Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy believed that Donald Trump had accepted his defeat in the 2020 election and was going through the “five stages of grief” in the days immediately following the contest, according to a new book by Liz Cheney.
The former House Republican conference chair is out with a new book, publishing on 5 December, revealing new insights from her time in the GOP caucus in the days leading up to and following the January 6 attack on Congress. In Oath and Honor, Ms Cheney writes that Mr McCarthy summed up then-president Trump’s mood to her after a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between the two men.
“He knows it’s over,” said the former speaker, according to excerpts published on Wednesday by CNN. “He needs to go through all the stages of grief.”
Despite that remark, Ms Cheney continues, Mr McCarthy went on national television and lied to the American people about the 2020 election results.
“McCarthy knew that what he was saying was not true,” she explained.
In the same passages, she describes Mr McCarthy telling her after January 6 that the former president had fallen into a depression with his departure from the White House.
“Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him,” he supposedly told Ms Cheney, according to the excerpts published by CNN.
“What? You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?” Ms Cheney wrote that she responded.
“Yeah, he’s really depressed,” the former speaker then told her.
Mr McCarthy has largely avoided commenting on his conversations with the former president, and would go on to lie about his own past statements on the matter in late 2021 when he told reporters that no one was “questioning the legitimacy” of the 2020 election results. Donald Trump still continues to do so; Mr McCarthy had declared them invalid a year earlier.
The reported remarks of Mr McCarthy and her colleague’s thoughts on the matter are hardly surprising. Ms Cheney’s refusal to go along with the so-called “Big Lie” about the 2020 election ended up costing her a GOP leadership position and eventually her seat in Congress. Mr McCarthy, meanwhile, placated the far right wing of his party (and the former president, crucially) until he could no longer do so; he, too, is now out of leadership in the Republican House conference and is facing speculation about whether he will even run again in 2024.
As for Mr Trump, the former president remains atop polling of the 2024 Republican field even as his rivals continue to argue that his fixation on the 2020 election will alienate independent voters in a general election. Just one of his prominent rivals, ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has explicitly called out the former president’s countless lies and conspiracies about the election and called his actions likely criminal.
Ms Cheney herself has not ruled out a future bid for higher office, though polling of Republican voters nationally indicates that she would have a tough time in any GOP primary given her resistance to the former president and his faction of the party.