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Leaked audio refuted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s claim that he never considered asking President Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, facing disqualification from running for reelection over alleged support for the insurrection, was forced to confront her own incendiary remarks in court. Lisa Desjardins and Geoff Bennett report.
Well, new audio reveals that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republican colleagues he would urge President Trump to resign in the days following the January 6 attacks on the Capitol.
To sort through all of this, I'm joined by our Capitol Hill reporter, Lisa Desjardins.
Lisa, good to see you.
Good to see you.
So, the audio we are talking about, it is a private conversation. It was uncovered by two New York Times journalists, we should mention, Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin.
It is a conversation between Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney. They're talking about President Trump. Let's just take a listen to what they said.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA):
Liz? You on the phone?
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) : Yes, I'm here. Thanks, Kevin.
Are you hearing that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?
I've had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I'm seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven't talked to him in a couple of days.
From what I know of him — I mean you guys know all know him, too. Do you think he would ever back away? But what — what I think I'm going to do is, I'm going to call him.
Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass. And it will be my recommendation you should resign.
I mean, that would be my take. But I don't think he would take it. But I don't know.
Lisa, you have been talking with Republican sources, including lawmakers. What are they telling you about this and what it means?
Well, first of all, this is the exact opposite of what Kevin McCarthy's own spokesperson said just yesterday, said he never said he would ask the president, President Trump, to resign.
But I will tell you, there's a couple of layers to this. The first is the political. And talking to sources today, I don't think there is going to be a political problem for Kevin McCarthy because of this within his own party. Why? President Trump.
When I talk to Republican sources, they were waiting to see what the president, the former president would do. I can report that he and Kevin McCarthy spoke at least twice yesterday. And the readout from that reported by others — and I have one source on this — is that President Trump is OK with what he heard. Somehow, Kevin McCarthy was able to convince him: I'm still on board with you.
We don't know if Kevin McCarthy actually ever did ask him to resign or if he just told that to the Republican leadership there. Another thing benefiting Kevin McCarthy is he is now the top fund-raiser ever in the House Republican ranks. He raised more than $30 million just in the last three months. So that helps him politically.
But I want to talk about something broader, what this reveals and what this means sort of on a more pervasive level. This shows what was going on behind the scenes.
Kevin McCarthy, on January 13, went to the House floor and said that the president, President Trump, was responsible, but just a couple of weeks later, where did he go? Mar-a-Lago, to talk to President Trump. There was this moment where Republican leaders were wondering and talking about maybe pushing President Trump out of leadership for good, and it passed.
And that — this is what we're learning from these. And I think this also tells us something about Republicans and the fact that President Trump really is still driving the train and deciding the future of even potential speakers of the House like Kevin McCarthy.
That is so interesting.
You — we have — we should note this is all in the days after January 6. That conversation unfolded. We have been seeing many more details about January 6 coming out in different reports. You have been following them all. But those have included some texts from lawmakers, including people like Republican Senator Mike Lee, right?
What can you tell us about this? What should we know?
Right. These are texts that were obtained by CNN.
And talking to Senator Lee's office, they have not said that these are incorrect. They have tried to explain them.
But, here, I want to read a couple of them, what the senator was doing. He says he was looking for rationale and evidence. But one of these texts on January 3, he wrote: "I know this will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side and unless states submit new slates of Trump electors."
Let's look at another text. He wrote to Mark Meadows, the chief of staff to President Trump: "I have been calling state legislators for hours today. Going to spend hours more doing it. I'm trying to figure out a path I can persuasively defend. Even if they can't convene, it might be enough for a majority of state legislators to sign a statement indicating how they would vote."
Amna, that idea is about having separate slates of electors that might run counter to what the popular vote in the states were at the time. Ultimately, Senator Lee did not vote to object to the election. And his team says he ended up not finding evidence, he was really looking for it, but he never found it, and he backed down.
But this is different than what we heard from in the public. And it shows you something important here, which is that President Trump, as he was holding on to power, there were others that were also part of this idea of election fraud looking it for everywhere they could, even though there was no evidence.
Behind the scenes, that push was happening for many political reasons. And Senator Mike Lee was kind of walking both sides there.
Very different messages in private vs. what we saw…
In public, yes.
… in public.
Such an important story. You have been following it all, continue to do so. Lisa Desjardins, thanks so much.
In related January 6 news, facing a challenge to her candidacy for reelection, Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene took the stand today in an Atlanta courtroom to say she did not participate in the insurrection.
She says voters should decide when whether she gets a second term, not the courts. The outcome could be felt beyond Georgia, since other Republican officials face similar challenges.
Geoff Bennett has our report.
Nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA):
Please be seated.
A crucial test for the controversial congresswoman.
Ms. Greene, I'm just asking questions.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:
I'm just answering.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, the first lawmaker to testify under oath about the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
I was asking people to come for a peaceful march, which is what everyone is entitled to do under their First Amendment, but I was not asking them to actively engage in violence or any type of action.
Denying any involvement and defending her right to be on the ballot in next month's Georgia primary election.
Now they're coming after me to remove my name off the ballot.
A group of Georgia voters and the organization Free Speech for People filed the legal challenge last month. They say Greene should not be eligible to run for reelection.
And they're relying on a clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that says: "No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress who, having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."
Donald Trump, Former President of the United States: Don't mess with her. Don't mess with her.
They argue Greene did exactly that in the lead-up to the January 6 attack by knowingly repeating the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
And we're going to fight for President Trump on January 6.
And urging her supporters to fight for Donald Trump.
They point to comments like this that Greene made the night before the insurrection:
This is our 1776 moment.
Ron Fein, Legal Director, Free Speech For People:
She urged and encouraged and helped facilitate violent resistance to our own government, our democracy and our Constitution.
We're going to send our favorite president right back where he belongs, in the White House!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Greene remains a fierce defender of the former president.
I rise to support the objection.
And even though she objected to the vote certification in Congress on January 6…
What's happening to these people being held in custody is wrong.
… and later criticized the conditions of the D.C. jail where several rioters were being held, she has said the people that broke into the Capitol are solely to blame.
Breaking the law is unlawful. There's been over 700 people charged for what happened on January 6.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC):
We will fight even harder because this nation is worth saving.
A similar challenge to North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn was blocked by a federal judge last month. But in a 73-page ruling earlier this week, a different judge in Georgia cleared the way for today's hearing.
With Greene on the stand today, the clock is ticking for a ruling.
Amy Steigerwalt, Georgia State University:
It's highly unlikely she's going to be removed from the ballot.
Amy Steigerwalt is a professor of political science at Georgia State University. She says Greene is likely to prevail.
This is an administrative law judge who is hearing all the evidence, will then make a determination and a recommendation to the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who is also facing his own reelection and a very strong primary challenge and, to be perfectly blunt, needs many of the same voters who would potentially be voting for Representative Greene in her election to also support him, so that he can continue to be secretary of state.
Election officials in Georgia can begin mailing absentee ballots on Monday.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Geoff Bennett.
Watch the Full Episode
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
Geoff Bennett is the chief Washington correspondent for PBS NewsHour and anchor of PBS News Weekend.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
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