By Terrance Turner
April 21, 2022
Tonight, a dramatic new development:
A new book reveals that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was planning to ask then-president Donald Trump to resign after the deadly Capitol riot on January 6. Audio of McCarthy’s remarks was revealed tonight on “The Rachel Maddow Show”.
Tonight, Maddow announced that MSNBC has obtained a copy of “This Will Not Pass,” a new book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. The book recounts how top Republicans in Congress reacted (and deliberated) after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump addressed his supporters at a rally, ahead of a congressional vote that would cement the victory of his opponent Joe Biden. (Mr. Biden won the 2020 election, defeating Trump by more than six million votes.) During that Jan. 6 rally, he repeated a variety of false claims. “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide,” he lied. “They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.”
He encouraged the crowds to march on the Capitol in protest of what he insisted was a “stolen” election: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” He spoke to the misplaced anger and victimhood the supporters felt, inflaming it further: “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore […] You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”
Those words would inspire an aggrieved, bloodthirsty mob to storm the Capitol in what they believed was a stolen election. The result was a day of violent destruction that led to Trump being impeached (again), this time for incitement of insurrection.
“Incited by President Trump, a mob unlawfully breached the Capitol, injured law enforcement, menaced members of Congress and the Vice President [and] engaged in violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts,” the Article of Insurrection read. Indeed, the mob stormed the steps, forced their way into the building, and even scuffled with law enforcement (on video!).
They climbed the walls and broke glass windows. They trespassed into government offices and put their feet up on desks; they vandalized doors and even stole furniture. In the end, five people died in the melee that day, including a Capitol Police officer.
Appalled by the violence, both McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to take action. On January 11, McConnell shared lunch with a pair of longtime advisers, Terry Carmack and Scott Jennings. Inside Jennings’ Louisville office, McConnell outlined what he saw as Trump’s imminent political demise.
“The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a b—h for us,” McConnell said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s determination to bring impeachment charges that very week. (She did: by that point, in fact, impeachment articles had already been introduced.) Additionally, he told advisers that “there would be at least seventeen Senate Republicans ready to affirm Trump’s impeachment. supplying the two-thirds vote needed to convict.
“If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” McConnell said.
McCarthy’s reaction was even stronger. “I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy reportedly told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times. Burns and Martin say:
“On January 10, McCarthy convened a smaller group of House Republican leaders to share this; tanking. Speaking with just three other top Republicans on a private call, McCarthy said he might call on Trump to resign. He conferred for more than 45 minutes with Scalise, Liz Cheney, and Tom Emmer, the Minnesota lawmaker who led the House Republicans’ campaign committee. The usually upbeat McCarthy was audibly anguished. The gravity of the attack was still sinking in, and it seemed increasingly clear to him that he had to break with Trump. It was finally time to end their alliance.
His plan, McCarthy said on the January 10 call, was to approach Trump and tell him it was inevitable that Congress would impeach him and it was time for him to go. He envisioned telling Trump of an impeachment resolution: “I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”From “This Will Not Pass”
A spokesman flatly denied all of this. “Mr. McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign,” said Mark Bednar. Asked by NBC News whether he had said he would ask Trump to resign, the spokesman said, “No, he did not.” McCarthy went even further in a statement on Twitter: “The New York Times’ reporting on me is totally false and wrong.”
Maddow Pushes Back
“The problem with these denials from McCarthy and his office is that we have now obtained audio of that January 10 phone call that Leader McCarthy held with other top Republicans,” Maddow said. She explained that the book’s authors (Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin) have shared audio of the call with MSNBC.
On the call, McCarthy is heard discussing with Cheney and Scalise the possibility of Trump resigning. Cheney brings up the possibility of the 25th Amendment and asks if McCarthy thinks Trump might resign: “Is there any reason to think that might happen?”
“My gut tells me no,” McCarthy said. “I’m seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven’t talked to him in a couple days. From what I know of him — I mean you guys all know him too; do you think he’d ever back away? — but what I think I’m going to do is, I’m going to call him.”
McCarthy therorizes that the impeachment resolution might pass the House and even the Senate — even after Trump left office. He says he is concerned about the potential of then-vice president Mike Pence pardoning Trump; McCarthy didn’t want to talk about that. The only thing he would want to talk to Trump about, McCarthy says, is resignation.
“I do not want to get into any conversation about Pence pardoning. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”
“That would be my take,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know.” Somehow, McCarthy now categorically denies what he clearly said on tape. Maddow noted: “He denied that he said he would tell Trump to resign. He in fact said exactly that.”
After dismantling McCarthy’s denials, Maddow invited Burns and Martin on the show. Maddow asked if she had gotten any of the details from the book wrong. Martin answered: “No, I think you very much captured it.” He added: “This is only the start. We have captured some of the most intimate and sensitive conversations in the extraordinary period following January 6th — on tape. And there is much more to come between now and when the book is out on May 3rd.”
“So just underscore this, just to be clear. Mr. McCarthy and his office have denied that he said he was going to call Trump and tell him to resign. You have it on tape. We just, heard that he in fact said that. He is also today denying that he called for members of his own caucus, other House Republicans to have their social media access called off. You also got that on tape?”
Martin answered, “That is correct, and we have a lot more on tape from this period, which is at the highest levels of American politics. It is sensitive, it is delicate, and it’s high stakes. We have it all on tape, and it’s going to tell a very different story about this period, that the story that many people are trying to tell right now.”
(April 22, 2022): Breaking News: The New York Times has obtained new audio of McCarthy telling Republican lawmakers that Donald Trump admitted bearing some responsibility for the Capitol riot. “But let me be very clear to all of you, and I’ve been very clear to the president. He bears responsibility for his words and actions. No ifs, ands, or buts. I asked him personally today: does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he need[s] to acknowledge that.”
“This is a significant revelation,” said Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona this morning. “We reported at CNN on that phone call where McCarthy told House Republicans that Trump had admitted some responsibility for the attack. We reported on that earlier this year. But at a press conference when he was asked about it, McCarthy said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Additionally, CNN played audio that backs up the New York Times’ reporting. On the audio, a frustrated McCarthy exclaims: “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”