New audio clips reveal that the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, held Donald Trump responsible in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot, and that Trump himself accepted “some responsibility” for the insurrection.
The explosive clips were released by the New York Times on Thursday and Friday after an earlier report said McCarthy and the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, initially believed Trump to be responsible for the attack, and both privately expressed anger against him.
Speaking in Seattle on Friday, Joe Biden addressed the reports.
“This ain’t your father’s Republican party,” the president said. “All you got to do is look what’s being played out this morning, the tape that was released …
“This is the Maga [Make America Great Again] party now … these guys are a different breed of cat. They’re not like those I served with [in the US Senate] for so many years, and the people who know better are afraid to act better because they know they’ll be primaried.
“They come to me and say: ‘Joe, I want to be with you on such and such but I can’t because I’ll be primaried, I’ll lose my race.’ Folks, this has got to start to change.”
In one released clip, from a 10 January 2021 call with House GOP leaders, McCarthy can be heard answering a question from the Wyoming representative Liz Cheney, who had a leadership role at the time. Cheney asked McCarthy if he believed Trump would resign if Congress passed a 25th amendment resolution, which would declare Trump incapable of holding office.
“My gut tells me no. I am seriously thinking about having that conversation with him tonight,” he said. “The only discussion I would have with him is I think [the resolution] will pass, and it would be my recommendation that he should resign.
“That would be my take, but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”
In a second clip from 11 January, McCarthy can be heard detailing a conversation with Trump where he asked the former president if he believed he had any responsibility for the attack.
McCarthy says: “Well, let me be very clear to all of you, and I’ve been very clear to the president: he bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands or buts. I asked him personally today, ‘Does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened?’ He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he needs to acknowledge that.”
McCarthy did not immediately respond to the release of the audio clips. Nor did Trump, though the Washington Post reported that the two men had spoken. Trump, the paper said, was “not upset about McCarthy’s remarks and … glad the Republican leader didn’t follow through” on his threat to demand Trump’s resignation, “which Trump saw as a sign of his continued grip on the Republican party”.
A spokesperson for Cheney said she did not release the tape and did not know who leaked it.
In a statement on Thursday, before the clip was released, McCarthy made a blanket denial of the Times report saying that it is “totally false and wrong”.
“It comes as no surprise that the corporate media is obsessed with doing everything it can to further the liberal agenda,” he said. “The corporate media is more concerned with profiting from manufactured political intrigue from politically-motivated sources.
“Our country has suffered enough under failed one-party Democrat rule, and no amount of media ignorance and bias will stop Americans from delivering a clear message this fall that it is time for change.”
The Times story, reporting for which comes from an upcoming book. This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future, by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, detailed scathing comments against Trump Republican leaders made in the days after the Capitol insurrection.
McCarthy reportedly told colleagues in private: “I’ve had it with this guy,” adding: “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend it and nobody should defend it.”
McConnell reportedly told senior advisers: “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.
“The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” McConnell said, according to the book.
Although McConnell criticized Trump publicly for his role in the attack, he voted to acquit the former president in his impeachment trial. He also said he would support Trump should Trump be the 2024 Republican nominee.
McCarthy, for his part, did a more complete about-face: he has claimed Trump was unaware of the attack until McCarthy told him it was happening. McCarthy has also condemned the special House panel that is investigating the insurrection and refused to cooperate with its inquiry on conversations he had with Trump after the attack.