Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell Bashed Trump Then Cowered After Jan. 6 - Rolling Stone
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‘Take Care of the Son of a Bitch’: Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell Talked Tough About Trump After Jan. 6 … Then Cowered

The top Republicans in Congress wanted the former president out of office following the attack on the Capitol, according to a new report from The New York Times

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) U.S. President Donald Trump listen during a signing ceremony for H.R. 748, the CARES Act in the Oval Office of the White House on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $2 trillion stimulus bill that lawmakers hope will battle the the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: (L-R) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) U.S. President Donald Trump listen during a signing ceremony for H.R. 748, the CARES Act in the Oval Office of the White House on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $2 trillion stimulus bill that lawmakers hope will battle the the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Donald Trump listen during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House, on March 27, 2020.

Erin Schaff/Getty Images

A New York Times report published Thursday offers new details of a familiar storyline: Republicans who privately criticized Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection ultimately shying away from a public confrontation for fear of riling up or alienating his supporters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who reportedly pushed Trump to call off the attack on the Capitol as it was happening, told Republicans in the days following the attack that he planned to tell Trump to resign, as detailed in the new book This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future. “I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign,” McCarthy told colleagues he’d tell the president.

In a statement released Thursday, McCarthy denied the report, saying it was “totally false and wrong” — however, later that evening, the Times released audio of a phone conversation between McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) confirming the reporting, particular that McCarthy said he was going to suggest to Trump that he should resign. When asked by Cheney if he believed Trump would voluntarily resign, McCarthy hesitated. “My gut tells me no,” he said in the recording, noting he had not spoken with the then-president “in a couple of days.” He later posed a chilling rhetorical question to his fellow Republican: “Do you think he’d ever back away?” He went on to say what the Times reported he said, that he was going to tell Trump he should resign.

McCarthy’s comments came in the days following the attack, including on Jan. 10, as Congress debated impeaching Trump a second time. McCarthy also reportedly told Republicans that Trump “inciting people” to riot days earlier was “atrocious and totally wrong,” and that “nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it.”

McCarthy wasn’t the only Republican leader who wanted Trump out of office. “The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly told two advisers on Jan. 11, referring to the upcoming impeachment vote in the House. McConnell also allegedly told them he expected the Senate to convict Trump. “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” he said.

It was all talk, though.

McCarthy quickly softened his stance on the attack as it became clear the bulk of the party was still behind Trump. He even posed for a picture with Trump at Mar-a-Lago later the same month. McCarthy has since done what he can to stonewall the work of the Jan. 6 committee.

McConnell, after saying, “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” ultimately voted against impeaching Trump for inciting the attack. Jonathan Swan of Axios recently pressed McConnell about continuing to support Trump despite comments he made in the wake of Jan. 6. McConnell made clear that as the party goes, so too will he go, even if it means supporting someone he thinks is a danger to democracy. Trump, meanwhile, has bashed McConnell incessantly.

The report in the Times is the latest example of the fecklessness of Republican Party leaders in the face of the base’s unwavering support of the former president. The party brass, many of which were shocked by the attack last Jan. 6, have slowly come not only to accept that a mob of Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the democratic process, but to embrace it. The Republican National Committee in February described the attack as “legitimate political discourse.”

The description came in an official censure of Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Cheney for serving on the Jan. 6 committee. McConnell criticized the censure, calling the attack a “violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, after a legitimately-certified election, from one administration to the next.”

McConnell has said he will vote for Trump in 2024 should the party nominate him. McCarthy will likely do the same. “The past year and a half have proven that our country was better off when Trump was in the White House,” he wrote on Thursday.

UPDATE 10 p.m. EST April 21: This story has been updated to reflect the release of a phone conversation between Rep. McCarthy and Rep. Cheney, which McCarthy had previously denied.

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