WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spoke Sunday about the leaked audio in which Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and supporter of former President Donald Trump, is heard saying he would advise the former president to resign following the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
During an interview Sunday on CNN, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a staunch progressive, had harsh words about McCarthy.
“Kevin McCarthy is a liar and a traitor,” the Massachusetts senator told CNN’s Dana Bash. “Shame on Kevin McCarthy.”
The audio is part of a phone call between McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., that took place days after the insurrection. In the recording, which was first reported on by journalists for The New York Times and aired on MSNBC on Thursday, McCarthy is heard saying, “The only discussion I would have with (Trump) is I think this (impeachment) will pass, and it would be my recommendation that he should resign.”
The recording contradicts a prior statement from McCarthy’s spokesperson Mark Bednar, who told the Times, “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”
“That is really the illness that pervades the Republican leadership right now. That they say one thing to the American public and something else in private,” Warren told Bash.
GOP Sen. Roy Blunt gave his Republican colleague the benefit of the doubt. During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Blunt told host Kristen Welker that McCarthy may have been thinking out loud when he suggested resignation.
“My guess is you don’t remember every conversation you’re in exactly the way it occurred,” the Missouri senator said. “And maybe you remember it the way you want it to occur. But you know, I’m only one of two people in the history of the country who’ve been elected leaders in both the House and Senate. I’ve never been in a leadership meeting where you felt like you couldn’t think out loud. And apparently they have a leadership where you can’t think out loud.”
Blunt also said that suggesting Trump resign was not a “realistic suggestion” to make to a president with only 10 days left in his term.
Blunt was not the only lawmaker to propose that McCarthy was simply weighing his options. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told “Fox News Sunday” that the GOP leader “is in very good shape.”
“You have to put it in the context of when it was given. This was literally right after Jan. 6. It was a very dark day. It was a very shocking day. A lot of emotions flying high. What Kevin was doing was gaming out various options that hey, what if he got impeached in the House and then the Senate convicted? Would it be better for him to resign prior to that? But the fact is, he never had that conversation with President Trump,” McCaul said.
The Texas Republican also said McCarthy is focused on taking back the House.
“He has worked tirelessly to get the majority back. I can tell you the support in the conference is very strong for him and this is a little Beltway bubble blitz, if you will. I don’t think it’s going to have any long term consequences.”
Before the call recording was released, McCarthy posted a statement on Twitter Thursday calling The Times’ reporting “totally false and wrong.”
McCarthy, who hopes to someday become speaker of the House, has rushed to contain the damage from the released phone recording. The House GOP leader continues to publicly support Trump.
Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.