The audio contradicted McCarthy’s claim that he didn’t push for Trump to resign after the deadly insurrection by a pro-Trump mob. On Friday, more audio clips surfaced in which McCarthy says, “I’ve had it with this guy,” and blamed Trump for the storming of the Capitol.
Trump was not upset about McCarthy’s remarks and was glad the Republican leader didn’t follow through, which Trump saw as a sign of his continued grip on the Republican Party, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
But House Republicans are still waiting for a firm statement from Trump, according to multiple GOP aides, on how to determine whether they should still back McCarthy as their leader and potential speaker if the GOP regains the majority in the November election.
“If Trump comes out and says [McCarthy] lost my faith and can’t be speaker, that is bold. That will move people. If he puts out a statement complaining — he complains about McConnell all the time and hasn’t threatened his position in leadership,” said one Republican congressional aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The 1½-minute audio clip from Jan. 10, 2021, was published after McCarthy disputed a report earlier Thursday that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had privately pledged to push Trump out of politics following the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob.
The Washington Post’s investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection
During the call, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked whether there was any chance Trump would resign. McCarthy said he was doubtful but noted, “I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight.”
McCarthy added that he would tell Trump, as Democrats pushed forward with plans to again impeach the president, that “it would be my recommendation you should resign,” according to the audio clip. McCarthy said he did not think his effort would persuade Trump.
McCarthy also said on the audio: “Now this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get in any conversation about Pence pardoning.”
The reporting is based on the work of two New York Times reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, whose book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future” publishes next month. The call lasted more than an hour. The audio clip also aired Thursday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC.
On Friday, Martin and Burns appeared on CNN and shared additional audio clips from Republican leadership calls in which McCarthy blames Trump for the attack on the Capitol and says the president told him he has “some responsibility” for the riot.
In audio from a Jan. 10, 2021, call, McCarthy says: “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”
A day later, on a separate call, McCarthy told Republicans, “But let me be very clear to all of you and I’ve been very clear to the president: He bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands or buts. I asked him personally today: ‘Does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened?’ He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he need to acknowledge that,” McCarthy said on the audio clip.
McCarthy’s office has not responded to the recent revelations.
Cheney is vice chairwoman of the select House committee investigating the deadly attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. In a statement, a spokesman for the congresswoman said: “The select committee has asked Kevin McCarthy to speak with us about these events but he has so far declined. Representative Cheney did not record or leak the tape and does not know how the reporters got it.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 2 Republican in House leadership, dismissed the issue with a broadside against Democrats but most notably did not defend McCarthy by name.
“Whip Scalise’s sole focus is on working with his colleagues to stop the radical Democrat agenda. Neither he nor anyone on his team recorded or leaked private conversations among members,” Lauren Fine said.
Nebeyatt Betre, a spokesman for the House Democratic campaign committee, was more blunt in a statement: “Kevin McCarthy has proven himself to be a spineless leader and now a bold-faced liar.”
As the audio clips refuting McCarthy surfaced, a majority of the House Republican conference notably remained mum on Twitter. Some are refraining from opining until Trump puts out a statement, while a few others said it was a “non-issue” not worth dividing the conference ahead of a midterm election that favors Republicans.
A few McCarthy allies came to his defense.
“29 wks from now Republicans will have the majority and Kevin McCarthy will be Speaker of the House,” tweeted freshman Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Tex), minutes after the audio was played on MSNBC.
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), who is widely considered by her peers as a freshman likely to climb the leadership ranks, echoed the sentiment and stressed in a tweet Friday that the Republican conference is “united to get America back on track” ahead of the midterms.
A McCarthy spokesman told the Times that the California Republican “never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”
In a statement Thursday morning, McCarthy called the paper’s reporting “totally false and wrong” and accused the news media of “doing everything it can to further a liberal agenda.”
“The past year and a half have proven that our country was better off when President Trump was in the White House and rather than address the real issues facing Americans, the corporate media is more concerned with profiting from manufactured political intrigue from politically motivated sources, McCarthy said.
McCarthy initially stood by Cheney after she was one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump. But he later led the charge to oust her as the No. 3 Republican in House leadership, punishing her for her public fight with Trump over his false claims and her effort to hold him responsible for the insurrection. The House GOP replaced Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), a fervent supporter of Trump.
McConnell’s office declined to comment on the report. According to the Times, the Kentucky Republican had predicted that the Senate would convict Trump and privately said in the days after the Jan. 6 attack: “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.”
Despite their reported private comments condemning Trump in the days after the Capitol attack, both McCarthy and McConnell soon backed the president once again.
In late January 2021, McCarthy traveled to Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, where the two discussed the GOP’s efforts to retake the House and posed for a photo together. The following month, McConnell said he would “absolutely” support Trump if the former president were to win the Republican nomination in 2024.
If Republicans capture the majority in the November election, McCarthy has made it clear that he would seek the speakership, for which he would need the support of House Republicans in the January 2023 vote.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a vocal Trump critic and the other Republican serving on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, said in a tweet Thursday that reports that McCarthy had said he had “had it” with Trump were “100 percent true.”
“McCarthy was over Trump until he wasn’t, when he realized he needed him. This picture literally resurrected Trumps political life,” Kinzinger said, sharing the Mar-a-Lago photo of the two men. “Thanks Kev.”
According to the New York Times, McCarthy had also said in the days after the attack that he wished Twitter would shut down the accounts of some House Republicans, such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (Col.), who had made what he deemed inappropriate comments related to the insurrection.
A McCarthy spokesman told the newspaper that McCarthy “never said that particular members should be removed from Twitter.” Boebert’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Paul Kane and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.