New audio reveals McCarthy criticism of Trump in wake of Jan. 6 violence

·Senior Writer
·4-min read

New audio has revealed that Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he considered asking then-President Donald Trump to resign and that Trump took partial blame for the events of Jan. 6, 2021, contradicting the House minority leader's previous statements.

The audio is of a conversation on Jan. 10, 2021, between McCarthy and Republican leaders, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, acquired by the New York Times and first played on MSNBC Thursday night.

In the recording, McCarthy said he was “seriously thinking of having that conversation [about resigning] with him tonight,” adding, “From what I know of him — I mean, you guys know him too — do you think he would ever back away?”

Referring to the House resolution that eventually led to Trump’s impeachment over his role in sparking the violence at the Capitol, McCarthy said, “The only discussion I would have with him is I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation that he should resign. That would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking at a lectern.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaking at the Capitol on April 6. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“This is what I think,” McCarthy said. “We know it’ll pass the House. I think there’s a chance it’ll pass the Senate, even when he’s gone.”

The measure did pass the House, with 10 Republicans — including Cheney but not McCarthy — voting in favor, but failed short of the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate to convict, with seven Republicans voting against the president. Due to Cheney's pushback against Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election being stolen, she was booted from the House GOP leadership.

Mark Bednar, a spokesman for McCarthy, told the New York Times prior to the report’s Thursday publication that “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.” McCarthy himself denied the report prior to the audio's release, saying it was “totally false and wrong.”

Additional audio released Friday included statements made by McCarthy to House Republicans on Jan. 11, 2021, in which he said Trump took part of the blame for the Capitol violence.

“But let me be very clear to all of you, and I have been very clear to the president, he bears responsibility for his words and actions. No if, ands or buts,” McCarthy said. “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’d need to acknowledge that.”

When asked about the Jan. 11 comments at a press conference Friday morning, McCarthy said, “I’m not sure what call you’re talking about.”

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida addresses Trump supporters at a rally in Georgia.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., addresses Trump supporters at a rally in Commerce, Ga. on March 26. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

On Friday morning, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., an outspoken Trump supporter currently under investigation by the Justice Department, tweeted, “While I was rallying in Wyoming against Liz Cheney… Kevin McCarthy was defending Liz Cheney among House Republicans… While Liz Cheney was secretly recording Kevin McCarthy for the New York Times. [McCarthy] — you should have trusted my instincts, not your own.”

A spokesperson for Cheney said she did not record or release the tapes and that the committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 had “asked Kevin McCarthy to speak with us about these events but he has so far declined.” McCarthy, who would be a top candidate to be speaker of the House if Republicans were to retake Congress this fall, has attempted to stay in Trump’s good graces over the last year-plus.

The Times also reported that McCarthy, during the same Jan. 10 conversation, responded to inflammatory social media posts by far-right Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene by saying, “We can’t put up with that. Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away too?” McCarthy has since stood in solidarity with Greene, including declining to punish her for speaking at a white nationalist event and promising she would have her committee assignments returned to her if Republicans do win back the House.

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