House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told colleagues he would encourage President Donald Trump to resign in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, an audio recording released Thursday night by two reporters revealed.
Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin of The New York Times reported that McCarthy told members of his leadership team, including then-conference chairwoman Liz Cheney, that he would press Trump about resigning due to the likelihood of an impeachment effort. After McCarthy denied that he made the comments, the two reporters released an audio recording of the phone call to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“When we were talking about the 25th Amendment resolution, and you asked if, you know, what happens if it gets there after he’s gone, is there any chance, are you hearing, that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?” Cheney asked McCarthy in the recording.
“I’ve a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven’t talked to him in a couple of days. From what I know of him, I mean you guys know him too, do you think he’d ever back away? But, what I think I’m going to do, is I’m going to call him. This is what I think, we know it’ll pass the House,” McCarthy says in response.
“I think there’s a chance it’ll pass the Senate, even when he is gone. And I think there’s a lot of different ramifications for that,” he continues. “I do not want to get into any conversation about Pence pardoning. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that, I think this will pass. And it will be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take. But I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.”
A spokesperson for Cheney, who has since been removed from her leadership position, denied that she leaked the recording to the reporters. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Taps Liz Cheney To Serve On Jan. 6 Committee)
“Rep. Cheney did not record or leak the tape and does not know how the reporters got it,” the spokesperson said.
The Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has asked McCarthy to sit for an interview, although it is not expected to issue a subpoena compelling his testimony. Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the committee. Both were appointed to it by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
McCarthy is likely to mount a run for Speaker of the House if Republicans take back the lower chamber in the November midterms. Already facing criticism from some members of the Republican Conference over the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the newly-released remarks may further imperil his chances of reaching the top spot.
“While I was rallying in Wyoming against Liz Cheney … Kevin McCarthy was defending Liz Cheney among House Republicans … While Liz Cheney was secretly recording Kevin McCarthy for the New York Times,” Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted. “You should have trusted my instincts, not your own.”