Democratic lawmakers and political observers said late Thursday and Friday that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been exposed as a “liar” not once but twice in the past 24 hours following the release of audio tapes confirming that the California Republican said former President Donald Trump should resign in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
The tapes were made public after McCarthy’s office and the lawmaker himself emphatically denied New York Times reporting on his comments.
“McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign,” Mark Bednar, McCarthy’s spokesperson, told the Times Thursday.
The minority leader released a statement on Twitter calling Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin’s reporting for the newspaper “totally false and wrong” and saying the country was “better off when President Trump was in the White House”—contrary to his statement in a January 8 call that the former president’s conduct ahead of the Capitol attack was “atrocious and totally wrong.”
Burns and Martin on Thursday reported that in a call with other top Republicans two days after the assault on the Capitol in which five people died, McCarthy expressed outrage over the events and accused Trump of “inciting people” to resort to violence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
“I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy added on January 10 in another call, in which he spoke to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), then-chair of the House Republican Conference, about Trump’s Cabinet potentially invoking the 25th Amendment to immediately remove him from office before discussing the president’s possible resignation.
“I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight,” said McCarthy about potentially pushing Trump to step down and telling him that an impeachment resolution would likely pass.
“What I think I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna call him… We know it’ll pass the House, I think there’s a chance it’ll pass the Senate even if he’s gone,” he told Cheney. “The only discussion I would have with him is that, ‘I think this will pass and it would be my recommendation that you resign.'”
After January 6, McCarthy publicly said only that Trump bore “responsibility” for the attack, which was preceded by a rally at which the then-president encouraged his supporters to proceed to the Capitol after saying the crowd had come to Washington, D.C. to “stop the steal,” a phrase repeated by people who believe Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Like Trump and the January 6 mob, McCarthy publicly objected to the election results.
The tape obtained by Burns and Martin “is confirmation that he’s a liar and nothing he says can be trusted,” said Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, on Friday.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) suggested that McCarthy lied about his recorded comments “because he’s a spineless sycophant” who continued to publicly support Trump after privately lambasting the former president.
McCarthy’s public support of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election shows that “the leaders of the Republican Party believe in nothing but their right to absolute power,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
“What a goddamn disgrace,” he added.
While Cheney maintained publicly in the weeks and months after the January 10 phone call that Trump should not continue to lead the Republican Party, McCarthy made public statements about Trump that contradicted his outrage in the days after the insurrection. Last May, he supported Cheney’s removal from her leadership post.
Cheney on Friday denied leaking the recordings to the Times.
Also on Friday, the newspaper released a new audio recording in which McCarthy told other Republicans that Trump accepted “some responsibility for what happened” and said “he’d need to acknowledge that.”
“We have a lot more on tape from this period, which is at the highest levels of American politics,” Martin told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Thursday night after sharing the tapes on air. “It is sensitive, it’s delicate, and it’s high-stakes and we have it all on tape.”
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