In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday, former President Donald Trump shrugged off newly released audio of a phone call last year by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saying he was going to press Trump to resign after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“He made a call. I heard the call. I didn’t like the call,” Trump told the Journal’s White House reporter Alex Leary at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
“But almost immediately, as you know, because he came here and we took a picture right there,” he added, pointing to a spot in a room at his golf resort, “you know, the support was very strong.”
McCarthy posed on Jan. 28, 2021, with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in a photo that was widely publicized and viewed as a sign of peace between the two men.
He added: “I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly” — noting that McCarthy and other Republicans who initially criticized him (including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell) changed their minds.
“They realized they were wrong and supported me,” he added.
Trump insisted McCarthy ultimately never pressed him to resign. He said McCarthy changed his mind “when he found out the facts” and fully supported him a few weeks after the phone call.
Asked whether he still supported McCarthy for House speaker if Republicans win back control of the chamber in November, Trump responded: “Well, I don’t know of anybody else that’s running, and I think that I’ve had actually a very good relationship with him.”
He added: “I like him. And other than that brief period of time, I suspect he likes me quite a bit.”
McCarthy on Thursday denied a New York Times report that said he told other lawmakers he would call on Trump to resign in the days after the U.S. Capitol riot. But audio released by the Times proved he wasn’t telling the truth.
“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think [impeachment] will pass, and it would be my recommendation you resign,” McCarthy was recorded saying in the Jan. 10, 2021, phone call with Republican leaders.
In new audio released Friday, McCarthy had also said that Trump accepted some responsibility for the violent attack on the Capitol, which had been led by his supporters, who thought they could disrupt the congressional certification of Electoral College votes and ultimately overturn the 2020 election. McCarthy also said in that call: “I’ve had it with this guy.”
Trump denied to the Journal that he ever accepted any responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack, which began soon after Trump told a rally crowd to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.”
“No, that’s false. I never claimed responsibility,” Trump said.
Later Friday McCarthy said that he stood by his attack on the Times’ account, apparently because he didn’t follow through with his plan. The report by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin was based on passages in their new book, “This Will Not Pass.”
“I never asked the president to resign,” said McCarthy. “That’s what the book tried to say. So, no, I stand by what I said.”
Alex Burns responded to McCarthy’s statement that after lying about what the House minority leader said in the phone conversation, he is now “pretending our book says something it doesn’t say, and denying that.”
The Times report did not say McCarthy pressed Trump to resign, only that he considered doing so, and expressed that in a phone call.