Rep. Kevin McCarthy was adamant. He never discussed pressuring Donald Trump to resign from the presidency after Jan. 6. That denial – prompted by an excerpt from a forthcoming book by two New York Times journalists – was issued Thursday morning.
“The New York Times’ reporting on me is totally false and wrong,” he wrote in a statement, adding that the journalists have a “liberal agenda” and “politically motivated sources.”
By Thursday evening, there was proof positive that McCarthy had lied. Appearing on Rachel Maddows’ MSNBC show, the two reporters – Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin – played an audio recording of McCarthy telling Rep. Liz Cheney and other GOP leaders that he was planning on calling Trump and telling him to quit his White House post before he was impeached (watch above).
BREAKING: Audio recording contradicts Rep. Kevin McCarthy's denial that he said he would call Donald Trump to recommend that Trump resign pic.twitter.com/iRmSFoeQPz
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) April 22, 2022
The recording captured a January 10, 2021 phone call in which McCarthy and Cheney openly discussed the 25th Amendment, which provides a recourse for removing an unfit president from office.
McCarthy also invoked impeachment and said he believed it would pass both the House and Senate.
“Again, the only discussion I would have with [Trump] is that I think [the impeachment resolution] will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign,” McCarthy said on the recording. “Um, I mean that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”
McCarthy added: “Now this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get in any conversation about Pence pardoning.”
Although it wasn’t part of the tape played on MSNBC, Martin and Burn say they also have audio of McCarthy saying of Trump: “I’ve had it with this guy.”
Wow. McCarthy literally today said this was a lie and just a few hours later the tape with his voice from his mouth proves THAT was a lie. Incredible. @GOPLeader ought to be ashamed. Republicans, your leaders think you are dumb. Let’s be done with them. https://t.co/lkQaZIcD3M
— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) April 22, 2022
Ultimately, McCarthy stood by Trump – voting against impeachment and even posing for a photo with the ex-president in Mar-a-Lago.
Cheney, on the other hand, has been unflinching in her criticism of Trump and his conspiracy theories. For that, McCarthy led a successful charge to remove her from the GOP’s leadership. She is now a pariah within her own party, frequently maligned by Republican stalwarts.
She has denied leaking the audio to the Times’ journalists.
Martin and Burns also report that McCarthy – despite his bombastic criticism of social media platforms for allegedly discriminating against conservatives – pined for Twitter to kick some of his colleagues off the platform. From The New York Times:
During the same Jan. 10 conversation when he said he would call on Mr. Trump to resign, Mr. McCarthy told other G.O.P. leaders he wished the big tech companies would strip some Republican lawmakers of their social media accounts, as Twitter and Facebook had done with Mr. Trump. Members such as Lauren Boebert of Colorado had done so much to stoke paranoia about the 2020 election and made offensive comments online about the Capitol attack.
“We can’t put up with that,” Mr. McCarthy said, adding, “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
POLITICO provides context:
For McCarthy, the appearance of the audio recording from the days following the attack could weigh on his bid to become the next speaker of the House, a possibility if Republicans retake the chamber, as they’re now favored to do.
Trump still commands great sway over House Republicans and his reaction to McCarthy’s newly public comments could ripple across the caucus, as well as among the candidates likely to help Republicans take control of the House next year.
It’s also a reminder that McCarthy rejected a call from the Jan. 6 select committee to describe his interactions with Trump on and shortly after Jan. 6. McCarthy at the time ripped the panel and said he had nothing new to add to what was already publicly known. The tape underscores that this was not the case.
I have said it repeatedly- Kevin McCarthy is feckless, spineless & now the American people see he is a LIAR! He has undermined his oath to protect & defend the constitution, and this shows why he fought so vigorously to stop the January 6th committee. #Guilty #FraudFearFascism https://t.co/vkXATso1a7
— Jaime Harrison, DNC Chair (@harrisonjaime) April 22, 2022
Sen. Mitch McConnell also initially supported a Trump impeachment. The Times reports:
On Monday, Jan. 11, Mr. McConnell met over lunch in Kentucky with two longtime advisers, Terry Carmack and Scott Jennings. Feasting on Chick-fil-A in Mr. Jennings’s Louisville office, the Senate Republican leader predicted Mr. Trump’s imminent political demise.
“The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to the imminent impeachment vote in the House.
The Times adds:
In private, at least, Mr. McConnell sounded as if he might be among the Republicans who would vote to convict. Several senior Republicans, including John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio, told confidants that Mr. McConnell was leaning that way.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, privately told the leaders of several liberal advocacy groups that he believed his Republican counterpart was angry enough to go to war with Mr. Trump.
“I don’t trust him, and I would not count on it,” Mr. Schumer said of Mr. McConnell. “But you never know.”
Mr. Schumer was right to be skeptical: Once the proceedings against Mr. Trump moved from the House to the Senate, Mr. McConnell took the measure of Republican senators and concluded that there was little appetite for open battle with a man who remained — much to Mr. McConnell’s surprise — the most popular Republican in the country.
McConnell voted against impeachment and recently said he’d support Trump in 2024 if he were the GOP presidential nominee.
During their appearance on Maddow’s show Thursday night, Martin and Burns said they possess additional audio that will change the public’s understanding of January 6th.
“We have a lot more on tape from this period … it is sensitive, it is delicate, and we have it all on tape,” Martin said. “It’s going to tell a very different story about this period than the story that many people are trying to tell right now.”