A group of police officers who responded to the January 6 Capitol insurrection, and the family members of one officer who died after the riot, refused to shake hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at a ceremony honoring law enforcement Tuesday morning, with one family member calling the two Republicans “two-faced” for backing Donald Trump.
While accepting Congressional Gold Medals, several officers shook hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), but they walked past the two Republican leaders, even as McConnell reached his hand toward them.
The officers were joined by the family members of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who suffered a series of strokes and died one day after the insurrection.
McCarthy and McConnell have drawn criticism for opposing the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly riot and look into whether former President Donald Trump incited the mob, while some Democrats have branded McCarthy a “liar” and a “traitor” for downplaying a secret recording of him contemplating whether he would ask Trump to resign.
When asked why she refused to shake McConnell or McCarthy’s hand, Sicknick’s mother Gladys Sicknick told CNN, “they’re just two-faced,” adding she’s “tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol police is” while they “go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring”—possibly referring to McCarthy’s post-January 6 trip to Trump’s Florida club.
In a speech at the medal ceremony on Tuesday, McCarthy—who called on Trump a week after the riots to “accept his share of responsibility” for the violent insurrection—said, “we are forever indebted” to the officers who protected the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that by honoring the police that responded, “we take an important step towards repaying that debt.”
McCarthy is a longtime Trump ally, but in recent months, he has separated himself from the GOP’s hard-right bloc by refusing to say whether he’ll endorse Trump in 2024. McCarthy is currently locked in a contentious race to become House Speaker once Republicans take control of the chamber in January. On Tuesday, Arizona Rep. Andy Briggs (R), the former chair of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, announced his bid to challenge McCarthy, tweeting the California representative was “created by, elevated by, and maintained by the establishment.” McConnell criticized Trump both immediately after the Capitol riot and in recent weeks, though the Senate leader said last year he would support Trump if he’s the Republican presidential nominee in 2024.
What To Watch For
The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection is set to release a final report and make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice as its 18-month probe comes to a conclusion. Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the panel, which has heard testimony alleging the former president could have stopped the riot, has found evidence of crimes. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told CNN the committee is focusing on people “who were at the center of the [January 6 insurrection] and who masterminded the attack on Congress and [former Vice-President Mike Pence].”
Sicknick is one of three police officers who died in the days after the Jan. 6 attack, including Metropolitan Police officer Jeffrey Smith and Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, who both killed themselves. Dozens of officers from the Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police were also injured during the riot. In July, a West Virginia man accused of assaulting Sicknick during the riot pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, after facing initial felony charges related to assault and conspiracy to injure police. Prosecutors had claimed several rioters, including George Tanios and Julian Khater, sprayed officers with a chemical agent.