Apr 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Tape shows McCarthy said he would urge Trump to resign


Screenshot: MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show"

Authors of a new book released audio of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he planned to urge President Trump to resign over the Jan. 6 riot — hours after McCarthy denied the account.

Why it matters: With the House GOP expected to win the majority in November's midterms, McCarthy — one of Trump's most unabashed allies — is on the doorstep of the Speaker's office. But if Trump turned on him, the Californian's path could be imperiled by the former president's loyalists in the GOP caucus.

The book — "This Will Not Pass," by N.Y. Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, out May 3 — reports a stunning exchange from a House GOP leadership call on Jan. 10, 2021, four days after the Capitol attack.

  • McCarthy: "Liz, you on the phone?"
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): "Yeah, I'm, here. Thanks, Kevin. ... Are you hearing that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?"

McCarthy: "I've had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I'm seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven't talked to him in a couple days. From what I know of him — I mean, you guys all know him, too. Do you think he'd ever back away? But what I think I'm going to do is, I'm going to call him." ...

  • "[T]he only discussion I would have with him is that I think this [impeachment resolution] will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take. But I don't think he would take it. But I don't know."

In a sign of how dire Trump's situation looked, McCarthy said: "Now this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get in any conversation about [Vice President] Pence pardoning."

The intrigue: At 5 a.m. ET Thursday, the Times posted a story about the call, including a denial from a McCarthy spokesperson: "McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign."

  • At 11:32 a.m., McCarthy himself tweeted a statement saying: "The New York Times' reporting on me is totally false and wrong. ... If the reporters were interested in truth why would they ask for comment after the book was printed?"
  • But the reporters had receipts. They gave the tape to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who detonated it on her 9 p.m. show.

Asked about the audio, a Cheney spokesperson told me: "Representative Cheney did not record or leak the tape and does not know how the reporters got it."

Zoom out: The tape exacerbates the Jan. 6 wound for the GOP.

  • A House select committee is continuing to vacuum up testimony and documents about events surrounding the attack on the Capitol.

Another bombshell from the book:

  • House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told other GOP leaders during a conference call on Jan. 10, 2021, that he wished big tech companies would strip some of his own members of their social media accounts, as Twitter and Facebook had done with Trump, the Times reports.

As context, the Times notes that members, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), had stoked paranoia about the 2020 election and made offensive comments online about the Capitol attack.

  • "We can't put up with that," McCarthy said. "Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?"

A spokesperson told the Times that McCarthy "never said that particular members should be removed from Twitter."

  • Martin told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "We have it all on tape."

Go deeper: Listen to the 90-sec. audio ... Watch Maddow's segment (3½ mins.) ... Read the New York Times story.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper