Kevin McCarthy Is All in for Pro-Coup Propaganda

McCarthy is using the House majority to facilitate a propaganda attack in support of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

This content comes from the latest installment of our weekly Breaking the Vote newsletter out of VICE News’ D.C. bureau, tracking the ongoing efforts to undermine the democratic process in America. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Friday.

Back in December, Congress held a bipartisan ceremony honoring Capitol Police officers who died after defending the building from an armed insurrection by supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. Families of fallen officers received gold medals on behalf of their loved ones. Then a bunch of them publicly dissed Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy


There’s no kind way to say it: they left the soon-to-be Speaker of the House hanging.

“This is an integrity issue,” explained Craig Sicknick, brother of Officer fallen officer Brian Sicknick.

“They took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. And when somebody challenges it, like Trump, they do nothing,” he added. Sicknick was grossed out by GOP leaders' systematic efforts to undermine and obstruct accountability for the insurrection and coup attempt. That same week, this newsletter warned that McCarthy could only hold onto his wavering speaker bid by proving to the Trumpist GOP he’s an obedient pursuit of their pro-coup agenda. 


In other words, the lawlessness that so disgusted Off. Sicknick’s family was about to get worse. It had to, as a condition of McCarthy’s Trump-sponsored employment. I’d like to say I was super-prescient on this matter, but it was obvious then that McCarthy was willing to sell out the law and the Constitution to get that gavel. 

The New York Times described McCarthy’s deal this week to give Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive rights to more than 40,000 hours of Capitol Hill riot footage as a move to “re-litigate” the reality of Jan. 6. The paper cast it as a risky, perhaps unseemly, but politically necessary concession by a man trying to stay speaker in fractious times. 

It’s none of that. McCarthy isn’t doing the hold-your-nose things leaders sometimes must to satisfy raucous back-benchers. He isn’t opening the door to “re-litigating” Jan. 6. 

“Re-litigating” is not what Tucker Carlson does. For two years he’s trafficked in some of the worst and vilest conspiracy theories about the riot. Carlson feeds his audience alt-world narratives about the rioters, about Ashlee Babbitt, and about who really fomented the insurrection. “You’re not allowed to know” the truth about Jan. 6, Carlson repeatedly tells his viewers, the real victims of Jan. 6. 


The world just read Carlson’s texts where he acknowledges that stolen election stories were lies, then later goes on TV to lie about it. Alongside Fox’s propaganda, Trump’s loyal GOP lawmakers cast Jan. 6 defendants as political prisoners, while Trump calls them patriots and promises them pardons.  

It could not be more clear that McCarthy is using the House majority (and public property, which is what the footage is) to facilitate a propaganda attack in support of an attempted coup against the United States. The assault isn’t meant to garner widespread political support. Election conspiracies are already a proven loser for that. Instead, it’s meant to weaken the public’s resolve for legal and political accountability for the coup. It’s intended to help the perpetrators get away with it. 


As if to prove the point, just as McCarthy was busy packaging up the footage for Carlson’s disinformation machine this week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was calling for conservatives to secede from the United States. Greene’s message was clear: Give us what we want, or we’ll tear the whole thing down. It’s the same message that drove Jan 6. rioters and it’s the same one that drives McCarthy’s and Carlson’s sordid project. 

That’s not “re-litigating” or “hitting rewind” on Jan. 6. It’s an extraordinary, shocking low-point in the history of the Speaker of the House. And McCarthy’s fundraising off it.

The reporters of that same Times piece managed to ask McCarthy to explain for himself why he was providing 41,000 hours of footage for Carlson to distort. 


“I promised,” he said. 

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T.W.I.S.™ Notes

Donald Trump is trying to keep his veep from saying peep. This Week in Subpoenas, jurors are talking and the Special Counsel is making the Trump family his business. 

- Tea with Emily 

Emily Kohrsfirst interview since serving as the foreperson on the Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury posted via the Associated Press before breakfast on Tuesday morning. She was careful not to share any details of the panel’s now-famous report on efforts to overturn the 2020 election, opting instead for personal observations about Rudy Giuliani and a “really geeky kind of funny” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

But every new interview Kohrs granted seemed to make her spin faster. By dinner, she was gleefully flinging off teasers about high-profile indictments and even trolling Donald Trump himself. 

Kohrs told interviewers the grand jury had recommended “multiple indictments” including, potentially, “the big name that everyone keeps asking me about.” Kohrs said the list of recommended indictments would include some not-well-known people, and some very famous ones. 


“Can you imagine doing this for eight months and not coming out with a whole list?” she said in one TV interview. “It’s not a short list. It’s not.” Kohrs laughed out loud at the notion that the grand jury’s report exonerated Trump. 

It doesn’t appear that Kohrs is technically violating grand jury rules or the judge’s instructions in her increasingly tantalizing interviews. She hasn’t (so far) revealed details of grand jury deliberations or definitely named anyone who the jurors think should be charged. The judge in charge of the special grand jury seems pretty much unbothered

Whether Kohrs is risking making that prosecution more difficult is another matter.  

Whoever is indicted will almost definitely cry political bias. Trump’s lawyers already are. Trump wails “witch hunt” so often that it’s already the free middle square of your Fulton County bingo card. Potential defendants—especially Trump—are very likely to try to move their trials to venues outside of Democrat-heavy Fulton County. A jury pool tainted by pre-indictment news of impending charges makes a plausible argument. 


It’s impossible to know whether Kohrs’ 15 minutes, which she’s clearly enjoying, will actually harm any future prosecution. Trump’s media allies are hard at work concern-trolling over the viability of a prosecution they very much hope will fail. Journalistically, I’m happy she’s giving interviews and even stretching the rules. And yes, VICE News has reached out to her too. But prosecutors’ motives are different from journalists’, and there’s a reason DAs and judges generally urge lawyers, witnesses, and jurors to keep their mouths shut. 

- Javanka talk? 

Special Counsel Jack Smith has already reached into Donald Trump’s inner circle. Now he’s into the inner inner. Smith subpoenaed nepo-tastic former advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, ordering their testimony in the federal grand jury probe of dad’s coup attempt. 

Ivanka was with her dad on the morning of Jan. 6 when he called Mike Pence, tried one last time to coerce him into helping steal the election, then called him “the p-word” (pg 36). Kevin McCarthy, still in the throes of insurrection panic during the riot and not yet intent on covering it up, implored Ivanka to get her dad to call off his mob (pg 83). 


We’ll see if either kiddo tries to claim executive privilege to avoid testifying. 

- It’s time to block the Mike 

Meanwhile Mike Pence and Donald Trump are doing all they can to prevent the former veep from telling the truth to Smith’s grand jury. Pence is trying to clam up based on his status as president of the Senate. But even if a judge agreed, it would likely only cover portions of what Pence knows about the coup attempt. So, not surprisingly, Trump’s lawyers are now trying to block whatever else Pence might say on executive privilege grounds. The gag order is in place, so stay tuned. 

- Jeremy spoke in court today 

Proud Boys member Jeremy Bertino took the stand for the government this week as the prosecution continued its seditious conspiracy case against former leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members. Bertino told the jury that the Proud Boys’ attention and recruitment spiked after Trump told the organization to “stand back and stand by” at a September, 2020 presidential debate. 

Bertino, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with DOJ, was also confronted with texts from Jan. 6 where he wrote of lawmakers, “Half-measures mean nothing. Fuck fear. They need to be hung.” Asked what he meant when he texted other members “we failed,” Bertino said, “The revolution had failed…The House was going to go on and certify the election.”


Meanwhile, a lawyer for Proud Boys defendant Joseph Biggs said he’s moving ahead with a plan to subpoena Trump himself as a witness in the trial. It was unclear if Trump’s lawyers would accept the service of the subpoena, or if prosecutors will try to quash the whole thing. 

White House senior advisors Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner attend a Hanukkah Reception in the East Room of the White House on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

White House senior advisors Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner attend a Hanukkah Reception in the East Room of the White House on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Wizard of loss

One of MAGA-world’s most prolific purveyors of anonymous online election disinformation was hiding in plain sight as a decorated Oklahoma City cop. Travis Vernier started posting on social media as “Election Wizard” after becoming frustrated by what he says was a censorious response to “stolen election” ideas. The accounts became a clearinghouse of right-wing propaganda so effective that Trump invited him to Mar-a-Lago for his 2024 presidential launch. Absolutely do not miss David Gilbert’s stellar reporting and profile of Vernier

Mich-in’ accomplice 


Election conspiracy theories did Michigan Republicans no favors in 2022. Election-denying candidates lost up and down the ticket, judges sanctioned MAGA lawyers for pushing BS in the courts, and the party’s losing candidate for attorney general could be facing criminal investigation. 

VICE News’ Cam Joseph has the story on a state party doubled over is doubling down, electing one of the nation’s most extreme and conspiracy-jangled pols as its state GOP chair. Yep, it’s Kristina Karamo, who you’ve seen disgrace this newsletter with QAnon theories and a dead-end secretary of state campaign. Stay for the news that Colorado’s multiply-accused felon and former clerk Tina Peters is running for her state's GOP chair too!

Brnovich me once

Former Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich ran an extensive investigation and concluded there was no election malfeasance or widespread voter fraud in the state. Surprise! Then he went on to hide the report and mislead the public about its findings, all while the state spiraled further into GOP-fueled election conspiracies. Pro-democracy election officials are pretty grossed out.


Fraud guarantee

Area podcaster Steve Bannon is expected to go to trial in November in a New York felony fraud case that has him in a lot of trouble. Defense lawyers beware: Bannon’s other defense lawyers are suing Bannon for not paying his defense lawyers! Also, lawyers… if your client offers to pay your bill with his own weird crypto, say no

Donald Trump, on the other hand, hasn’t been stiffing his lawyers—lately. He’s spent $10 million in PAC money on legal fees. If you’re a Trump donor, uh, congrats?

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“Did he really say that? Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s phenomenal. I love it.” — Fulton County special grand jury foreperson Emily Kohrs reacting to Donald Trump's claim that the report represented “total exoneration” for him.  

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Gopher more voting — How bout some good news? The Minnesota Senate approved a plan to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they complete their prison sentences, instead of when they complete parole. The bill, which is headed for the governor’s signature, could restore voting rights to as many as 55,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Black or Native American. 

April powers — We now have the candidates who will square off for the decisive 10-year seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in April. Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County circuit court judge, nearly doubled conservative former Justice Daniel Kelly in this week’s primary. Now they’ll face each other in the runoff that could tip the state Supreme Court on critical issues, including voting rights. Kelly has spent the last couple years on the Republican National Committee’s payroll working on “election integrity issues.”

Meanwhile, back in Cochise — A couple weeks ago I told you about how the recorder of Arizona’s Cochise County was helping actualize rampant conspiracy theories by pushing for an (illegal) hand-count of all of the county’s election ballots. Now the county is descending even further into anti-democratic power-grabs as Republicans move to consolidate MAGA power. 

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Timothy J. Heaphy led the House Jan. 6 investigation. Here’s what he learned.


Unequal election policies disenfranchised Pennsylvania voters in 2022.


The autocrat next door.