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Kevin McCarthy’s master class in spin and obfuscation

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last week strenuously denied a New York Times report, based on a forthcoming book, that he had told other Republican leaders that he would tell President Donald Trump to step down – only to have his denial contradicted by an audio recording of the conversation.

This wasn’t the first time McCarthy had denied reports of the Jan. 8 conversation. The Times first reported on it just three days after it took place, but McCarthy denied it the next day in an interview with his local newspaper, the Bakersfield Californian.

Now McCarthy denies the audio says what it says.

How can someone in McCarthy’s position evade the truth like that? Here is a master class in spin and obfuscation. (A McCarthy spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.)

First, let’s start with a transcript of the conversation. It begins with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), asking about the House passing a resolution calling for the implementation of the 25th Amendment. It is a process under which Trump would have been immediately removed from office.

CHENEY: I guess there is a question. When we’re talking about the 25th Amendment resolution, and you asked if, you know, what would happen if he happened after he left, is there any chance, do you hear, that he could resign , is there any reason to think that could happen?

MCCARTHY: I had a few discussions. My gut says no. I’m seriously considering having that conversation with him tonight. I haven’t spoken to him for a few days. From what I know of him, I mean you know him too, do you think he would ever back down? But, what I think I’m going to do is I’m going to call him. That’s what I think, we know it will pass the House. I think there’s a chance it will pass through the Senate, even when he’s gone. And I think there are a lot of different ramifications to that. Now, I haven’t had a discussion with the Dems, that if he quit, would that happen? Now, it’s a personal fear that I have. I don’t want to get into a conversation about [Vice President Mike] Pence forgiving. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think it will pass. And it will be my recommendation that you should resign. I mean, that would be my point of view. But I don’t think he would accept. But I do not know.

The key section is when McCarthy says, “The only discussion I would have with him [Trump] that’s it, i think that’s it [a 25th amendment resolution] will pass. And I will recommend that you resign.

This line makes it clear that McCarthy told his colleagues that he would tell Trump he should resign.

But the original Times report, January 12, 2021, phrased it a bit differently — that it asked other Republicans if he should ask Trump to step down:

In the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Minority Leader and one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest allies in Congress, asked other Republicans if he should call on Mr. Trump to resign at the following last week’s riot at the Capitol. , according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations.

A day later, McCarthy denied this report in an interview with the Bakersfield Californian:

“McCarthy dismissed a New York Times report on Tuesday that he had asked other Republicans whether he should ask the president to resign over the riot. He said he had no idea what had prompted this story, which the newspaper attributed to three unnamed Republican officials “I don’t think the president will resign, even if someone asks him to,” he said.

McCarthy had found an easy way around the original Times report, as the audio does not indicate he had asked other Republicans whether he should ask Trump to step down. Instead, he had asserted that he would. In the interview he added another layer of denial – he had no idea what prompted the story – which is misleading since he certainly should have remembered the details of the call only days ago. after it has taken place.

In the Bakersfield Californian interview, McCarthy recounts the call he had with Trump the day before — the call in which he told co-workers he would tell Trump to step down.

According to McCarthy’s account, he did not bring up the resignation during the hour-long call. He “said he implored President Donald Trump in an intense hour-long phone conversation Monday morning to come to terms with his election defeat and move forward with a peaceful transition of power…a Intense and moving conversation ensued, he said: ‘one friend talks to another and I don’t let go.

It is therefore entirely possible that McCarthy hesitated and did not mention his resignation. As he noted in the interview, he didn’t think Trump would quit, even if someone asked him to — that’s what he said on the call, too. “I don’t think he would accept [the advice to resign]”, McCarthy said on the call. “But I don’t know.”

In McCarthy’s account, during the call with Trump, he primarily tried to convince Trump to restore some normalcy to the difficult transition, such as calling Biden and meeting with him on inauguration day. Trump wouldn’t commit to it, he said — and in fact, Trump left the White House before Biden arrived.

Now McCarthy spins the audio in a way to deceive.

On Saturday he said: ‘In a phone call just after January 6, Liz Cheney asked me about the 25th Amendment and to explain what else would happen. I just went through different scenarios, that’s all that happened, I think the phone call was overdone.

Notice McCarthy’s tip here. Cheney asked a question and referenced the 25th Amendment. But that wasn’t his question and McCarthy didn’t run through various scenarios. Cheney had asked if Trump might resign if the resolution passed – and McCarthy said he didn’t know but would tell Trump he should resign if it did.

Earlier on Friday, McCarthy also mentioned“I never asked the president to resign. So what the book said was not true.

It may be true that McCarthy did not ask Trump to resign. But that’s not what the report says — it says he told his colleagues he would tell Trump to step down.

Maybe McCarthy was also spinning his co-workers on the call.

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