Apr 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump: Relationship with McCarthy unaffected

Photo of Donald Trump speaking on the left and Kevin McCarthy speaking on the right
Former President Trump (left) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photos: Joe Raedle and Samuel Corum via Getty Images

Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal Friday that his relationship with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) hasn't been damaged by newly released audio of McCarthy saying he planned to urge the former president to resign over the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: McCarthy, one of Trump's staunchest allies, is on the verge of becoming House speaker with the GOP likely to win the House majority in November's midterms. That, however, is largely contingent on his ability to stay on Trump's good side.

  • McCarthy initially criticized Trump publicly for his actions on Jan. 6 but changed his tune shortly after in an effort to return to Trump's good graces.

What he's saying: "He made a call. I heard the call. I didn’t like the call," Trump told the Journal at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

  • "But almost immediately as you know, because he came here and we took a picture right there — you know, the support was very strong," he added, referring to a photo McCarthy took with Trump weeks after the insurrection in late January 2021.
  • "I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly," Trump said about McCarthy and other Republicans who initially criticized him after the insurrection but later returned to his side. "They realized they were wrong and supported me."
  • He added that he has had a "very good relationship" with McCarthy. "I like him. And other than that brief period of time, I suspect he likes me quite a bit."

The big picture: In the audio recording, McCarthy is heard speaking to other members of his leadership team, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

  • When Cheney asks if McCarthy thinks Trump might resign, he says, "[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."
  • After the New York Times reported on the call on Thursday, McCarthy denied that he'd said anything about urging Trump to resign and called the Times' story "totally false and wrong."
  • The two spoke over the phone on Friday. Trump did not seem upset about the contents of the tape and sounded thankful that McCarthy did not actually urge him to step down, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez and Jonathan Swan report.
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