On Monday, during a trip to the US-Mexico border, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked why he had lied about the idea of asking then-President Donald Trump to resign in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
“The reporter never asked me that question. The reporter came to me the night before he released the book. And my understanding was he was saying that I asked President Trump to resign. No, I never did. And that’s what I was answering. If you’re asking, now, did I tell my members that we’re gonna ask – ask them if I told any of them that I said President Trump – the answer is no. I’m glad you asked that question, but what’s more important than something that happened 15 months ago on a private conversation with about four other people is what’s happening here right now.”
Literal gibberish. (I listened to McCarthy’s answer about 15 times to try to understand what he was saying.)
Not only does McCarthy’s answer not make much sense, but it’s also factually inaccurate.
Let’s go back to what we know.
Last Thursday, The New York Times reported that McCarthy had told Republican colleagues in the aftermath of January 6 that he planned to advise Trump that he should resign.
Later that afternoon, McCarthy denied the report from New York Times reporters and authors of the forthcoming book “This Will Not Pass,” Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, calling it “totally false and wrong.”
And that evening, the Times reporters produced audio of McCarthy saying exactly what they had quoted him as saying about pushing Trump to resign.
So, McCarthy is dead to rights here. There’s no both sides of this debate. He said the Times report was totally wrong. They had audio of him saying that he told members of Republican leadership that he would tell Trump to resign.
To the extent that McCarthy has a strategy for how to deal with this mess, it appears to be one of obfuscation.
He mentions the timing of the request for comment as last minute. But why does when the question is asked impact how you answer it?
He says he misunderstood the question to be whether he had ever asked Trump to resign. But, that was clearly NOT the question. Burns and Martin reported that McCarthy had talked to Republicans about telling Trump he should resign. (Here’s exactly what the Times wrote: “Mr. McCarthy said he would tell Mr. Trump of the impeachment resolution: ‘I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign,’ he said, according to the recording of the call, which runs just over an hour.”)
McCarthy also suggests he didn’t discuss any of this with other members. But there is audio of him on a call with GOP leaders! Don’t they count?
And finally, McCarthy’s attempt to say this is all old news – and not as important as what’s happening at the border – sort of misses the point. We are talking about a violent insurrection at the US Capitol and the role the then-President played in it by making a series of false claims about the 2020 election. That’s pretty important stuff for, you know, democracy.
McCarthy, at least as of right now, appears to be skating by with Trump despite these latest revelations. But man, he’s not helping himself in terms of explaining his denial with answers like the one he gave Monday.