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McCarthy skirts questions about phone call with Trump during riot

Sources briefed on the call, which was first reported weeks after the riot, said the two men got into an expletive-laden argument.
Image: Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during his weekly briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday.Andrew Harnik / AP

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., skirted questions Sunday about his Jan. 6 phone call with President Donald Trump as the Capitol riot was underway.

Speaking with "Fox News Sunday," McCarthy said Trump was not aware of what was going on at the Capitol when he first reached him. A former Trump adviser told The Washington Post that Trump was watching the events unfold on TV, which Trump later denied.

"I was the first person to contact him when the riots were going on," McCarthy said. "He didn't see it. What he ended the call with saying was telling me he'll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that's what he did. He put a video out later."

As host Chris Wallace pointed out, the video Trump posted was "quite a lot later," and he said it "was a pretty weak video." In the video, which was posted hours after the riot began, Trump urged the rioters to "go home," adding: "We love you. You're very special."

Pressed about an account of the call shared by Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., which was introduced more than two months ago during Trump's second impeachment trial, McCarthy said: "My conversations with the president are my conversations with the president."

"I engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time," he said. "The president said he would help."

In February, Beutler said in a statement that McCarthy had reached out to Trump to get him to call off the riot.

"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," wrote Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his conduct surrounding the deadly riot.

"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,'" she said.

Separately, three sources briefed about the matter said the two men got into an expletive-laden argument. Sources described the call, which took place as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol during Congress' affirmation of the Electoral College votes, as "not cordial" and borderline incoherent. At one point, according to a Republican lawmaker briefed about what was said, McCarthy told Trump: "Who the f--- do you think you are talking to?"

In addition to Beutler, a Republican member of Congress familiar with the conversation also confirmed that Trump commented to McCarthy about the rioters' being more upset about the election than he was.

At the time, Beutler's comments confirmed news reports detailing the conversation and contradicted the argument from Trump's lawyers that he was immediately "horrified" by the riot and took swift action.

Speaking on the House floor Jan. 13, McCarthy said Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters" and "should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."

He added that Trump "needs to accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Joe Biden is able to successfully begin his term."

The next week, McCarthy told reporters that "I don't believe he provoked it, if you listen to what he said at the rally" on Jan. 6.

Days later, McCarthy met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, seeking to patch up their relationship.

In the interview Sunday, Wallace, noting investigations into the riot, asked McCarthy whether Trump has reached out to him in recent months to discuss the conversation. McCarthy said no such conversation had taken place.