McCarthy’s Trump comments reverberate through Washington after tapes are revealed
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) comments about wanting then-President Trump to resign in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol are reverberating throughout Washington, with Democrats calling him a liar and Republicans saying he’s still well position to become Speaker after the midterms.
McCarthy dominated headlines this week after The New York Times reported that the California Republican, during a call with GOP leadership on Jan. 10, 2021, said he would recommend that Trump resign from office.
McCarthy denied the report, calling it “totally false and wrong.” But then the tapes rolled.
MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” aired audio on Thursday, shared by the Times, that corroborated the report.
“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign,” McCarthy said in the recording.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) blasted McCarthy on Sunday, calling him “a liar and a traitor.”
“This is outrageous. And that is really the illness that pervades the Republican leadership right now, that they say one thing to the American public and something else in private,” Warren told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
McCarthy has also received criticism from within the Republican Party. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has previously denounced the minority leader and Trump, wrote on Twitter that McCarthy should be “ashamed” of being caught in a lie.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, laid into McCarthy amid the unfolding drama in a tweet, accusing the Republican leader of standing by Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), a leading anti-Trump voice in the GOP. She was also heard on the call with McCarthy, though her office has denied she leaked the tapes.
The controversy regarding McCarthy and the tapes comes as the GOP is widely expected to regain a majority in the House in November’s midterms, with McCarthy seen as the leading candidate to hold the Speaker’s gavel for the last two years of President Biden’s term.
While some Republicans have bashed McCarthy for his comments, other GOP lawmakers on Sunday defended the House minority leader.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said McCarthy is “in very good shape” to lead the conference. He also claimed on “Fox News Sunday” that McCarthy never actually discussed resignation with Trump.
“You have to put it in the context of when it was given. This was literally right after Jan. 6. It was a very dark day. It was a very shocking day. A lot of emotions flying high,” McCaul said.
“What Kevin was doing was gaming out various options that, hey, if — what if he got impeached in the House and then in the Senate convicted? Would it be better for him to resign prior to that? But the fact is, he never had that conversation with President Trump.”
McCaul added that “the support in the conference is very strong for him” and predicted that “Kevin will be the next Speaker of the House.”
Asked Sunday how Americans can believe what McCarthy says after he lied about the Trump comments, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, “Well, a lot of people were saying a lot of things in that two weeks.”
Blunt told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he has not spoken to McCarthy about the matter but said he was “sort of surprised” that the GOP leader “would even suggest [resignation] might be a realistic suggestion to make to President Trump.”
On 2022 and beyond, however, Blunt says the GOP and McCarthy are in fine shape.
“I think a lot of things will happen between now and November. I think one thing that’s likely to happen is Republicans will be in the majority. And if that happens, nobody will have worked harder to make that happen than Congressman McCarthy has,” Blunt said.
One other Republican who was not deterred by the comments was Trump himself. The former president told The Wall Street Journal that while he “didn’t like the call,” he likes McCarthy.
McCarthy said he spoke with Trump twice on Friday and that the two had a “good conversation” about the recordings.
The recordings were obtained by Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns for their upcoming book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.”
The Hill reached out to McCarthy for comment on Warren’s remarks.
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