With no one else to blame for his own election defeat, President Trump has zeroed in on one of his earliest Congressional backers, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA.
According to the New York Times' Maggie Haberman, Trump is spending his final moments in the White House fuming because he is still convinced that he won the election. In keeping with his aversion to personal responsibility, Trump has now put a target on his once stalwart ally, who has, as of late, not shown the unconditional support he demands.
McCarthy –– who supported the President's crusade to overturn the election and voted against the electoral certification of President-elect Joe Biden –– surprised his colleagues on the House floor last week when he cast slight aspersion on Trump following the riot on Capitol Hill. "The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," McCarthy said, treading a fine line, "He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding."
After condemning the riot despite propagating the very lies which incited it, McCarthy stopped short of calling for Trump's impeachment, instead suggesting that censure or a bi-partisan investigation would be better suited for the circumstances. Although McCarthy said just about the bare minimum to oppose Trump, the President is reportedly furious with him for not staying true to the Big Lie. The President's sudden disownment of one of his most loyal boosters comes just after Trump's bizarre disavowal of Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump asked to do the impossible by invalidating the Electoral College votes.
After supporting Trump's baseless election fraud crusade, but condemning the Capitol riot while defending Trump against a second impeachment, McCarthy has now alienated himself on Capitol Hill, with Democrats and Republicans alike demanding that he step down.
The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Republican political action committee, denounced McCarthy as a "pathetic enabler," telling the Congressman, "pack up [his] desk." A blistering op-ed in the Sacramento Bee, a paper-based in McCarthy's home state of California called him a "soulless anti-democracy conspirator." Even McCarthy's very own mentor retired California Congressman Bill Thomas tarred his former protégé as a "hypocrite" for supporting the "the phony lies the President perpetuated."
McCarthy has also faced significant backlash from his own hometown constituency in Bakersfield, California, where Republicans feel he did not go far enough to defend the commander-in-chief. Speaking for many conservatives in Bakersfield, activist Kenneth L. Mettler told the Times, "I'll just boil it down: He's a RINO traitor [...] President Trump did nothing wrong. President Trump communicated his case. He did not incite anybody. I do honestly think there were agitators, infiltrators."
Like many Republican members of Congress who supported Trump, McCarthy faces the choice between doubling down to maintain Trump's voting block and cutting his losses to curry favor with a new administration. As Trump's term comes to an end, it is becoming abundantly clear that many will not be permitted to walk the line.
"The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday of the Jan. 6 incident. McConnell's statement as Trump leaves office signals support for the impeachment of a former president.