Trump makes desperate Truth Social plea to try to save Kevin McCarthy from “embarrassing defeat”

Trump had declined to say whether he still backs McCarthy, letting him hang in the wind for 24 hours

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published January 4, 2023 9:06AM (EST)

Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday pleaded for House Republicans to back leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after he failed to secure the speaker's job on three consecutive votes.

McCarthy on Tuesday repeatedly fell short of a majority needed to win the vote as the House failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot for the first time in 100 years. Nineteen right-wing Republicans, including Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Chip Roy, R-Texas, voted against McCarthy twice before Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., became the 20th vote against the GOP leader on the third ballot, backing Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Trump, who backed McCarthy despite opposition from the MAGA wing of the party, initially declined to say whether he still supported the GOP leader after his historic defeat.

"We'll see what happens," Trump told NBC News on Tuesday. "I got everybody calling me wanting my support. But let's see what happens and we'll go — I got everybody calling, wanting my support. That's all I can say. But we'll see what happens. We'll see how it all works out."

But Trump appeared to change his tune on Wednesday after negotiations between the GOP holdouts and Republican leaders.

"Some really good conversations took place last night, and it's now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA,THE ONLY SPEAKER IN U.S. HISTORY TO HAVE LOST THE "HOUSE" TWICE! REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT," Trump wrote on Truth Social. "IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB - JUST WATCH!"

Though Pelosi will no longer be House speaker or even the Democratic House leader, she is expected to remain a member after winning re-election in November.

Even as the House GOP infighting has stretched for weeks after the "red wave" predicted by McCarthy failed to materialize, Trump blamed the "unnecessary turmoil" in the party on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a Trump foe that had no reported involvement in the House squabble.

"The 1.7 Trillion Dollar Green New Deal 'booster' that McConnell and the RINOS handed to the Dems last week was a real downer and embarrassment to Republicans!" Trump wrote of the omnibus bill passed last month. "If Republicans are going to fight, we ought to be fighting Mitch McConnell and his domineering, China loving BOSS, I mean wife, Coco Chow," he wrote in a subsequent post, repeating a racist attack on his former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

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McCarthy on Tuesday predicted that he would be able to win over enough holdouts to become speaker as a growing number of right-wingers groused at the obstruction of the splinter group.

"If the base only understood that 19 Republicans voting against McCarthy are playing Russian roulette with our hard earned Republican majority right now," tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. "This is the worst thing that could possibly happen."

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told Politico that some colleagues have privately branded the group the "Taliban 19," which Gaetz called "hurtful" and false."

"This is an all new level of contempt that the conference has for them. They are beyond redemption," McCarthy ally Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., told the outlet. "This is no longer about McCarthy. This is about what they are doing to the conference and the Republican Party," he added, after threatening to strip McCarthy opponents of committee assignments.

McCarthy on Tuesday reportedly pushed back during a GOP meeting on the opposition group's demands for committee leadership roles and rules changes that would make it easier to oust the speaker, though GOP leaders continued to negotiate with the group after the failed votes.

"You can't accommodate a small group that essentially has you hostage, and that's what's going on here — we're not going to do it," Bacon told NBC News.

Bacon warned that exasperated moderate Republicans could try to work with Democrats to break the logjam and stop delaying House business.

"You can have some folks you can work with, but I think in the end you just go to the top one or two people in the Democratic Party and start making a deal," he said. "If they prove to themselves that they can't function as part of a team, then we're going to make that decision. But we're not there. I think Kevin still has lots of runway."

By Igor Derysh

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

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Aggregate Donald Trump Kevin Mccarthy Matt Gaetz Politics