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Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday defended newly elected members of Congress who have previously supported the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, telling reporters: "Give them an opportunity before you claim what you believe they have done, and what they will do."

The big picture: QAnon's rising role in Republican politics was highlighted this election, with individuals including Reps.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.) winning public office. Both Greene and Boebert have sought to distance themselves from QAnon since entering the national spotlight.

  • QAnon's theories purport that President Trump is a political savior and that he's being undermined by a "deep state" cabal of pedophiles and cannibals that includes high-profile Democrats.
  • President Trump has declined to denounce QAnon, stating that "these are people that love our country." Vice President Mike Pence has said he dismisses the theory "out of hand."

Worth noting: McCarthy said in June that racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments made by Greene were “appalling” and that he had “no tolerance for them.”

Go deeper: QAnon conspiracy theory explodes ahead of the election

Go deeper

Scoop: GOP ignored its early fears about Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

During previously unreported meetings last summer, House Republican leaders discussed — but then largely set aside — fears that QAnon-supporting conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene would end up a flaming trainwreck for their party.

Why it matters: Greene has emerged not just as an embarrassment but a challenge for the GOP, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy now forced to weigh whether to maintain his policy of sanctioning members who make dangerous statements.

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being.