The House’s Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, under the microscope for saying after the Capitol riot on January 6 that he would urge then-President Trump to resign, alluded to the unrest during a speech Saturday night at the California GOP Convention.
“When we go out to serve this majority, they will attack you, they will attack me. They are going to attack President Trump,” he said, referring to the GOP aiming to gain control of the House in the November election.
“They will not only use the Democrats; they will also use the media,” he said. “We must be united and we must be prepared for that.”
The Bakersfield Republican’s speech in front of a friendly audience in Anaheim came after two tumultuous days, starting with a New York Times report that he had told other GOP leaders in early 2021 that he planned to urge Trump to step down back. McCarthy vehemently denied the report, call it “Completely false and wrong” and degrading the journalists, but hours later sound was released by him with such comments on a recorded call.
The 57-year-old Trump trustee is widely expected to become the next spokesman in Parliament – second in line to the post of vice president – if the GOP takes control of the chamber in the November election as expected.
However, questions have been swirling about his prospects since the release of the sound – less because McCarthy’s denial turned out to be false and more about speculation about Trump’s reaction to the revelations. Some say McCarthy’s fate depends entirely on the former president.
‘The potential threat to McCarthy would have been if Trump went fully against him. But without it, it is difficult for opponents to use it. He has been very resilient and survived attacks in the past, “said Matt Shupe, chairman of the Contra Costa County Republican Party. “You would grossly underestimate him for saying he’s down and out.”
On Friday, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that although he was not happy with McCarthy’s comments on the recording, their relationship was unharmed. McCarthy had ultimately not urged him to stop, Trump said, but had instead quickly turned to support the then president.
Some say Trump’s words are a ploy to level the playing field ahead of the election.
“MAGA country is furious … They’re going to play nicely through the election, but Kevin McCarthy will not be Speaker of Parliament if Republicans win the House back,” said a California Republican who is close. tied to the Trump network, and who asked for anonymity to honestly discuss the situation.
“Wherever this leaked sound came from, it’s not good for Kevin,” the source added.
Trump representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Also Friday, when faced with questions after speaking with high school students in Kern County, McCarthy told reporters he was not a liar and said he had never asked the president to resign.
The article he called “fake” did not say he had asked Trump to resign – only that he had told other Republican leaders he was considering doing what the recording confirmed.
‘The only discussion I would have with him is, I think [an impeachment resolution] would pass, and it would be my recommendation that you step down, ” says McCarthy in the audio recording provided to MSNBC by New York Times reporters. “I mean, that would be my bid, but I do not think he would take it. But I do not know.”
For a party licking its wounds after a crushing defeat in last year’s attempt to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, this weekend’s convention should be a moment of optimism. The walls were plastered with campaign signs. Sellers threw hats with “Trump” spelled in white rhinestones and dazzled with American flags. They showed T-shirts with a Rosie the Riveter-like character with a flag bandana in her hair and “Trump” tattooed on her biceps. Drinks and food flowed freely in the candidates’ hospitality suites.
Delegate Gerri Grego from South Lake Tahoe said she was most looking forward to meeting candidates. “I find that quite often, when you meet someone in person, you get the inner confirmation or not about the person yourself, and it helps you guide you,” Grego said.
She was unaware of the McCarthy uprising.
Stacie Lehfeldt, a congressman from Oakley, said she heard about the revelations Friday morning on television, but said she needed to learn more. “I try not to watch too much because the media is so liberal, one-sided,” she said.
“I heard something was going on, something he was supposed to say, and it was on a recording, but I do not trust anything they say. [is] busy, ”said the 55-year-old.
The GOP is expected to regain control of Congress due in part to rising inflation and President Biden’s low approval ratings, and because the party that controls the White House typically loses seats in the first midterm elections of an administration. Speech after speech at the Convention pointed to these issues, as well as crime and homelessness, as reasons why they were hopeful about the Republicans’ prospects, even in a state where they are far outnumbered by Democrats.
Cultural war issues were also a constant theme. Speakers criticized transgender athletes, warned of what they said was “indoctrination” of school children, and rejected what they considered to be “critical race theory.”
“This is our destiny as Republicans: to fight the evil ‘awakened,'” said Eric Early, a candidate for justice.
The GOP’s efforts to win state-owned offices in California are long shots, with Democrats with a nearly 23 percentage point lead in voter registration compared to Republicans from March. But there may be good news for state Republicans after the election. If the GOP takes control of the house, McCarthy could take the speaker’s hammer from San Francisco’s Democratic rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is reviled among conservatives.
“Think if you will by this time next year. The speaker in Parliament will be from California,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina to applause at a Friday night dinner. “Now, to those of you who think I may be confused, I should have said he wants to be from California … Good times are coming. Never give up. Never surrender.”
McCarthy was in the running for the House speaker before, in 2015. But he suddenly dropped out of the race, saying he did not believe he could unite the divided GOP.
The former state legislator, who was first elected to Congress in 2006, has been a controversial figure among Republicans in California. He is popular with party leadership and elected officials in part because of his ability to raise money. In the first three months of this year, McCarthy broke records by raising more than $ 31 million through his campaign committee, management PAC and several joint fundraising committees, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“Once the Republicans occupy Parliament, I have no doubt he will be the next speaker in Parliament,” said State Party President Jessica Millan Patterson, a McCarthy protégé. “He’s a great leader. Not only do Californians need him right now – America needs him right now.”
But grassroots activists have long been dissatisfied with McCarthy’s efforts to influence who wins party nominations, and skeptical of exactly where he stands – a riddle exemplified by his relationship with Trump, even before the sound of resignation surfaced.
McCarthy was among Trump’s earliest supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign and his most vocal and loyal defenders when he won office, prompting Trump to affectionately describe him as “my Kevin.”
But McCarthy offered a staggering set of statements after the uprising: first saying that the then president was to blame for the violence his supporters unleashed, and then days later contradicting himself by claiming that Trump’s January 6, 2021 demonstration speech did not encourage the mob that invaded the US Capitol that day.
At the Anaheim Convention, McCarthy repeatedly praised Trump.
“President Trump helped build the strongest economy in our nation’s history,” McCarthy told a packed and appreciative venue, which included hundreds who had paid $ 125 for the dinner before his keynote address. (Some had paid $ 200 extra to attend a VIP reception and take a picture with McCarthy.)
The former president’s strength had helped keep the nation’s enemies “at a distance,” McCarthy continued. “We know what it takes to get the job done. We’ll fight with him.”