Warren labels McCarthy a “liar and traitor” — but Republican says tape won’t hurt his speaker bid

"Kevin is in very good shape," top Republican says, insisting McCarthy still has "very strong support" inside GOP

By Igor Derysh

Published April 25, 2022 9:20AM (EDT)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ripped House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as a "liar and a traitor" on Sunday after he discussed calling on former President Donald Trump to resign in a leaked call while defending him publicly. But Republicans don't seem too worried that the leak and McCarthy's false denial that the call occurred will hurt his bid to be the next House speaker.

The New York Times reported last week that McCarthy told House Republican leaders that he would demand Trump's resignation after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot before ultimately caving and defending Trump as he faced his second impeachment. McCarthy called the report "totally false" before a leaked recording of a phone call showed him vowing to Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, then the No. 3 ranked Republican in the caucus, that he would recommend that Trump step down.

"Kevin McCarthy is a liar and a traitor. This is outrageous. And that is really the illness that pervades the Republican leadership right now, that they say one thing to the American public and something else in private," Warren told CNN on Sunday.

"They understand that it is wrong what happened, an attempt to overthrow our government," she said. "And that the Republicans instead want to continue to try to figure out how to make 2020 election different instead of spending their energy on how it is that we go forward in order to build an economy, in order to make this country work better for the people who sent us to Washington. Shame on Kevin McCarthy."

President Joe Biden similarly said the recording showed the Republican Party's near-unanimous fealty to Trump.

"This ain't your father's Republican Party. Not a joke. All you gotta do is look what is being played out this morning, about the tape that was released," he told reporters. "This is the MAGA party now. It's got the senator from Texas and others, these guys are a different breed of cat. They're not like what I served with for so many years. And the people who know better are afraid to act correctly, because they know they'll be primaried."

RELATED: "Spineless" McCarthy, McConnell vowed to cancel "son of a b**ch" Trump over Jan 6 — then caved: book

McCarthy's reversal and his false denial of the report do not appear to have hurt him much among fellow Republicans and Trump himself.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Fox News on Sunday that McCarthy still has "very strong support" from his GOP colleagues to become the next speaker if the party wins control of the chamber.

"I think Kevin is in very good shape," McCaul said. "In fact, [Trump] came out saying that this is not going to endanger his relationship with Kevin, that he's strongly supportive."

Trump on Friday told the Wall Street Journal that he still has a "very good relationship" with McCarthy.

"I think it's all a big compliment, frankly," he said. "They realized they were wrong and supported me."

A source familiar with Trump's reaction explained to Politico that Trump "couldn't give a fuck and thinks it's funny and makes him look strong and powerful."

"I've had enough people who have talked to him say that he thinks it's funny and he thinks it makes him look good and told Kevin, 'Don't worry, you're all good.' Trump's mercurial and can always change his mind — see some coverage he doesn't like, change his mind — but as of now, he's just like this makes me look powerful," the source added.


Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.


McCaul cited Trump's defense to justify his continued support for McCarthy.

"President Trump said yesterday that he fully supports Kevin McCarthy for speaker, as do I," he said. "This is a little Beltway bubble blip, if you will. I don't think it's going to have any long-term consequences," he added.

Despite McCarthy's leaked tape and Republican infighting dominating the news cycle, Democrats still face a steep climb in the midterms if they want to maintain control of Congress. Biden's approval rating is among the lowest of any modern president at this point in his term, only slightly ahead of where Trump was in 2018. More voters say they prefer to support Republican candidates in 2022 than Democratic ones and the GOP only needs to flip a handful of seats to win control of the House.

While criticizing McCarthy, Warren warned that Democrats need to "get up off our rear ends" or lose badly in the midterms.

"I think we're gonna be in real trouble if we don't get up and deliver," she told CNN.

"We can't just rest on what we've already done. We need to be fighting going forward. There are things that the American people elected us to do and we still need to get out there and do them," she said. "We do that then we're going to be fine in the election. That's how democracy works, especially when we're up against a party that just wants to fight culture wars. That's not gonna help people in their lives."

In another interview with CBS News, Warren urged Biden to wipe out student debt for tens of millions of borrowers to help Democrats keep control of Congress. Biden during his campaign called to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt per borrower but has since been reluctant to use his executive authority to do so, instead urging Congress to pass legislation.

"Look, we know that the president has the authority to cancel student loan debt and the best way we know that is because President Obama did it, President Trump did it, and President Biden has now done it repeatedly," she said. "The power is clearly there."

Read more:


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

MORE FROM Igor Derysh


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2022 Elections Aggregate Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Kevin Mccarthy Politics