Kevin McCarthy, the senior Republican in the House of Representatives, privately accused one of his colleagues of “putting people in jeopardy” in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, according to a leaked audio recording.
In a phone call with Republican leaders on 10 January 2021, McCarthy said that Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman and ardent Trump supporter, was putting Americans at risk with his comments after the assault on the US Capitol that left five people dead.
The New York Times obtained a recording of the call, in which McCarthy and Republicans including Steve Scalise, the No 2 House Republican, discussed an interview Gaetz had given where he attacked GOP members who had criticized Trump.
“He’s putting people in jeopardy,” McCarthy said of Gaetz.
“And he doesn’t need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.”
In the days after the insurrection McCarthy strongly criticized Trump, saying: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” Since then McCarthy has defended Trump’s actions, suggesting Trump was unaware that the riot was taking place.
In the 10 January call McCarthy also called out Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama who at a rally before Trump supporters attacked the Capitol said: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass
You think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments?” McCarthy asked those on the call. “That’s almost something that goes further than what the president said.”
Discussing the statements and actions of some Republicans, McCarthy said: “Our members have got to start paying attention to what they say, too, and you can’t put up with that type of shit.”
Lauren Boebert, a congresswoman from Colorado, and Barry Moore from Alabama, were among the other GOP members named in the call. Boebert has been a staunch defender of Trump’s actions that day.
“Tension is too high, the country is too crazy, I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt,” McCarthy said in the call.