Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, told GOP lawmakers in the days following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that former President Donald J. Trump admitted he was wearing. “some responsibility” for what happened that day, new audio released Friday.
The audio obtained by The New York Times is part of a series of revelations about Trump’s private condemnations by Republican leaders in the days after his supporters stormed the Capitol.
Mr McCarthy’s claim would be the clearest indication yet that Mr Trump may have admitted some guilt for the murderous mob. The revelation comes as congressional investigators search for evidence of Mr Trump’s involvement in his supporters’ failed attempt to block official certification of his loss in the 2020 election.
“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 his actions,” McCarthy told House Republicans during the interview. a conference call on January 11. “No if, and or but.”
“I asked him personally today: is he responsible for what happened? said Mr. McCarthy. “Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me that he had some responsibility for what had happened and that he had to admit it.
Mr Trump did not respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with the Wall Street Journal On Friday, he said Mr McCarthy’s claim that he had accepted some responsibility for the attack was “false”.
The recording of the meeting was obtained in a feature for the upcoming book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.” The book, which details several private conversations between Republicans speaking derisively of the former president, quickly became an embarrassment and a potential political problem for Mr McCarthy.
On Thursday, the Times reported that Mr McCarthy told his management team he would call Mr Trump and urge him to resign. Mr McCarthy said he would inform Mr Trump of the impending impeachment resolution: “I think that will pass, and I would recommend that you resign.”
Mr McCarthy on Thursday called the report “totally untrue and misguided”, but the claim was quickly denied when the Times published a recording of the call hours later. On Friday, he repeated the lie, telling reporters in Ridgecrest, Calif., “I never thought he should quit.”
The revelation of Mr McCarthy’s dishonesty comes at a pivotal moment in the 57-year-old Republican leader’s rise to power. The Californian is expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans take control of the chamber after the midterm elections, an outcome considered highly likely by strategists from both parties. But he has long faced questions about his ability to manage the herd of unruly and ideologically divisive lawmakers that make up the House Republican conference.
Those lawmakers looked to Mr. Trump on Friday to guide their response. Mr. Trump and Mr. McCarthy spoke on Thursday evening, A conversation first reported by the Washington Post.
Privately, Mr. Trump enjoyed watching Mr. McCarthy’s misfortune, according to four people who had spoken to him about the episode and requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. He said the fact that Mr McCarthy never asked him to step down, and instead reaffirmed his dedication, only illustrated the former president’s hold on his party, they said.
“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal.
The former, and possibly future, Republican flag bearer has often been privately dismissive of Mr McCarthy. And it could serve Mr. Trump’s goals if Mr. McCarthy continues as a Republican House leader – but as a weakened figure even more tightly dependent on Mr. Trump’s approval.
Mr. McCarthy is already a fragile figure at the top of the House Republican conference, embraced by the party’s various factions more out of convenience than fierce loyalty. Still, few lawmakers took the opportunity to criticize him on Friday.
“He has broad conference support,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a former House GOP executive.
However, many lawmakers, lobbyists and aides in Washington were surprised at Mr. McCarthy’s negligence, disapproving, even in disbelief, of the idea that he would outright deny the comments he made in group.
The Aftermath of Capitol Riot: Key Developments
Signs of progress. the federal investigation in the January 6 attack seems to be is getting bigger. The Justice Department has brought in a top new prosecutor to help lead the investigation, while a high-profile witness – far-right broadcaster Alex Jones – is seeking an immunity deal to provide evidence. information.
Even his allies were worried about the casual way in which Mr McCarthy ignored the truth.
“Either you’re saying you don’t remember the conversation, or you’re not discussing private conversations and you’re disappointed in those leaking them,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who noted that did not think Mr. McCarthy was in danger.
Mr McCarthy made the recorded remarks in the chaotic days after the attack, as he charted a course forward with that team and sought to calm Republicans panicked by the potential political fallout.
“I know it’s not fun, I know it’s not great. … I don’t want to rush things, I want everyone to have all the information they need,” McCarthy said, according to an audio clip of a January 10 meeting with a small group of lawmakers, “I had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”
The following day, speaking to a wider group, Mr McCarthy appeared to be trying to reassure Republicans that Mr Trump understood the gravity of the moment and could come out of it conciliatory. It is difficult to assess the accuracy of Mr. McCarthy’s claim about Mr. Trump.
In the 15 months since the attack, Mr Trump has largely sought to deflect criticism when questioned publicly about his role. Earlier this month he said The Washington Post that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser were to blame for failing to secure the Capitol.
In this interview, Mr. Trump revealed that he had wanted to march to the Capitol on January 6.
“Secret Service said I couldn’t go,” he said. “I would have been there in a minute.”
This week was not the first time Mr McCarthy had not been fully honest about his private remarks.
Maggie Haberman contributed report.