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McCarthy dodges questions about audio, Trump and Jan. 6

A report said that McCarthy told fellow Republicans that he would call Trump and ask him to resign following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) disembarks a U.S. Border Patrol air boat on Monday in Eagle Pass, Tex. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday continued to dodge questions about a report that he had told fellow Republicans he would call President Donald Trump and tell him to resign in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

New York Times reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, last week released excerpts from their book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future,” in which they detailed some of McCarthy’s conversations with fellow Republicans after the insurrection. McCarthy denied the New York Times report at the time, calling it “totally false and wrong.”

The Times soon followed up by releasing audio of the Jan. 10, 2021 call, during which McCarthy said of Trump: “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”

On the recording, McCarthy can also be heard telling House Republicans that he planned to tell Trump that “it would be my recommendation you should resign.”

The House Jan. 6 investigation committee has conducted over 1,000 interviews with insurrectionists and Trump aides. Here’s what’s next. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

After the audio was released, McCarthy told reporters late last week that he “never thought that [Trump] should resign.” He repeatedly dismissed the statements he made on the audio recording, explaining that he was just walking through “different scenarios” on the call.

During a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday, McCarthy again faced questions about his statements and his response to the New York Times’s reporting. This time, McCarthy claimed that one of the newspaper’s reporters only contacted him for comment “the night before he released the book.” The book’s official release date is May 3. McCarthy gave no explanation for his answer.

McCarthy also claimed that the New York Times reporter had asked him whether he asked Trump to resign. The newspaper made no such assertion in its story on the phone call.

“The reporter came to me the night before he released the book,” McCarthy said Monday in Eagle Pass, Tex. “And my understanding was, he was saying, did I ask President Trump to resign? No, I never did. And that’s what I was answering.”

As McCarthy continued, his words became somewhat garbled. “If you’re answering — if you’re asking now, ‘Did I tell my members that were going to ask?’ Ask them if I told any of them that I said to President Trump. The answer is no,” he said.

Burns tweeted Monday afternoon in response to the California Republican’s remarks: “McCarthy is now lying about lying.”

McCarthy appears to have dodged immediate reprisals from Trump, The Washington Post previously reported. In a phone call Thursday night, the former president said he was not upset about McCarthy’s remarks from more than a year ago and was glad McCarthy didn’t follow through, according to three people familiar with the conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation. McCarthy said Friday evening that he had spoken with Trump twice that day.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said he still had a good relationship with McCarthy and suggested that he would continue to support the minority leader’s speakership ambitions because he doesn’t “know of anybody else that’s running.”

“I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” Trump said in the interview, referring to McCarthy and other Republicans who continued to back him after initially pulling away in the days after Jan. 6. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”

Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany contributed to this report.