Republicans comes as the House is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution calling on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment with Cabinet secretaries to remove the president from office. If Pence and the Cabinet do not do so, the House is expected to vote Wednesday on an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump, holding him responsible for inciting the mob that assaulted the Capitol, leaving five people dead.
While many congressional Republicans have voiced opposition to impeaching Mr. Trump for a second time, including McCarthy, a handful of Republican senators have signaled they are open to impeachment charges or have called on the president to resign before his term expires on January 20.
McCarthy's struggle with the president over culpability for the storming of the Capitol comes as Republicans are trying to shore up financial support from some of the party's most reliable donors: top corporations. Since the violence last week, several Fortune 500 companies and other entities that regularly give to GOP candidates or campaign committees say they now either plan to withhold donations from the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted against affirming the Electoral College results or at least temporarily suspend donations to Republican candidates. Some companies are suspending all political donations.
While the decision has less of an impact on rank-and-file Republicans from reliably conservative districts, the freeze on corporate giving could adversely affect McCarthy's ability to continue raising money for his colleagues — a key element in maintaining a firm grip on his leadership post.
In a letter sent to House Republicans and obtained by CBS News, McCarthy wrote that he remains opposed to impeachment, writing it would "have the opposite effect of bringing our country together when we need to get America back on a path towards unity and civility."
He said members across the conference had recommended other avenues to address the riots in the Capitol on Wednesday, including creating a bipartisan commission to study the attack, reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 and crafting legislation to "promote voter confidence in future federal elections."
The other option McCarthy mentioned was a resolution of censure, though he did not say who would be censured. The letter did not mention Mr. Trump by name.
McCarthy also reiterated to fellow House Republicans that he too believes the president bears some responsibility for the mob and assault on the Capitol.
The House leader was among many senior Republicans who spoke with the president during the assault on Wednesday and pleaded with him to call off his supporters and send military assistance to quell the disturbance.
Kimberly Brown contributed reporting.