Days after the deadly Capitol insurrection, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wanted to rein in several far-right lawmakers who pushed then-President Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election results, out of concern that they would incite violence against other lawmakers, audio recordings of a Jan. 10 call with GOP leaders obtained by the New York Times detail.
In the audio recordings obtained by the Times, which are included in the forthcoming book titled “This Will Not Pass,” McCarthy is heard specifically calling out Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Mo Brooks (R-AL). McCarthy viewed the actions of both of the GOP congressmen, who are prominent boosters of the Big Lie, as a threat to the security of other lawmakers and the Capitol complex.
Additionally, McCarthy and other GOP leaders are heard in the call discussing several other far-right lawmakers who issued incendiary comments supporting Trump’s election steal scheme, such as Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Barry Moore (R-AL).
On the call, McCarthy asserted that “tension is too high” and the “country is too crazy” for members to continue to push inflammatory rhetoric about the 2020 election.
“He’s putting people in jeopardy,” McCarthy said, referring to Gaetz. “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) is also heard in audio recordings agreeing with McCarthy’s concerns with Gaetz.
“It’s potentially illegal what he’s doing,” Scalise said.
When it came to Brooks, McCarthy specifically took issue with the GOP congressman’s remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally that occurred hours before the insurrection. Brooks told the crowd that it was “the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” In McCarthy’s view, Brooks’ words were a greater offense compared to that of Trump, who urged his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the election results.
“You think the President deserves to be impeached for his comments?” McCarthy asked rhetorically. “That’s almost something that goes further than what the President said.”
At one point, McCarthy signaled that he planned to advise the far-right lawmakers to halt their troubling actions.
“Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that,” McCarthy said.
In the Jan. 10 call with House GOP leaders, McCarthy also floated his now-infamous plan at the time to call Trump and tell him to resign — which the House minority leader denied saying, but was caught in a lie when the Times released audio disproving McCarthy’s denial. McCarthy has since stressed that he “never asked President Trump to resign” and “never thought he should resign.”
McCarthy ultimately did not follow through on taking action against far-right lawmakers despite his complaints in the wake of the insurrection. The House minority leader has instead made efforts to appease them in recent months as he pushes to win their support for his bid for speaker if the GOP retakes the House in the midterm elections.
Last January, McCarthy reiterated his threat to oust Democrats from their committee assignments if he becomes speaker. His threat came after Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) were stripped of their committee seats last year for making social media posts musing about violence against Democratic lawmakers.