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As McCarthy lurched toward defeat, Trump failed to defend his presidency.

As Kevin McCarthy fought this week to keep the position he was about to lose, a very powerful ally did not come to his aid: Donald Trump.

For years, McCarthy (Republican of California) bragged about his close relationship with Trump, defending the former president through countless controversies and cajoling him to support the former president’s own policy priorities. He disputed Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election and swallowed his objections to Trump’s conduct in the lead-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He bypassed some of the congressional endorsements given to the former president, even when those candidates seemed doomed to defeat. In recent months, he helped Trump’s team secure coveted changes to key California GOP rules. And in recent weeks, he had all but endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential nomination, an unusual move for a top congressional leader this early in a contested primary.

Who voted against Kevin McCarthy? These 8 House Republicans.

But as McCarthy’s presidency teetered on the brink Tuesday, Trump stood resolutely on the sidelines as his sidekick, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), engineered a vote that ultimately ejected McCarthy from office. direction. Trump’s biggest contribution to the debate came in the form of a gentle social media post that simply asked, “Why are Republicans always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting radical left Democrats who destroy our country?

McCarthy’s ouster capped a tumultuous tenure as president that ended less than nine months after it began. Trump’s limited support for the man he called “my Kevin” on the eve of his inauguration sums up a relationship that has fluctuated over the years. And it reflects the caution Trump generally shows in contested situations where intervening more forcefully — as he often does on a range of issues — carries political risks.

Months of tension between McCarthy and Democrats help derail his presidency

Still, it’s not clear that a Trump intervention in the House chaos would have saved McCarthy’s gavel. Of the eight Republicans who voted against McCarthy, only three supported Trump for 2024. Rep. Bob Good (R-Vir.) supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) is a Trump critic; and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) defeated a Trump-backed primary challenger.

Now Trump, the poll leader in the Republican race, faces a new chapter of uncertainty at the Capitol. People familiar with their dynamic said the two men worked well together privately, with an understanding of the transactional benefits each brought. Yet that relationship has also contributed to Democrats’ ill will toward McCarthy: On Tuesday, not a single one voted to help save him from the wrath of a splinter group of far-right members of the Bedroom.

As of Tuesday evening, Trump’s campaign did not comment on McCarthy’s loss and instead highlighted his social media post. A person close to Trump, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly, suggested the outcome might have been different if McCarthy had supported Trump from the start of the former’s quest president for the 2024 inauguration.

Trump signaled over the weekend that he would not intervene directly in the contentious showdown with Capitol Hill. During a campaign stop in Iowa on Sunday, he said he had “always had a great relationship” with McCarthy. “He said very nice things about me and the work that I did, so I appreciate that,” Trump added.

Republicans are fed up with Matt Gaetz, and they’re not staying silent about it

After McCarthy was impeached in the historic vote, Gaetz suggested Trump was on his side: “I would say my conversations with the former president leave me with great confidence that I’m doing the right thing.” McCarthy disputed this notion during a press conference. “I doubt that’s true,” McCarthy said when asked about Gaetz’s claim.

Gaetz told reporters Monday that he had spoken to Trump but did not disclose details of their conversation. A Trump ally said the former president was upset by efforts by some House Republicans seeking to expel Gaetz from the GOP conference.

Trump was also angered by some of McCarthy’s comments. In a June interview with CNBC, McCarthy suggested that his support for his former governing partner was in doubt. “Is he the strongest to win the elections? I don’t know that answer,” McCarthy said then, before speaking with Trump and telling a conservative website that Trump was “stronger today than he was in 2016.”

But McCarthy grew closer to Trump as the former president faced a confrontation with hard-liners in his conference, who are political supporters of the former president. As the government shutdown fight intensified last month, he made a point of attacking Trump’s main rival for the Republican Party nomination.

Late Night Shows Revel in House Drama: ‘I Love the McCarthy Hearings’

“President Trump is currently beating Biden in the polls. He’s stronger than he’s ever been in this process,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” in September. “And look, I served with Ron DeSantis. He is not on the same level as President Trump in any shape or form. He would not have been elected governor without the support of President Trump.”

Those comments did not go unnoticed by Trump, a person familiar with the matter said.

McCarthy has often acted as interpreter and pitchman for Trump among his party’s more skeptical elements, while at the same time describing himself as someone who influenced the president in critical moments. The two men have sometimes used each other to gain support in different parts of the Republican coalition. McCarthy also found himself walking a tightrope, such as when he supported the re-election of House members who supported Trump’s impeachment after January 6, 2021.

“I stay close to him. We have a good relationship. But he and his team don’t have a veto over what we do,” McCarthy told donors during the midterm campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump had sought advice from McCarthy, sometimes relying heavily on the Californian’s advice when it came to legislative maneuvering and congressional approvals.

“McCarthy was the majority leader when President Trump was in office,” Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Tex.) — who supported Trump — said before the ouster vote. “They’ve clearly built a relationship and built a rapport.”

A second person familiar with the relationship acknowledged its ups and downs, but said it had proven resilient, even if Trump and McCarthy didn’t always align philosophically or personally.

McCarthy was the first member of the GOP leadership to support Trump for president after it became clear that the New York businessman would be the GOP nominee for 2016, becoming a Trump delegate to convention of the party of that year. Weeks later, McCarthy was captured in a private audio recording saying he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying then-candidate Trump. “Swear to God,” McCarthy said. McCarthy’s aides said he was joking.

Under then-Speaker Paul D. Ryan, McCarthy continued to serve as the House leadership’s primary contact with Trump, traveling several times with the former president and later tuning into meetings from the Oval Office. Noticing on an Air Force One flight that Trump was only eating red and pink Starburst candies, McCarthy sent a jar containing just those colors as a gift to the president.

After becoming minority leader in early 2019, McCarthy made courting Trump a top priority, persuading him to support every incumbent Republican candidate in the House. Trump recorded more than 50 phone rallies and endorsements for Republican House candidates. He and McCarthy attended a UFC 2019 fight together in New York.

Their relationship reached its lowest point after Trump failed to tell his supporters to stop attacking the U.S. Capitol for hours on January 6, 2021. McCarthy later said that Trump bore responsibility for the attack and should be censored, but not impeached, which infuriated the former president. A few weeks later, Trump persuaded McCarthy to visit him at his Mar-a-Lago resort, then posed for a photo with him, the first major step in Trump regaining his stature among the party’s leaders in Washington.

During McCarthy’s presidential fight in January, one of the people familiar with the matter said Trump initially called the holdouts without McCarthy directly asking him to do so. Trump later took credit for helping McCarthy take the gavel, saying on social media: “Believe it or not, the fake media was very kind in reporting that I greatly helped Kevin McCarthy achieve the post of Speaker of the House. »

The two also exchanged senior executives. Brian Jack, Trump’s former White House political affairs director, became a top policy adviser to McCarthy during the 2022 midterms, before returning to Trump’s orbit as a senior adviser for Trump’s current presidential campaign.

During the 2022 midterm elections, Jack, as an employee of McCarthy’s, prepared polling and research on House districts, which was part of ongoing data-informed discussions with candidates and campaign committees on where Trump should go and when, according to a close Trump adviser. .

However, it was Gaetz who took a victory lap Tuesday night. During an appearance on Fox News, Gaetz continued to taunt McCarthy by emphasizing the strength of his own relationship with Trump. “You know who you won’t see on the campaign trail at a big (Trump) rally? Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz said on “Ingraham Angle,” a Fox News show. “Because if Kevin McCarthy walked on stage at a Trump rally, he would be booed like (Senator) Lindsey Graham.”

Mariana Alfaro and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.


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