Image Credits: Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS/Newscom.

There was a point during the 2016 campaign when Kevin McCarthy, in a meeting with other House Republican leaders, privately expressed the belief that Russia was paying Donald Trump. It was a reasonable conclusion in light of Trump’s bizarre and seemingly counterproductive affinity for Vladimir Putin, but it’s likely that Trump was simply more interested in building a brand-name tower in Moscow than in winning the presidency.

Today, the episode is more noteworthy for what it says about the character of McCarthy. CNN is reporting on a different private conversation involving McCarthy. This one, which occurred in June 2021, involved the mother of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died of a stroke on January 7, 2001 after being being bear-sprayed during the riot. Also present were DC Metro police officer, Michael Fanone, who had a heart attack during the insurrection and suffered a traumatic brain injury, and a Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn, who engaged in extended hand-to-hand combat in his effort to defend the government.

McCarthy reportedly told these three people that Donald Trump “had no idea his supporters were carrying out the attack.”

But McCarthy maintained Trump was unaware of the violence inside the Capitol when he spoke with Trump by phone that afternoon. He also appeared to take credit for getting the then-President to make a late-afternoon public statement urging his supporters to “go home,” according to one of the meetings’ attendees, then-DC Metropolitan police officer Michael Fanone.

“I’m just telling you from my phone call, I don’t know that he did know that,” McCarthy said during the June 2021 meeting about Trump’s knowledge of the fighting, according to audio secretly recorded by Fanone at the time…

These are weasel words, at best. To understand, we need to look at a statement released byRepublican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler on February 12, 2021.

“In my January 12 statement in support of the article of impeachment, I referenced a conversation House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relayed to me that he’d had with President Trump while the January 6 attack was ongoing. Here are the details:

“When McCarthy finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol. McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’

“Since I publicly announced my decision to vote for impeachment, I have shared these details in countless conversations with constituents and colleagues, and multiple times through the media and other public forums.

“I told it to the Daily News of Longview on January 17. I’ve shared it with local county Republican executive board members, as well as other constituents who ask me to explain my vote. I shared it with thousands of residents on my telephone town hall on February 8.

“To the patriots who were standing next to the former president as these conversations were happening, or even to the former vice president: if you have something to add here, now would be the time.”

Herrera Beutler interpreted Trump’s remarks as an acknowledgment that he understood that it was his MAGA crowd overrunning the Capitol and that he supported their efforts. For one thing, if Trump had actually been serious about believing in was an Antifa riot (a laughable supposition), McCarthy had disabused him of that view.

In fact, the reason McCarthy shared this information with the congresswoman (and others) is that he found Trump’s behavior dishonest and reprehensible.

On a phone call with several other top House Republicans on Jan. 8, Mr. McCarthy said Mr. Trump’s conduct on Jan. 6 had been “atrocious and totally wrong.” He faulted the president for “inciting people” to attack the Capitol, saying that Mr. Trump’s remarks at a rally on the National Mall that day were “not right by any shape or any form.”

During that conversation, Mr. McCarthy inquired about the mechanism for invoking the 25th Amendment — the process whereby the vice president and members of the cabinet can remove a president from office — before concluding that was not a viable option.

But six months later McCarthy defended Trump in this meeting with victims by suggesting the disgraced ex-president hadn’t necessarily known that his own people were attacking the police.

This too is “atrocious and totally wrong,” as well as “not right by any shape or any form.”

The meeting came as a number of House Republicans were attempting to downplay or distort the facts of what took place on January 6, when Trump’s false claims of a stolen election triggered a deadly attack on the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob.

It also took place as McCarthy was “backing off on a pledge to appoint Republicans to the special January 6 Committee,” Fanone writes, adding: “The only reason McCarthy had agreed to meet with us was because he’d been getting heat for refusing to see me.”

As of right now, prognosticators say it is more likely than not that the Republicans will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections. If that happens, it’s also more likely than not that McCarthy will replace Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House.

If you don’t want to see that happen, don’t vote for your Republican congressional candidate, and encourage others not to vote for them either.

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