A new audio tape contradicts House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s denial that he was considering urging Donald Trump to resign days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a major revelation that shows how the Top Republicans have reacted privately to the riot and the former president’s handling of it. .
McCarthy took issue with a passage from an upcoming book by two New York Times reporters who said four days after the riots that he spoke with a group of GOP leaders about how to handle the fallout and how Trump should proceed. The California Republican flatly denied the report Thursday night, but audio obtained by reporters and later aired on MSNBC supported the conversation and McCarthy’s resignation suggestions.
It’s not immediately clear what kind of reaction McCarthy might get from fellow Republicans — including fierce Trump allies — or from the former president himself. McCarthy is considered the likely Speaker of the House if Republicans win a majority in November. Since early Friday afternoon, Republicans, including McCarthy and other leaders, have been silent.
Trump, who spoke at a Heritage Foundation event in Florida on Thursday night, has yet to comment on the audio tapes. But The Washington Post reported that Trump and McCarthy spoke after the leaked audio and that Trump was not angry at the discussion.
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Still, his private rejection of Trump could hamper his ability to take the hammer if Republicans feel he cannot be trusted, especially conservatives who were previously skeptical of his leadership. At best, it’s an unnecessary but temporary distraction for a party well-positioned to make gains in the midterm elections. At worst, he loses the confidence of his party at a critical moment. And Trump’s eventual public response will likely set the tone and could neutralize any political consequences.
In recorded remarks, McCarthy discussed the consequences of Jan. 6 with three other Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was then in the lead. She was later stripped of her role by House Republicans frustrated by her open criticism of Trump and his impeachment vote. On the Jan. 10 call, McCarthy said he planned to speak with the former president about how he would deal with another impeachment and the recommendation to step down.
“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think [the impeachment resolution] will pass, and I would recommend that you resign,” McCarthy said on the call, later calling Trump’s actions “unacceptable” and indefensible.
McCarthy has not publicly responded to the audiotape reveal, but he released a statement ahead of its release in which he said the report was “totally untrue and misguided.”
“The past year and a half has proven that our country was better off when President Trump was in the White House and rather than addressing the real issues facing Americans, the corporate media is more concerned with profiting of political intrigue fabricated from politically motivated sources. McCarthy said in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.
In the days following the attack, McCarthy publicly condemned Trump in remarks from the House floor saying the former president “bears responsibility.” A month later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called Trump’s actions a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” But like many in the party, they ultimately backed the former president and distanced themselves from the riots. Although McCarthy did not suggest Trump step down, Congress eventually moved forward on impeachment.
A week after the Capitol riots, the House impeached Trump for the second time for incitement, but he was later acquitted by the Senate. A total of 17 Republicans from both houses joined Democrats in impeachment or convicting, but McCarthy and McConnell opposed the efforts.
Democrats hope to use the revelations against McCarthy, but if Trump and Republicans reject them, it’s unlikely to be a major attack more than six months from the midterm elections.
“Kevin McCarthy is an imposter and a liar,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement. “Republicans are unfit to govern and Republican majorities would mean little more than complete submission to Donald Trump.”