House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, under scrutiny for saying after the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill that he would urge then-President Trump to resign, alluded to the turmoil during a speech Saturday night at the House of Representatives. California Republican Convention.
“While we’re going out to win this majority, they’re going to attack you, they’re going to attack me. They are going to attack President Trump,” he said, speaking of Republican goals of winning control of the House in the November election.
“They’re not just going to use the Democrats; they are also going to use the media,” he said. “We have to be united, and we have to be ready for it.”
The Bakersfield Republican’s speech to a friendly audience in Anaheim came after two tumultuous days, beginning with a New York Times report that he had told other GOP leaders in early 2021 that he planned to urge Trump to resign. McCarthy vehemently denied the report, calling him “totally false and incorrect” and denigrating reporters, but hours later, audio was released of him making such comments in a recorded call.
The 57-year-old Trump confidante was widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line to the presidency after the vice president, if the GOP takes control of the chamber in the November elections as anticipated.
However, questions about his prospects have been raised since the audio’s release, less because McCarthy’s denial was proven false and more because of 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 had gone after him. But without it, it’s hard 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 be grossly underestimating him if you said he is down.”
On Friday, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that while he was unhappy with McCarthy’s comments about the recording, their relationship was unscathed. McCarthy ultimately did not urge him to resign, Trump said, instead quickly turning to supporting the then-president.
Some say Trump’s words are a ploy to smooth things over until the election.
“MAGA-land is enraged… They are going to play well during the election, but Kevin McCarthy will not be Speaker of the House if the Republicans take back the House,” said a California Republican who is closely connected to the network. Trump, and that he requested anonymity to speak candidly about the situation.
“Wherever this leaked audio is coming from, it’s not good for Kevin,” the source added.
Representatives for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.
Also on Friday, facing questions after speaking to high school students in Kern County, McCarthy told reporters he was not a liar and had never asked the president to resign.
The article he called “false” did not say that he had asked Trump to resign, only that he had told other Republican leaders that he was considering doing so, as the recording confirmed.
“The only argument I would have with him is that I think [an impeachment resolution] would happen and it would be my recommendation that you resign ”, McCarthy says on the audio recording provided to MSNBC by reporters for the New York Times. “I want to say that would be my opinion, but I don’t think he would accept it. But I do not know.
For a party licking its wounds after a landslide defeat in the attempted impeachment of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, this weekend’s convention was supposed to be a moment of optimism. The walls were covered with campaign posters. Vendors sold hats with “Trump” spelled out in white rhinestones and bedazzled with American flags. They featured T-shirts featuring a Rosie the Riveter lookalike with a flag bandana in her hair and a “Trump” tattoo on her bicep. Drinks and food flowed freely in the candidates’ hospitality suites.
Delegate Gerri Grego of South Lake Tahoe said she was looking forward to meeting the candidates. “I find that very often when you meet someone in person, you get that internal confirmation about the person themselves and it helps guide you,” Grego said.
She was unaware of McCarthy’s rampage.
Stacie Lehfeldt, a guest at the Oakley convention, said she learned about the revelations Friday morning on television but said she needed to know more. “I try not to watch too much because the media is very liberal, one-sided,” she said.
“I heard something was going on, something he was supposed to have said, and it was on a recording, but I don’t trust anything they say. [is] recorded,” said the 55-year-old.
The GOP is expected to retake 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 often loses seats in the first midterm elections of an administration. Speaker after speaker at the convention pointed to these issues, as well as crime and homelessness, as reasons they were hopeful about the Republicans’ prospects, even in a state where they are vastly outnumbered by Democrats.
Culture war issues were also a constant theme. Speakers criticized transgender athletes, warned about what they called “indoctrination” of schoolchildren, and criticized what they saw as “critical race theory.”
“This is our destiny as Republicans: to fight the ‘awakening’ of evil,” said Eric Early, a candidate for attorney general.
The GOP’s efforts to win offices across the state of California are long shots, as Democrats held a nearly 23 percentage point lead in voter registration over Republicans as of March. But there could be good news for state Republicans after the election. If the GOP takes control of the House, McCarthy could take the speaker’s gavel from San Francisco Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is reviled among conservatives.
“Think if you’ll do it around this time next year. The Speaker of the House will be from California,” Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said to applause at a Friday night dinner. “Now for those of you who think he might be confused, he should have said that he will be from California… Good times are ahead. Never give up. Never give up.”
McCarthy was in the race for House speaker before, in 2015. But he dropped out of the race abruptly, saying he didn’t think he could unite the divided GOP.
The former state legislator, who was first elected to Congress in 2006, has been a controversial figure among California Republicans. He is popular with party leaders and elected officials in part because of his fundraising prowess. In the first three months of this year, McCarthy broke records by raising more than $31 million through his campaign committee, PAC leadership and various joint fundraising committees, according to the Federal Election Commission.
“When the Republicans take over the House, I have no doubt that he will be the next speaker of the House,” said state party chair Jessica Millan Patterson, a protégé of McCarthy. “He is an incredible leader. Not only do Californians need it right now, America needs it right now.”
But grassroots activists have long been unhappy with McCarthy’s efforts to influence who wins the party’s nominations and have been skeptical of his exact position, a conundrum exemplified by his relationship with Trump even before the audio surfaced. about resignation.
McCarthy was one of Trump’s earliest supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign and one of his most vocal and loyal supporters once he won office, leading Trump to affectionately label him “my Kevin.”
But McCarthy offered a dizzying series of statements after the insurrection: first he said that the then-president was to blame for the violence unleashed by his supporters, and then, days later, he contradicted himself by claiming that Trump’s rally speech on January 2021 did not prompt. the mob that invaded the United States 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 room, including hundreds of people who had paid $125 for dinner before his opening remarks. (Some had paid an additional $200 to attend a VIP reception and take a photo with McCarthy.)
The former president’s strength had helped keep the nation’s enemies “at bay,” McCarthy continued. “We know what it takes to get the job done. We are fighting alongside him.”