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Kevin McCarthy goes further than most to echo Trump's worst claim

Plenty of leading Republican lawmakers have offered Trump support this week; only one has said Trump actually won the election.
Image: House Republican Leadership Speaks To The Media After Conference Meeting
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at the Capitol on July 21, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

On Election Night, Donald Trump told the nation, in reference to the 2020 presidential election, "As far as I am concerned, we already have won it." That was ridiculous, but the Republican incumbent didn't care.

Yesterday at the White House, the incumbent president listed a series of states he claimed to have "won by a lot," despite the fact that he appears to be on track to lose some of them. He didn't care about that, either.

But what struck me as amazing was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) willingness to go along with Trump's attack.

"President Trump won this election," McCarthy falsely claimed to Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Thursday night. He followed up his on-air comments with a tweet proclaiming: "Republicans will not be silenced. We demand transparency. We demand accuracy. And we demand that the legal votes be protected."

To be sure, there's been no shortage of congressional Republicans who've been wildly irresponsible over the last couple of days. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, seemed reluctant to rule out the possibility of Pennsylvania's legislature ignoring voters' will and choosing a slate of pro-Trump electors. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) similarly voiced some support for the president's procedural demands during the vote tallies.

But it was the top House Republican -- the man who would be in line to become Speaker of the House in the event of a GOP takeover of the chamber -- who told a national television audience, "President Trump won this election," reality be damned.

As a practical matter, Kevin McCarthy's willingness to peddle such nonsense doesn't have much of an effect: no one much cares who the California congressman thinks won the election. But it's not irrelevant, either.

For one thing, Donald Trump was probably watching the interview, and seeing this likely encouraged him to keep up his efforts to slander our democracy. For another, McCarthy is the leader of roughly 200 House Republicans, each of whom just received a signal to question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and its outcome.

And finally, as the House Democratic majority shrinks, there may be a temptation to think there should be more bipartisan negotiations between the two parties' leadership teams. But in 2021, how realistic are the prospects for constructive talks with a GOP leader who says stuff like this?