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The one point on which Trump is publicly contradicting McCarthy

Donald Trump said he never accepted any responsibility for Jan. 6. Kevin McCarthy has said the opposite. The truth is more than just a political curiosity.


It was on Thursday night when The Rachel Maddow Show aired an audio recording of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling colleagues, four days after the Jan. 6 attack, that he intended to tell Donald Trump to resign the presidency. It was about one second later when much of the political world asked the same question: How exactly would the former president respond?

It was easy to imagine Trump throwing the latest in a series of tantrums, but nothing like that happened. The House GOP leader may have wanted to do the right and courageous thing, but since McCarthy didn’t follow through, the former president didn’t much care.

In fact, Trump talked to The Wall Street Journal on Friday and said his relationship with McCarthy remains good, because the minority leader has maintained “very strong” support for him. Pointing to the Republicans who’ve backed him after initially criticizing him after the riot, the former president added, “I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly.”

There was, however, a specific point of disagreement. From the Journal’s report:

In his interview with the Journal, Mr. Trump also denied ever accepting some responsibility for the Jan. 6 assault, contradicting Mr. McCarthy’s claim to House GOP members in another call on Jan. 11, 2021.... “No, that’s false. I never claimed responsibility,” Mr. Trump said in the interview.

In case you missed some of Friday’s reporting, CNN released the audio recording of comments McCarthy made to Republican lawmakers five days after the attack on the Capitol. Referring to Trump, the GOP leader said, “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”

But more importantly, McCarthy also told his colleagues, “I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened.”

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because this wasn’t altogether new: The quote was previously reported. But the release of the audio recording returned the matter to the fore, and led to Trump’s on-the-record denial.

To be sure, it’s tough to know whom to believe. Trump said he never told McCarthy in private that he bears some responsibility for the attack, while McCarthy has now said the opposite more than once. Since both Republicans have earned reputations for brazen lying, it’s an open question as to which one told the truth about this.

The answer, however, is more than just a political curiosity. CBS News reported:

“I think it is very important that Kevin McCarthy has evidence the former president acknowledged bearing some responsibility for that attack on the Capitol. This is an admission of guilt by the former president,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, told CBS News. “The reports of what the president said, that he understood that he bore responsibility, that’s consciousness of his guilt. And it is an important element of piecing together all of the facts relative to January 6th,” Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren said.

I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this one.