A new audio recording of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has reportedly captured him weighing whether to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove then-President Donald Trump from the White House two days after the assault on the Capitol.
With much attention largely trained right now on the Supreme Court after the leak of a draft opinion poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, McCarthy has managed a slight reprieve from the headlines.
It was just over a week ago that a different series of audio recordings featuring the House GOP leader went public and he was heard, in his own words, telling members of his party that he was prepared to call for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation.
In those recordings, and now in this new set, McCarthy’s private agony is yet again starkly contrasted against the public support—and cover—that he has ceaselessly heaped upon Trump.
The latest audio recordings—obtained by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns as a part of their book, This Too Shall Not Pass and shared with CNN—reportedly have McCarthy considering invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as he listened to an aide go over deliberations then underway by House Democrats.
When the aide said that the 25th Amendment would “not exactly” be an “elegant solution” to removing Trump, McCarthy is reportedly heard interrupting as he attempts to get a sense of his options.
The process of invoking the 25th Amendment is one not taken lightly and would require majority approval from members of Trump’s Cabinet as well as from the vice president.
“That takes too long,” McCarthy said after an aide walked him through the steps. “And it could go back to the House, right?”
Indeed, it wasn’t an easy prospect.
Trump would not only have to submit a letter overruling the Cabinet and Pence, but a two-thirds majority would have to be achieved in the House and Senate to overrule Trump.
“So, it’s kind of an armful,” the aide said.
On Jan. 7, 2021, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the president’s allies to divorce themselves from Trump after he loosed his mob on them, Capitol Hill staff, and police.
“While there are only 13 days left, any day could be a horror show,” Pelosi said at a press conference where she called for the 25th Amendment to be put in motion.
Publicly, McCarthy would not budge.
The House voted 232-197 to approve a resolution that would activate the amendment on Jan. 13. McCarthy called for censure instead of impeachment through the 25th Amendment. Then, from the floor of the House, McCarthy denounced Trump.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said.
During the Jan. 8 call, the House GOP leader lamented that impeachment could further divide the nation. He worried it might also inspire new conflicts. He also told the aide he wanted to have Trump and Biden meet before the inauguration.
It would help with a smooth transition, he said.
In another moment in the recording after discussing a sit-down with Biden where they could talk about ways to publicly smooth tensions over the transition, McCarthy can be heard saying that “he’s trying to do it not from the basis of Republicans” but rather, “of a basis of, hey, it’s not healthy for the nation” to continue with such uncertainty.
Yet within the scant week that passed from the time McCarthy said Trump bore some responsibility for the attack and the impeachment vote, McCarthy switched gears again.
He didn’t believe Trump “provoked” the mob, he said on Jan. 21.
Not if people “listened to what [Trump] said at the rally,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy met with Trump at the 45th president’s property in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, a week after Biden was inaugurated. Once he was back in Washington, the House leader issued a statement saying Trump had “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.”
They had founded a “united conservative movement,” he said.