Rep. Andy Biggs said Tuesday that newly released audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blaming President Donald Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and pledging to urge Trump to resign has created “a huge trust issue for me.”
It remains to be seen whether more House Republicans follow suit after a report Tuesday night revealed that McCarthy identified several GOP colleagues he feared could incite further violence in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack.
“It’s incredibly undermining,” Biggs said earlier Tuesday in an interview with the right-wing One America News. He added: “We have our leader that’s basically negotiating with Liz Cheney on whether he should encourage President Trump to resign or not. It becomes a huge trust issue for me.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was the third-ranking member of House Republican leadership until her peers ousted her from the position last May because she continued to challenge Trump over his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Cheney is now one of two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and is among the most vocal GOP critics of the former president.
The New York Times first reported last week on McCarthy’s remarks during the call on Jan. 10, 2021, 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.”
McCarthy initially denied the Times report about his remarks, calling it “totally false and wrong.” After the Times released the audio of the phone call, McCarthy told reporters that he “never thought that [Trump] should resign.” He has since dodged questions on the topic. On Monday, McCarthy claimed that the Times had asked him whether he had urged Trump to resign. The newspaper made no such assertion in its story on the phone call.
Other House Republicans have suggested that they are dissatisfied with McCarthy over his statements during the phone call as well as his response to the recording’s release. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, has sent several tweets criticizing McCarthy in recent days.
“I never said it to his face; I only said it behind his back,” Gaetz said in a Sunday tweet mocking a video of McCarthy explaining his comments about Trump. Gaetz added the hashtag “#Leadership.”
But Gaetz also suggested that the episode is unlikely to damage McCarthy’s ambitions of becoming speaker if Republicans retake the House.
“I think that it probably doesn’t really impact his standing in the conference, because the covenant between leadership and Republicans in conference isn’t a covenant based on truth or honesty. … The covenant is based on fundraising,” Gaetz said in an interview Friday with the conservative news channel Newsmax. “And Kevin McCarthy is the most elite fundraiser in the history of the Republican conference.”
Another Trump ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), appeared with McCarthy during an event at the U.S.-Mexico border Monday and thanked the California Republican for his leadership.
In a report Tuesday night, the Times detailed McCarthy’s comments to fellow Republican leaders about several members of the House GOP conference days after the Jan. 6 attack. The actions of Gaetz and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) in particular had crossed a line, McCarthy suggested, noting that Brooks used incendiary language during a Jan. 6 speech and that Gaetz had singled out Cheney for criticism in television appearances.
“He’s putting people in jeopardy,” McCarthy said of Gaetz, according to the Times. “And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) suggested Gaetz’s actions were “potentially illegal,” according to the report.
Gaetz blasted McCarthy and Scalise in a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. He said the two leaders “held views about President Trump and me that they shared on sniveling calls with Liz Cheney, not us.”
“This is the behavior of weak men, not leaders,” Gaetz said.
In an interview Tuesday evening after the first House votes since the McCarthy controversy burst open, Brooks said the GOP leader and others who privately condemned his Jan. 6 remarks probably did not listen to his speech.
“There were a lot of people who were operating on incomplete information back in January of 2021. I harbor no ill will towards those people who overreacted on incomplete or false information,” he said.
Brooks also noted that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) had filed a lawsuit against him over that speech and that a federal judge dismissed the suit “because there was no ‘plausible’ argument that could have been made that I had anything at all to do with the attack on the United States Capitol.”
During the Jan. 10, 2021, phone call, McCarthy and House GOP leaders also voiced concern about the actions of other House Republicans including Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Barry Moore (Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (Tex.), according to the Times report.
On Tuesday night at the Capitol, reporters asked McCarthy why he hadn’t taken action to punish the lawmakers he had mentioned on the phone call — and about criticism from Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) that he had failed to show leadership.
McCarthy did not reply.
Finally, when asked whether he was concerned any of this would hurt his chances of potentially becoming speaker, McCarthy offered a one-word answer: “Nope.”
Biggs is among three GOP lawmakers — along with Reps. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona and Brooks — who right-wing activist Ali Alexander has said aided him in planning the Jan. 6, 2021, Stop the Steal rally in Washington that preceded the riot. A Biggs spokesman told The Post last year that the congressman “is not aware of hearing of or meeting Mr. Alexander at any point — let alone working with him to organize some part of a planned protest.”
In the One America News interview, Biggs said that if the audio of McCarthy is “accurate and what he said was his true intentions and feelings — which I have no reason to doubt — I’ve got several problems.”
“My beef is threefold,” Biggs said. “Number one, he was out there undermining the conference while we were out there fighting to defend the president. … Number two, he was not candid with the conference.”
He added that the third and “most serious” problem was that McCarthy had suggested Twitter should revoke the accounts of some Republican lawmakers, just as it had done to Trump in the wake of the insurrection.
“That’s problematic for me,” Biggs said.
While Biggs criticized McCarthy, he also suggested that House Republicans would rather not see the issue continue to distract from their efforts to win the House in November.
“The unfortunate thing for us now is, if he would have just been honest and truthful to us way back then, this would not be an issue today,” Biggs said. “And we don’t want it to be an issue, because we don’t want it to be a distraction, because we are moving forward with tremendous momentum to retake the House.”