Days after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Rep. Liz Cheney he thought President Donald Trump should resign, according to audio obtained by The New York Times and later aired by MSNBC on Thursday.
In the audio, dated Jan. 10, 2021, Cheney is heard asking McCarthy if he believes there’s “any chance” of Trump resigning.
“My gut tells me no. I am seriously thinking about having that conversation with him tonight,” McCarthy responds. He then talks about calling the former president and says he knows the then-impeachment resolution would pass in the House.
“The only discussion I would have with him is I think this (impeachment) will pass, and it would be my recommendation that he should resign,” he continues. “I mean, that would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”
The audio conversation contradicts earlier statements from McCarthy’s office – which originally denied that the Republican leader told colleagues about urging Trump to resign in face of possible impeachment. “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign,” McCarthy’s spokesperson Mark Bednar told The Times.
In a statement from McCarthy on Jan. 7, 2021, about the Capitol riot, McCarthy condemned “the violent mob that descended on the Capitol” and noted that “Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States.”
In an address Jan. 13, 2021, McCarthy noted that Trump “bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” and he added the president “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Still, he made no mention of resignation recommendations publicly.
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After The Times’ article on Thursday but before the audio recording was released, McCarthy issued a statement on Twitter saying the reporting was “totally false and wrong.”
The lawmaker added that the “corporate media is obsessed with doing everything it can to further the liberal agenda” and that “the past year and a half have proven that our country was better off when President Trump was in the White House.”
After the audio was aired for the first time on MSNBC, numerous Twitter users stressed that the statement didn’t “age well.”
“GOP *knows* Trump committed insurrection—yet still defend him over US Democracy,” author and attorney Qasim Rashid wrote on Twitter.
The account of McCarthy and Cheney’s phone call is part of The Times’ Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin’s upcoming book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.” Burns and Martin note that beyond Thursday’s revelations, there’s more they’ve uncovered.
“We have a lot more on tape from this period (following Jan. 6) … it is sensitive, it is delicate, and we have it all on tape,” Martin told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “It’s going to tell a very different story about this period than the story that many people are trying to tell right now.”
A spokesperson for Cheney confirmed to USA TODAY that the House select committee investigating the insurrection asked McCarthy to speak about the events, but he has declined. The spokesperson also confirmed that Cheney did not record or leak the tape – and doesn’t known how reporters obtained it.
USA TODAY has also reached out to McCarthy’s office for further comment.
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