- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the GOP had been hijacked by extremists.
- Pelosi was addressing the challenge to American democracy in the wake of the Capitol riot.
- She urged Republicans to "take your party back ... Don't let your party be hijacked by a cult."
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the GOP had been hijacked by a "cult" and urged Republicans to "take your party back" while discussing the threat to US democracy posed by extremists in the wake of the Capitol rot.
She was addressing challenges faced by the US after the January 6 assault on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump at a Friday event at London's Chatham House, which Insider attended.
"It was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States," said Pelosi. "No one could have ever expected that or be prepared for something like that."
She said the extremist beliefs of "white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia" were at the root of the violence, and cited the FBI's identification of domestic extremists as the most urgent terror threat facing the US.
"This is different from a political disagreement," she said. "Which is like nothing compared to the challenge to our democracy manifested that day."
Far-right groups including the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys were involved in the violence on January 6, and some are expected to gather again on Saturday in Washington, DC, to protest against the punishments faced by some rioting suspects. Trump and some Republican lawmakers have spoken out in support of the suspects.
'Radical right-wing, off the spectrum, anti-government'
At the Friday event, Pelosi went on to discuss the polarization of US politics, and called on Republicans to drive out the extremists she said were in their midst.
"I say to my Republican friends - and I do have some - take back your party," she said.
"Don't let your party be hijacked by a cult, because that is what is happening. And it isn't good for the country."
"I do think it's important for the Republican Party to get a hold of itself," she said, discussing how the US Constitution was designed to incorporate a "spectrum" of views.
"But this is not where we are now. They're off the spectrum. This is not conservative, which is, of course, a more than legitimate position to hold. This is radical right-wing, off the spectrum, anti-government. And if you're anti government, it's very hard to govern," she said.
Pelosi blames Trump
The rioters of January 6 were seeking to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden's election of president, many of them inspired by Trump's claims that the election had been stolen from him by mass fraud.
Pelosi rejected claims that the attack represented a fundamental failure in US democracy, but laid the blame squarely with the former president.
"We cannot see a genuine sense of the failure of the democratic system in the United States, we see it as the actions of a president who did not respect the oath of office that he took or the office he served in," Pelosi said.
Under the Trump administration "we had about four years of complete disdain for governance, for science," Pelosi said.
She stressed, however, that the extremist views that had infiltrated sections of the GOP had deeper roots: "That president, he did not create those problems I mentioned, but he galvanized them."
Pelosi went on to criticize Republican for opposing Democratic plans to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the causes of the insurrection.
But she ended on a note of optimism, expressing faith in the possibility of bipartisan cooperation despite vast differences between the two parties.
"It was a horrible, horrible, horrible day for our democracy," she said of January 6. "There's no question that strength of our democracy is how we would deal with it."
"I respect members on the other side of the aisle for what they bring to the table. And I think it's really important that we have not one party all the time, but that we have bipartisanship."