Kevin McCarthy’s leaked anti-Donald Trump comments may give the ex-president ‘leverage’ over him: report

Kevin McCarthy’s leaked anti-Donald Trump comments may give the ex-president ‘leverage’ over him: report

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been in damage-control mode ever since the New York Times reported that following the January 6, 2021 insurrection, he privately called for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation during a January 10 phone conversation with Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Some pundits have speculated that audio of that conversation could permanently damage McCarthy’s relationship with Trump. But according to reporting in the Washington Post, some people in Trump World believe that the leaked audio is advantageous for Trump in that it gives him “leverage” over McCarthy.

In an article published on April 27, Post journalists Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Mike DeBonis report that according to sources “close to Trump,” the former president “sees the controversy” over the leaked January 10, 2021 recording “as increasing his leverage over the would-be House speaker.”

McCarthy, according to the Post reporters, has been trying to smooth things over with Trump following the release of that audio. And one of the Post’s sources, interviewed on conditioning of anonymity, said of Trump, “He will extract something from it, I’m sure of that. He will hold it over McCarthy.”

It's no secret that McCarthy is hoping to become House speaker if Republicans regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, which is a strong possibility in light of President Joe Biden’s weak approval ratings. And McCarthy is longing for Trump’s endorsement.

Some MAGA Republicans have been angrily railing against McCarthy in response to the January 10, 2021 audio, including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. But Dawsey, Scherer and DeBonis report that during a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday, April 27, more of them than not rallied to McCarthy’s defense.

“As he defended himself Wednesday at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans — saying his past comments were part of a ‘conversation about scenarios’ — he received a standing ovation, according to people present,” Dawsey, Scherer and DeBonis report. “The applause marked a moment of validation for the California Republican after a week of harried damage control that resulted in more statements of praise than criticism from fellow lawmakers and a clear nod of approval from Trump.”


McCarthy has a very different relationship with Trump than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has with the former president. Although McConnell avoids publicly criticizing Trump, the bad blood between Trump and the top Senate Republican is obvious — and Trump has been publicly railing against McConnell and calling for the Kentucky Republican to be ousted as GOP leader in the U.S. Senate.

But Trump isn’t publicly railing against McCarthy. He obviously realizes how badly McCarthy wants to be House speaker — assuming Republicans have a House majority in 2023 — and views McCarthy as someone who is willing to do his bidding.

Howard Kurtz, in an article published by right-wing Fox News’ website on April 28, notes that some Republicans have been criticizing McCarthy while others have defended him.

Kurtz points out that Carlson has said that if McCarthy became House speaker, “That would mean we would have a Republican Congress led by a puppet of the Democratic Party.” And Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona remarked, “Basically, negotiating with Liz Cheney on whether he should encourage President Trump to resign or not, becomes a huge, huge trust issue for me.”

“McCarthy has made a political calculation that being on Trump’s side is crucial to the party’s success,” Kurtz writes. “Most Republicans, fearing the former president may oppose their reelection, have made a similar bet, and therefore, have to maintain good ties with Trump. And as Trump insists that they side with his claims of a rigged election, that will be a significant issue this fall — despite what McCarthy and others said 16 months ago.”

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