Earlier Thursday, after The Times published its initial story describing the conversation, McCarthy released a statement calling it “totally false and incorrect.” His spokeswoman, Mark Bednar, had told the newspaper: “McCarthy never said he would call Trump to tell him he should resign.”
Bednar did not immediately respond to questions Thursday night after the audio was released. Representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the tape.
The audio threatens to severely damage the relationship between McCarthy and Trump, who remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party, despite his role in inciting the January 6 uprising and his refusal to accept the election results. of 2020. And it could threaten McCarthy’s standing with House Republicans and his hopes of becoming speaker next year.
The audio shows a very different McCarthy from the one who has been ruling House Republicans for the past year and a half and who has remained allied with Trump even after delivering a House speech shortly after January 6, during which his caucus told Trump “bears responsibility” for the violence.
Since the attack, the California Republican has continued to distance himself from any criticism of Trump and has avoided directly linking him to what happened. Instead, McCarthy has reached out to Trump, visiting him at the former president’s Florida residence at Mar-a-Lago.
Thursday’s Times report was adapted from an upcoming book, ” this will not happen: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
In the audio, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost her No. 3 leadership position after voting to impeach Trump, can be heard asking McCarthy about a 25th Amendment resolution calling for the impeachment of Trump. Trump and if Trump could resign.
“I have had some discussions. My instinct tells me no. I’m seriously thinking about having that conversation with him tonight,” McCarthy is heard saying. “What I think I’m going to do is call him.”
“I think it will happen and it would be my recommendation that he resign,” he adds later. “I mean, that would be my opinion, but I don’t think he would accept it. But I do not know.
McCarthy, 57, has been strategically charting his own delicate course as he positions himself to try to take over as president if Republicans retake the House in this year’s midterm elections. McCarthy has begun building his leadership team and last summer he tasked various groups of Republican lawmakers to draft proposals on the party’s top legislative priorities in hopes of getting off to a fast start in 2023.
But even as he inched closer to leading the chamber, McCarthy has tasted the downsides of power in recent months, as far-right members of the conference have created headaches with inflammatory actions and statements.
In an interview this week in California, McCarthy said he’s still relying on Trump to attract voters this fall, even as he charts a different course for his party as it tries to regain a House majority.
“It’s going to motivate, it’s going to get a lot of people out,” McCarthy told The Associated Press at a Republican rally in Fresno.
There was little immediate reaction Thursday night from other Republicans who could determine his future.
McCarthy has also been a person of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on Capitol Hill. The select committee, which Cheney chairs, requested an interview with McCarthy in mid-January, hoping to learn more about his conversations with Trump “before, during and after” the riot.
They had also sought information about McCarthy’s communications with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days before the attack. Hours after the request was made, McCarthy released a statement saying he would refuse to cooperate because he believed the investigation was not legitimate and accused the panel of “abuse of power.”
The committee has focused particularly on McCarthy’s communications with Trump and White House staff in the week after the violence, including a conversation with Trump that was reportedly heated.
Without his cooperation, it is unclear whether the panel will be able to obtain testimony from McCarthy or any other Trump ally in Congress. While the committee has considered subpoenaing other lawmakers, it has so far avoided doing so, as it would be an extraordinary move and could face legal and political challenges.