Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Speaks on the select committee Jan. 6 at Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | Washington Post | Getty Images
Rep. Liz Cheney on Friday refused to record or leak audio from a phone call that appears to show House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he would ask then-President Donald Trump to resign after the January 6 Capitol riot .
Part of that call, dated January 10, 2021, was broadcast Thursday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Hours earlier, McCarthy denied having said he would ask Trump to resign.
In the audio clip, one can hear the Californian Republican tell Cheney, R-Wyo., That he thought Trump would be sued in Parliament and possibly convicted in the Senate after the riots on January 6th.
“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it will be my recommendation that you step down,” McCarthy said according to the recording.
Later Friday, news outlets broadcast a separate audio clip of McCarthy from Jan. 11, 2021. In it, McCarthy tells top Republicans in the House of Representatives that Trump admitted he bears some responsibility for the Capitol riot.
“What he did is unacceptable. No one can defend it and no one should defend it,” McCarthy said according to the latest recording.
The statements came days after a crowd of Trump supporters, spurred on by the then president’s false claims that widespread fraud cost him the 2020 election, stormed the Capitol and disrupted lawmakers’ confirmation of President Joe Biden’s victory.
A spokesman for Cheney, one of two Republicans in Parliament’s select committee investigating the Capitol riot, said in a statement Friday morning that the congresswoman “did not record or leak the tape and does not know how the journalists got it.”
“The select committee has asked Kevin McCarthy to speak to us about these events, but he has so far declined,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. The spokesman also did not immediately explain the contradiction between McCarthy’s recorded remarks and an earlier statement from the legislature’s office that denied that McCarthy said he would pressure Trump to step down.
The bombings could threaten McCarthy’s hopes of becoming Speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans regain control of the House in the midterm elections in 2022. The vast majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives – who would vote on whether McCarthy should be made a spokesman – have remained loyal to for Trump.
Although he lost the 2020 election to Biden and continued to spread conspiracy theories to suggest that the race was swindled against him, Trump is the most popular figure in the GOP and its de facto leader. He has indicated he will run for president again in 2024.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that McCarthy and other GOP leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, initially promised to kick Trump out of politics after the January 6 riots. They quickly backed up for fear of retaliation from Trump and his supporters, according to the newspaper.
“I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy told a group of Republican leaders in the days after the attack, according to the Times. The newspaper’s report is based on details from the forthcoming book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future,” by Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, who have grabbed McCarthy’s audiotape.
In a call with top Republicans – apparently the same call where one of the audio clips came from – McCarthy also speculated loudly about whether technology companies could suspend some Republican lawmakers’ accounts on social media, the Times reported.
“Can’t they also take away their Twitter accounts?” he allegedly asked.
McCarthy issued a statement Thursday calling the Times’ reporting of him “totally false and wrong.” He accused the “corporate media” of promoting a “liberal agenda” and added that the Biden presidency had shown that the United States “was better off when President Trump was in the White House.”
The Times’ report also includes a denial from McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar, who claimed the GOP leader “never said he would call Trump to say he should resign.”
But the audio clip shared Thursday night seems to contradict this claim.
In the recording, Cheney referred to the 25th Amendment – a constitutional process to remove a president from office. She then asked McCarthy, “What happens if it gets there after he leaves? Is there any chance? Do you hear he can resign? Is there any reason to believe it can happen?”
McCarthy replied, “I’ve had a few discussions. My gut feeling says no. I’re seriously considering having that conversation with him tonight. I haven’t talked to him in a few days.”
McCarthy said he doubted Trump would agree to step aside. He added that a federal action against Trump would certainly pass Parliament and likely the Senate, even if the final vote came after Trump was due to leave office on January 20, 2021.
“But what I think I want to do is I call him,” McCarthy said. “There are many different consequences for that.”
“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass and it will be my recommendation that you step down,” McCarthy said. “Uh, I mean, that would be my bid, but I do not think he would take it. But I do not know.”
On Friday, Martin and Burns appeared on CNN, where they shared another clip of McCarthy talking to Republican leaders in the House of Representatives shortly after the riot.
“Let me be very clear to all of you, and I am very clear to the President. He bears responsibility for his words and actions, no if, and and but,” McCarthy said in the January 11, 2021 recording, which was also obtained by MSNBC.
“I asked him personally today if he is responsible for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he has some responsibility for what happened. And he had to to recognize, “McCarthy said.
“I know this is not fun. I know it’s not great. I know it’s very hard, but what I want to do, especially through here, is that I do not want to rush things,” McCarthy added. .
“I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. No one can defend it and no one should defend it,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Less than three weeks after the calls, McCarthy traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort home in Palm Beach, Florida, to discuss political strategies for the 2022 mid-term period.
The House accused Trump of inciting rebellion during his last days in office. Only 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted in favor of a federal lawsuit.
The Senate acquitted Trump after Biden’s inauguration. McCarthy and McConnell both voted against the federal court effort.
Cheney was a member of McCarthy’s leadership team at the time of the call. Republicans removed her from the post last year after she voted to put Trump on trial and criticized him for his role in the Capitol attack.