Joining McCarthy on the call was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was then the third-ranking Republican. They briefly discussed the prospect of Trump’s Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment, which would allow Trump to be immediately removed from office, and McCarthy revealed he had spoken to Trump within the previous “couple days.”
A spokesperson for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The California Republican had responded to the reporting by Burns and Martin earlier in the day by calling it “totally false and wrong,” though his statement did not address specifics. Spokespeople for Cheney and the Jan. 6 select committee declined to comment.
The call underscores the degree to which GOP leaders were preparing to abandon Trump in the aftermath of the attack — only for McCarthy to rapidly veer back into Trump’s fold. McCarthy, who sharply denied plans to recommend Trump’s resignation before the tape was released, has since become one of Trump’s staunchest defenders and worked to stymie congressional investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. He warned tech companies of potential retaliation if they cooperated with House Jan. 6 investigators and he pulled the plug on the prospect of a 9/11-commission-style investigation of the attack, despite having deputized a Republican lawmaker who forged a bipartisan proposal.
For McCarthy, the appearance of the audio recording from the days following the attack could weigh on his bid to become the next speaker of the House, a possibility if Republicans retake the chamber, as they’re now favored to do.
Trump still commands great sway over House Republicans and his reaction to McCarthy’s newly public comments could ripple across the caucus, as well as among the candidates likely to help Republicans take control of the House next year.
It’s also a reminder that McCarthy rejected a call from the Jan. 6 select committee to describe his interactions with Trump on and shortly after Jan. 6. McCarthy at the time ripped the panel and said he had nothing new to add to what was already publicly known. The tape underscores that this was not the case.
The Jan. 6 committee’s letter inviting McCarthy to testify noted his public statements on the Capitol attack had “changed markedly” since he met with Trump on Jan. 28, 2021, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Congressional investigators sought to ask him whether Trump or his allies discussed what the Republican leader should say publicly about Jan. 6 during the impeachment trial or in later investigations.