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Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Political Future Is in Trump’s Hands

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Political Future Is in Trump’s Hands
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s political future is now in the hands of one man: Former President Donald Trump. After audio surfaced in which the House minority leader was heard criticizing Trump shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building, some are wondering whether his chances for becoming Speaker of the House are in jeopardy.

McCarthy has received much criticism from the right for his seeming duplicity. In the aftermath of the riot, he insinuated that the former president bore “some” responsibility for the violence, but would not go as far as to lay the blame at his feet. He also opposed the second effort to impeach Trump.

The New York Times published a piece including the audio recording of his conversation with Rep. Liz Cheney (RINO-WY), Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (RINO-KY), and other high-profile Republicans shortly after the unrest at the Capitol occurred. The discussions are also included in an upcoming book that covers the incident. From The Times:

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.

Mr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.

During the conversation, McCarthy indicated he would try to persuade Trump to resign to avoid being impeached. He said he would call the former president and tell him “it would be my recommendation you should resign.”

Several conservatives took to social media to bash McCarthy for his seeming willingness to turn on Trump. Others took issue with the fact that he did not actually go through with the plan.

Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash tweeted:

I met a lot of duplicitous people in Congress but none more conniving and fundamentally dishonest than Kevin McCarthy. He will say or do whatever he thinks is necessary at a particular moment to obtain or maintain power.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz also chimed in:

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. @GOPLeader – you should have trusted my instincts, not your own.

Right-leaning influencer Mike Cernovich also gave his two cents, arguing that conservatives should no longer support the House minority leader:

The future Speaker of the House, Trump ally and Luntz roommate, is on audio saying Trump should have resigned on January 6th.

You MAGA rubes will still support Kevin McCarthy.

“People change, man, he learned his lesson.”

You are utterly embarrassing people.

McCarthy’s relationship with Trump has been different from other establishment GOP figures. Unlike McConnell, Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), he has not been antagonistic toward the former president. As RedState’s Jennifer Oliver O’Connell pointed out:

Many Republicans and Trump supporters have had their doubts about Leader Kevin McCarthy’s allegiance to Trump and his America First agenda. While the tortured relationship between Mitch McConnell and Trump has played out loud and clear, McCarthy has walked a fine line between staying in the good graces of the former president, and working with McConnell toward unifying the Republican message and its goals for the Congress.

By staying in Trump’s good graces, McCarthy has not met with ardent resistance from the base, which has tolerated him while still giving him the side-eye. This newly-released audio, for many, will be a confirmation of their suspicions, which could prevent him from being chosen as speaker when the GOP retakes the House. However, if Trump is willing to throw him a lifeline, the lawmaker might just get what he wants after all. In fact, there are indications the former president will do just that.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump and McCarthy spoke during a phone call, and the conversation seemingly went well.

From the report:

Trump was not upset about McCarthy’s remarks and was glad the Republican leader didn’t follow through, which Trump saw as a sign of his continued grip on the Republican Party, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.

But House Republicans are still waiting for a firm statement from Trump, according to multiple GOP aides, on how to determine whether they should still back McCarthy as their leader and potential speaker if the GOP regains the majority in the November election.

A Republican congressional aide told The Post that the former president will have a great deal of influence on how things proceed with McCarthy going forward.

“If Trump comes out and says [McCarthy] lost my faith and can’t be speaker, that is bold. That will move people. If he puts out a statement complaining — he complains about McConnell all the time and hasn’t threatened his position in leadership,” he said.

If Trump truly is not concerned about McCarthy’s comments and is willing to say so publicly, the lawmaker’s ambitions might be safe. Even though the base might not be entirely satisfied, they will probably still follow the former president’s lead. He still wields tremendous influence on the right, and this will count for quite a bit.

However, if Trump changes his mind and uses his bully pulpit to slam McCarthy, all bets are off. The lawmaker’s hopes for becoming the leader of the party in the House will go the way of CNN+.

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