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Trump ‘didn’t like’ tape, but happy with McCarthy’s overthrow

Recently leaked recordings of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he would urge then-President Trump to resign from office following the Jan. 6 insurrection have generated much political heat, but so far do not appear to threaten the California Republican’s grip on power, or his relationship with the former president.

Trump and McCarthy spoke Thursday night, according to a person familiar with the call, who said the ex-president was not angry with the comments.

Trump spoke publicly about the tapes on Friday, saying he “didn’t like them” but telling the Wall Street Journal he considered the House GOP leader’s ousting “a big compliment.”

In the interview, Trump said McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) quickly changed his mind about pushing him to quit “when he found out the facts.”

For much of Friday, the GOP’s reaction to the tape was muted, as House Republicans apparently waited to hear the party’s undeniable leader’s message before speaking out.

Trump hasn’t exactly endorsed McCarthy for president if the GOP wins control of the House in the November election, as expected, but his conference’s relative silence and lack of criticism from Trump suggests that he has a good chance of winning the President’s gavel. if the GOP takeover were to materialize.

“Well, I don’t know anybody else that’s showing up and I think I had a really good relationship with him,” Trump said of McCarthy. “I love him. And aside from this brief period of time, I suspect he loves me very much.

Still, McCarthy’s private comments could embolden the challengers if the subject comes up at a conference meeting next week after House members return from a break.

A big test will come Saturday, when McCarthy is scheduled to speak at the California Republican Party Convention in Anaheim.

The call between Trump and McCarthy, and Trump’s public comments, followed Thursday’s publication by The New York Times of an audio clip shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when McCarthy told leaders of the House GOP that he would urge Trump to step down before Democrats impeach him.

In another clip, posted Friday morning on CNN, McCarthy let House Republicans know that Trump had admitted he bore “some responsibility for what happened.”

Trump denied in his interview on Friday claiming responsibility for the insurgency.

The clips and reports that coincided with their release are covered in the forthcoming book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin.

McCarthy initially said the report was “totally untrue and untrue”, and a spokesperson told The New York Times that “McCarthy never said he would call Trump to say he should resign.” The audio, however, confirmed the accuracy of the report.

Former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn said on Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room” podcast on Friday that McCarthy’s leaked comments were “extremely hurtful” to his speaker hopes.

“He has a big problem,” Epshteyn said.

He said it was up to McCarthy to mend the fences and prove himself to the former president and his supporters.

“These next few months are a test for Kevin McCarthy,” Epshteyn said. “Do I think he will succeed?” I do not know. It’s a big question.

On the opening day of the California GOP convention, many attendees seemed oblivious to the dispute.

“Ultimately, the question is, will it matter?” said Jon Fleischman, former executive director of the State Party. “If Trump is really upset and goes after McCarthy, then a lot of people who are devoted to Trump will be upset with McCarthy. If Trump dismisses it, no one will care.

Sarah Longwell — GOP strategist and founder of the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project, which was launched in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack — said Trump cronies in Washington, such as Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Georgia’s Taylor Greene could use the tapes to claim that McCarthy isn’t faithful enough.

Party insiders probably already knew that he briefly took a more aggressive stance toward Trump, Longwell said.

Gaetz on Friday accused former House GOP conference chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming of leaking the recording, which her office denied.

Gaetz did not address the content of the tape, but criticized McCarthy for initially supporting Cheney as she unsuccessfully sought to retain her leadership position after speaking out against Trump.

McCarthy “should have trusted my instincts, not [his] clean,” Gaetz tweeted.

The Los Angeles Times contacted the offices of nearly 20 House GOP members on Friday, including those of
McCarthy and other leaders, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and retiring members. Only two offices replied, but only one did so officially.

Minority Whip spokesman Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement, “Millions of Americans are hurting right now under President Biden and President [Nancy] The Pelosi big government socialist agenda that gave us record inflation, with skyrocketing gas prices and a border crisis, but the one thing that continues to obsess over the Democratic media is January 6th.

“Whip Scalise’s sole purpose is to work with his colleagues to stop the agenda of the radical Democrats,” the statement continued. “Neither he nor anyone on his team recorded or disclosed any private conversations between the members.”

The rare House Republican to publicly address the controversy was Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa, who predicted a “red wave” this fall and said the House Republican Conference was “united to put America back on rails”.

“Republicans will regain a majority in November and when we do, Kevin McCarthy will be our president,” Hinson tweeted.

Democrats were far more eager to address a question that could ultimately determine whether McCarthy would wield the president’s gavel in a GOP majority.

President Biden referenced the audio in a speech Friday and said of the GOP, “It’s a MAGA party now.”

Congressional Republicans these days are “not like the ones I served with for so many years,” added Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate. “And people who know better are afraid to act right because they know they will be primary.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) suggested McCarthy should lose access to classified documents for lying, and said the GOP leader was a “highly relevant” witness for the Jan. 6 committee.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) called McCarthy a man “too weak to adhere to principle” and “too power-hungry to say or do the right thing.” And too cowardly to tell the truth.

And Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) lamented in a statement that McCarthy “is so desperate to become president that he chooses Trump over democracy, time and time again.”

The silence from House Republicans indicated that most were waiting to take inspiration from Trump, who did not publicly address the report until Friday night’s Wall Street Journal interview. Their inaction allowed anti-Trump Republicans and former party members to fill the void.

“I’ve met a lot of deceitful people in Congress, but none more complicit and fundamentally dishonest than Kevin McCarthy,” tweeted former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who left the GOP to become an independent and then a libertarian.

“He will say or do whatever he deems necessary at any given time to gain or retain power,” Amash said of McCarthy.

In a series of tweets Thursday, retired Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said McCarthy “should be ashamed” of lying and told fellow Republicans, “Your leaders think you’re stupid. “

“How can you honestly feel good about lies?” he asked McCarthy in a tweet. “Yeah, other people lie too, but you pretended to fight for a higher purpose…Honestly, Kevin, is it worth it?”

Times writer Seema Mehta in Anaheim contributed to this report.

Los Angeles Times

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