Jan 25, 2023
Speaker McCarthy Defends House Intelligence Committee Assignments Amidst Democratic Uproar Transcript
Speaker McCarthy holds a press briefing amidst an uproar about his refusal to seat certain Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Read the transcript here.
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Kevin McCarthy (00:01):
First, let me begin by expressing my condolences to the families in California for the recent violence over the last couple of days. As many of you know, we just returned from a retreat for our leadership, working on the policies and strategies to move forward to make sure we keep our commitment to America, to make this country stronger, more fiscally sound, energy independent, apparent to the Bill of Rights, the accountability. Securing our border is just a number of items we look at. I know many of you have just received that we finished our committee assignments. We also populated some of our select committees. As you watched last week, or the week before, the Select Committee on China, very bipartisan vote. 146 Democrats joined with us and also, our Select Committee on COVID and other committees as well as we continue to work through. This week, you’re going to see something that hasn’t happened in Congress in more than seven years.
A bill is going to come to the floor under an open rule. Think about that. The entire time the Democrats were in the majority, those four years and three years in the past, you have not had a bill come to this floor under an open rule. This is what we promised the American public. This is what we promised the members on both sides. There will be more openness, more opportunity for ideas to win at the end of the day and as we move forward. I received a letter from the Minority Leader, Hakeem Jeffries, about the Intel Committee. I will be sending him a response back a little later tonight, but let me be very clear. This is not anything political. This is not similar to what the Democrats did. Those members will have other committees, but the Intel Committee is different. The Intel Committee’s responsibility is the national security to America.
Look, I respect Hakeem Jeffries’ support of his conference and his people, but integrity matters, and they have failed in that place from Adam Schiff using a position of the Intel Chair, lying to the American public again and again. You had the Inspector General say it. You watched the editorial in the Wall Street Journal, and I’m sorry, Swalwell, you all know, does not have the or should have the responsibility to serve on the Intel Committee. When the FBI comes to you, when he gets appointed to and warns you about what’s transpiring, when Eric Swalwell would be in the private sector and can’t get a security clearance there, we are not going to provide him with the secrets to America. Hakeem Jeffries has 200 other people who can serve on that committee as is the right of the speaker.
The one thing I will always do, I will put the national security ahead of partisan politics any day. I don’t care if they’re in my party or not, integrity matters, and we’re going to make the Intel Committee back to what it was supposed to be. No longer will we miss what happened in Afghanistan. No longer will we miss what’s happening in China, Russia, Iran, and others. That’s what this country believe should happen and this is what we’ll do. I’ll also be having those on the Intel Committee, Republican and Democrat alike, take the courses for AI and quantum, the same courses that our generals in our military take as well because we want to be able to speak with one voice and make sure our country and the national security is protected, and that’s how we’ll move forward. With that, let me take some questions and comments.
Speaker 2 (03:38):
Kevin McCarthy (03:38):
Speaker 2 (03:38):
If you’ve heard with Newsmax, how does Congress plan to investigate what appears to be a systemic failure to protect these classified documents given the rejection we’ve seen from many different federal agencies to these oversight requests and one follow-up after that?
Kevin McCarthy (03:55):
Well, that’s a great question. The one thing that Congress has, we have a constitutional responsibility to oversee the Justice Department and that also means these individuals investigating. We have the constitutional power to do that and we will. So they may decline now, but they cannot continue that. Look, the one thing I know as being a member of the gang of eight, at no time do I ever remove classified documents from the skiff. What I’m finding now is we’re learning more and more, here’s President Biden. It’s not classified documents just when he was vice president, but when he was senator. I’m not sure how a senator could ever move classified documents out of a skiff and how many years has he had it and where’s the protections. So there’s a lot of questions to be answered. Who’s been able to see this, and I don’t think the president can sit back and continue to say, “They’re secure and I don’t know who’s been to the house.” We know those documents are around and we’ll have to get to the bottom of that. [inaudible 00:04:55] Yes.
Speaker 3 (04:57):
Mr. Speaker, you mentioned the shootings in California at the top. Does this Congress intend to take up any legislation to combat mass shootings or gun violence more broadly?
Kevin McCarthy (05:04):
Look, I would never do anything without having all the information, but having lived in California my entire life, in Northern California, California has the strictest gun laws there are. Apparently, that did not work in this situation too. I would always withhold to get all the information first of what transpired. These two individuals seem much different too, older in age, not understanding why this transpired, the horrendous activity of what they’ve done. Were there signs ahead of time that we could have found? I’ll wait to find any information out, but [inaudible 00:05:34] Yes, ma’am. [inaudible 00:05:37] Yes.
Speaker 2 (05:37):
Have there been any conversations with the White House so far about scheduling a potential meeting? At this point, the White House says they’re not willing to negotiate. You’ve been pretty clear on what you believe Republicans need. Do you see your mind changing at any point as we get closer to June?
Kevin McCarthy (05:50):
No. Well, it’s very disappointing about the White House. Think for one moment. I don’t think anybody in America would live this way, that they would reach their limit on a credit card and they’d just extend the limit and not look about where they’re spending. No state can do this. No family can do this. No city, no county can do this. This isn’t even the behavior of past Joe Biden. When Joe Biden was vice president, they even called them the Biden Talks. He praised the idea of negotiation together. I don’t think anybody in Congress believes this as well. Look, I think we have to be sensible and we have to be responsible. We have to have a responsible debt ceiling. I’m not saying never no to a debt ceiling, I’m just saying you hit $31 trillion, 120% of GDP, your party has been in power for four years. You increase discretionary spending by 30%, $400 billion. I want to look the president in the eye and tell me there’s not $1 of wasteful spending in government? Who believes that? The American public doesn’t believe that.
Our whole government is designed to have compromise. But here’s the leader of the free world pounding on a table, being irresponsible, saying, “No, no, no, just raise the limit. Make us spend more.” No, that’s not how adults act. That’s not how the American public believes their elected officials act. So what I have asked for is to sit down, let’s find common ground and less eliminate the wasteful spending to protect the hardworking taxpayers and protect the future of America. The greatest threat to America, it doesn’t matter if you sit before a 4-star general, they’ll tell you the debt is the greatest threat to this nation. For the president to say he wouldn’t even negotiate, that’s irresponsible. We’re going to be responsible. We’re going to be sensible, and we’re going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs. We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics. [inaudible 00:08:08] I pointed to you. You’re letting him push you around. Go ahead. Go ahead. No, no, I pointed to him. Come on. [inaudible 00:08:17]
Speaker 4 (08:16):
We’ll tag team. Mr. Speaker, what do you think about the [inaudible 00:08:22] revelations today that Vice President Pence also had documents? He turned them over? What do you think? Do you think this is a systemic problem that executives-
Kevin McCarthy (08:33):
Well, I see there’s a problem here. I think what you find … but you had people, when Mike Pence found them, the first thing he did was provided them over. He’s called Comer on the Oversight and say, “I want to work ’cause we want to make sure this never happens again from any places.” Unfortunately, the President, Biden won’t give of any information and his is a little different. He’s got classified document when he was a U.S. Senator. I don’t understand how that even transpires. I do not understand how a U.S. Senator can take a classified document out of a skiff if they’re not stuffing it in their pants or somewhere else. I’m just not sure of that.
Speaker 4 (09:13):
Since the last week, there have been more and more revelations about your colleague [inaudible 00:09:18]
Kevin McCarthy (09:14):
Speaker 4 (09:18):
Kevin McCarthy (09:19):
What’s the revelations you found out?
Speaker 4 (09:20):
About his mother and saying his mother was in the World Trade Center when she wasn’t.
Kevin McCarthy (09:28):
I don’t think that’s new in the last week.
Speaker 4 (09:29):
Kevin McCarthy (09:29):
I don’t think that’s new in the last week.
Speaker 4 (09:30):
Okay. Well, he’s lied about his past and admitted to lying about his past. You stood by him. Are you standing by him simply because if he resigned, that could cost you a seat?
Kevin McCarthy (09:40):
No. You know why I’m standing by him, because his constituents voted for. I do not have the power simply because if I disagree with somebody or what they have said that I remove him from elected office. Now I will hold him to the same standard I hold anyone else elected to Congress. If for some way when we go through ethics that he has broken the law, then we will remove him. But it’s not my role. I believe in the rule of law, a person’s innocent till proven guilty. If I was to hold the standard that if somebody lied, Joe Biden couldn’t be president right now. He told us he had three degrees. He graduated first in his class the numerous times before. So let’s not be sensational. The American public in his district voted for him. He has a responsibility to uphold what they voted for to work and have their voice here. But at any time, if it rises to a legal level, we will deal with it then. [inaudible 00:10:35] Yes. Yes.
Speaker 2 (10:36):
Mr. Speaker, you just told us you are keeping Adam Schiff, removing him from the Intel Committee-
Kevin McCarthy (10:40):
Intel Committee. Is Santos on the Intel Committee? [inaudible 00:10:44] Am I allowing Schiff to be on other committees?
Speaker 2 (10:47):
[inaudible 00:10:47] Just for a second.
Kevin McCarthy (10:48):
Go right ahead.
Speaker 2 (10:48):
I respect your perspective. Thank you. Because you have direct power over who goes on Intel Committee, you also will be able to bring for your whole house, we’re taking off other Democrats, perhaps your Representative Omar. But you have said that lying to us is something that means you should be removed from the Intelligence Committee. But why is it not a factor [inaudible 00:11:08]
Kevin McCarthy (11:08):
Well, let me be very-
Speaker 2 (11:09):
… that this is a man who should not be on a committee of something you do have power over?
Kevin McCarthy (11:12):
He’s gotten elected by his district, so-
Speaker 2 (11:16):
That’s not the answer to my question. Why is lying-
Kevin McCarthy (11:17):
Okay. [inaudible 00:11:18] Let me be very clear and respectful to you. You asked me a question. When I answer it, it’s the answer to your question. You don’t get to determine whether I answer your question or not. Okay? In all respect. Thank you. [inaudible 00:11:30] No, no. Let’s answer her question. You just raised a question, I’m going to be very clear with you. The Intel Committee is different. You know why? Because what happens in the Intel Committee, you don’t know. What happens in the Intel Committee, although the secrets are going on in the world, other members of Congress don’t know. What did Adam Schiff do as the Chairman of the Intel Committee? What Adam Schiff did, use his power as a chairman and lie to the American public. Even the Inspector General said it. When Devin Nunes put out a memo, he said it was false.
When we had a laptop, he used it before an election to be politics and say that it was false and said it was the Russians when he knew different, when he knew the Intel … If you talk to John Ratcliffe, DNI, he came out ahead of time and says there’s no intel to prove that. He used his position as chairman, knowing he has information the rest of America does not, and lied to the American public. When a whistle blower came forward, he said he did not know the individual, even though his staff had met with him and set it up. So no, he does not have a right to sit on that. But I will not be like Democrats and play politics with these, where they removed Republicans from committees and all committees. So yes, he can serve on a committee, but he will not serve on Intel ’cause it goes to the national security of America, and I will always put them first. All right? If you want to talk about Swalwell, let’s talk about Swalwell ’cause you have not had the briefing that I had.
I had the briefing and Nancy Pelosi had the briefing from the FBI. The FBI never came before this Congress to tell the leadership of this Congress that Eric Swalwell had a problem with a Chinese spy until he served on Intel. So it wasn’t just us who were concerned about it, the FBI was concerned about putting a member of Congress on the Intel Committee that has the rights to see things that others don’t. Because of his knowledge and relationship with the Chinese spy, they brought it to the works of the leaders. I’ve got that briefing, so I do not believe he should sit on that committee. I believe there’s 200 other Democrats that can serve on that committee. So this has nothing to do with Santos. Santos is not on the Intel Committee, but you know what? Those voters elected Schiff, even though he lied. Those voters elected Swalwell even though he lied to the American public too. So you know what? I’ll respect his voters too, and they’ll serve on committees, but they will not serve on a place that has national security reverence because integrity matters to me. That’s the answer to your question. [inaudible 00:14:00] Last question.
Speaker 2 (14:01):
Just to follow-up on that, though, are you concerned about whether or not you’ll have enough votes to remove these members from committees? Just today, one of your members, Victoria Spartz, said that Speaker McCarthy needs to stop Fred from services in Congress and start governing for a change. How do you respond to that?
Kevin McCarthy (14:17):
Not at all. They won’t serve on Intel.
Speaker 5 (14:19):
Kevin McCarthy (14:20):
No, thank you. Thank you all very much. I got to go. [inaudible 00:14:22]