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Everything we know about Kevin McCarthy’s conversations with Trump concerning the Jan. 6 attacks

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and former president Donald Trump have expanded in recent months on what they said during their Jan. 6 call. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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As the top House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) talked quite a bit with President Donald Trump during and after the attack on the Capitol. That’s why the House’s Jan. 6 committee wants to talk to him.

But much of what McCarthy allegedly said to Trump has been reported only secondhand. The committee wants to hear from McCarthy himself about these high-level conversations that took place during the riot and after. It’s not clear they’re going to be able to.

What, exactly, do we know about those conversations, and how could they be helpful to the committee’s investigation of that day?

Here’s a timeline, based in part on news reports but also McCarthy’s own words at the time — he was quite forthcoming in the days after the attack about his conversations with Trump. Today, he is claiming ignorance about much of this.

Jan. 6: A heated call during the attack

McCarthy said he was the first person to talk to Trump during the riot. And from what we know about that conversation, it was intense — Punchbowl News reported that McCarthy and Trump were screaming at each other as McCarthy asked the president to call off the rioters. They reported that Trump offered to send a tweet, and McCarthy said that wasn’t good enough.

“I was very clear with the president when I called him,” McCarthy told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell in an interview during the attack. “This has to stop, and he has to go to the American public and tell them to stop this.”

Trump seemed adamant about not doing what McCarthy asked. “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he said, according to a GOP member of Congress, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), who recounted McCarthy’s account to her of what happened.

A year later, McCarthy re-characterized the call as much more benign. “My conversation was very short, advising the president what was happening here,” he told reporters this week about it.

Jan. 11: McCarthy has a lengthy, emotional conversation with Trump

In this call, McCarthy said that Trump accepted some responsibility for the riot. “He told me personally that he does have some responsibility. I think a lot of people do,” McCarthy said of the call in a local radio interview at the time, an interview re-upped Friday by CNN.

Shortly after his call with Trump, McCarthy told Republican lawmakers about it in a private call that same day, Politico reported at the time. It reported that McCarthy said he “urged Trump to call up Biden and congratulate him for his win.”

“I asked him personally today if he holds responsibility for what happened. If he feels bad about what happened. He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. But he needs to acknowledge that,” CNN reports McCarthy told Republican lawmakers.

McCarthy told the Bakersfield newspaper, the Californian, that he urged Trump in this call to accept that he lost the election. “Stop this!” he recounted telling the president, adding that he also pushed back on Trump describing the attackers as left-wing antifa: “The president said there was some antifa there. I said, ‘No, the people arrested, they’re MAGA.’ ”

The Jan. 6 committee says this call also may have veered into what could happen to Trump as punishment: “It appears that you may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face a censure resolution, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment.” They say this call in particular can lend insight into Trump’s “state of mind” after the attack.

This is a really key moment in the timeline. If Trump accepted some responsibility for the attack, even privately, it could dent the narrative he has built up since. Trump has spent the past year more or less defending the attackers, saying the “real insurrection” happened on Election Day, when he lost reelection.

But McCarthy now says he doesn’t remember such a remarkable call. “I’m not sure what call you’re talking about,” he told reporters this week. (CNN quickly re-upped audio of him recounting the call days afterward.)

And it didn’t seem to have an impact on Trump publicly at the time. A day after he ostensibly accepted some responsibility to McCarthy, Trump told reporters that the speech he gave to the attackers before they entered the Capitol was “totally appropriate.”

Around the same time as that Jan. 11 call

As Congress geared up to impeach Trump over the attack, McCarthy asked fellow Republicans if they thought he should call on Trump to resign, the New York Times reported at the time. Lots of publications reported that McCarthy brought up the idea of at least a historic censure of the president.

McCarthy dismissed — but didn’t outright deny — that reporting in his interview with the Californian. “I do not think the president will step down, even if somebody asked him,” he said.

Jan. 28: A private meeting at Mar-a-Lago

Days after Trump left office, McCarthy visited the former president in Florida. And this is where the tables seem to have turned, the committee suggests: “Your public statements regarding January 6 have changed markedly since you met with Trump,” the committee says of McCarthy, pointing out that his criticism of the president shifted into defending his response.

The committee even broaches the idea that Trump engaged in witness tampering in this meeting, notes The Post’s Aaron Blake. The impeachment trial was coming, and McCarthy would have been a key witness (lawmakers ultimately decided not to call them).

That spring in an interview with then-Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, McCarthy denied ever being coerced by Trump on what to say about their calls about the attack. “Never even close,” he said.