Warren: 'Kevin McCarthy is a liar and a traitor'

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had tough words on Sunday for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in hot water after the release of new audio of him suggesting that then-President Donald Trump should resign after the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol.

"Kevin McCarthy is a liar and a traitor," Warren said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Warren continued: "This is outrageous. And that is really the illness that pervades the Republican leadership right now. They say one thing to the American public and something else in private."

McCarthy and his office initially denied a New York Times report that he had vented about Trump after Jan. 6, when a mob of the president's supporters assaulted the Capitol in an attempt to stop then-President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College certification. “I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy told a group of GOP leaders, according to the Times.

McCarthy called the report “totally false and wrong,” and his spokesman said the lawmaker “never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign.” But then the Times released audio of McCarthy saying exactly that: In a Jan. 10 recording, McCarthy says he would tell Trump that the House would impeach him and "it would be my recommendation you should resign."

In a Jan. 11 recording, McCarthy said Trump acknowledged partial responsibility for the attack on Congress, which followed a Washington, D.C., rally in which the then president falsely claimed that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that his supporters should "fight like hell."

“I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened?” McCarthy says on the tape. ”Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he’d need to acknowledge that.”

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 23: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader in the United States House of Representatives speaks at the California Republican Party convention at Anaheim Marriott in Anaheim, CA  on April 23, 2022 in Anaheim, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim, Calif. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

McCarthy hopes to be House speaker if Republicans take the House in the November midterm elections, and he almost surely would need Trump's support to corral the GOP caucus behind him. Accordingly, he hurried to contain the damage with Trump after the recordings were released. The Associated Press reported that, in the aftermath of the Times reports, McCarthy had a “positive” Thursday phone call with Trump, who told the GOP leader: “I’m not mad at you.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump did claim it was "false" that he accepted some responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack.

“He made a call. I heard the call. I didn’t like the call," Trump told the Journal of the audio recordings. But Trump said it was a "compliment" that McCarthy and other GOP leaders who criticized him after Jan. 6 later said that they would still support him.

“They realized they were wrong and supported me,” Trump said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on CNN. (Screenshot: Twitter/@CNNSotu)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren on CNN. (Screenshot: Twitter/@CNNSotu)

Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, argued Sunday that McCarthy's flip-flop shows a broader trend among Republicans in Congress.

"They understand that it is wrong, what happened, an attempt to overthrow our government," said Warren, whose interview was mostly focused on arguing that her party should pass bold economic legislation before the November elections.

"Shame on Kevin McCarthy," Warren added.

The House continues to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, with a timetable that is also under pressure by the November elections that could see Republicans take Congress and quash the probe. In a Friday night court filing, the House committee investigating the attack alleged that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was warned that the Jan. 6 rally could turn violent, but pushed forward with it anyway.