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Wake Up To Politics - April 22, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: McCarthy’s Trump problem
Wake Up To Politics - April 22, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Friday, April 22, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 200 days away. Election Day 2024 is 928 days away.

🌎 Happy Earth Day. Have a great weekend!

McCarthy and Trump: A story in three parts

One of the most consequential — and fragile — relationships in American politics right now is between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and former President Donald Trump.

McCarthy and Trump have had their share of ups and downs through the years.

In 2016, McCarthy was skeptical of Trump’s rise, even commenting to fellow House Republicans on a private call that he thought Trump was being paid by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

But once Trump was secured in the Oval Office, McCarthy quickly became one of his most ardent allies. When the congressman visited the White House, he brought with him a bowl of Starbursts handpicked to include only Trump’s favorite flavors.

Then January 6 came, and McCarthy and Trump got into an expletive-laced shouting match over the phone: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” the then-president reportedly told McCarthy, referring to the Capitol rioters.

McCarthy still voted to overturn the results of the election — but soon he’d be on the House floor, calling on Trump to “accept his share of responsibility” for the attack.

Finally, soon after that, he made the trek to Florida to get back in Trump’s good graces — and he has sought to remain there ever since, hoping for the ex-president’s help in winning the House majority this November.

Former president Donald Trump and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy in May 2020. (White House)

On Thursday, the California legislator and the “party boss” of Mar-a-Lago experienced yet another jolt in their relationship. I’ll tell the story in three parts:

Part 1: New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin release an excerpt of their upcoming book, in which they report that McCarthy told a group of Republican leaders after January 6 that he’d “had it” with Trump. They also reported that McCarthy said on the call that he was planning to push Trump to resign from office, and that he mused about Twitter removing far-right House Republicans from its platform.

Part 2: McCarthy issues a statement blasting the reporting as “totally false and wrong.” In the Times piece, a spokesperson for the GOP leader specifically denied that he said “he’d call Trump to say he should resign.”

Part 3: Burns and Martin appear on MSNBC to play audio of McCarthy saying exactly that. “It would be my recommendation you should resign,” McCarthy can be heard saying he plans to tell Trump. (Rep. Liz Cheney, a prominent GOP critic of Trump, can also be heard on the January 10 call, but her office says she is not the one who leaked it.)

Why does all this matter?

Because Trump remains the Republican Party’s most influential power broker. It’s already been reported that Trump never fully forgave McCarthy after his initial (public) criticisms after January 6, and this latest revelation could sour Trump on the Californian even more.

Trump has already called on Republican candidates to oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) from receiving another term as party leader — but tanking McConnell would be hard, because it would require another candidate to receive support from a majority of Senate Republicans.

However, if Republicans retake the House, McCarthy would need a majority of the full House to become speaker. No Democrats will vote for him, so that means if Republicans end up with a slim majority in the chamber, defections from just a few Trump allies could block McCarthy from ascending to his dream job.

Thursday’s revelations could cause issues for McCarthy among his right flank, such as Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. (Gage Skidmore)

Seven years ago, McCarthy experienced what it was like to have the GOP’s right flank deny him the speakership.

If Trump tries to stand in his way this time, it would throw the Republican Party into chaos precisely at the time they’ll need unity the most, after clinching the House majority.

It could lead to a more conservative lawmaker claiming the speakership, which would affect how Republicans govern in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.

Trump hasn’t said anything yet, but his response will be closely watched.

Even before this latest drama, at least one Trump ally — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — had suggested he wasn’t set on voting for McCarthy due to his shaky relationship with Trump.

The person Gaetz said he plans to nominate to be speaker instead? Trump himself.

Catch up

What else you should know this morning.

Ukraine. “President Joe Biden announced a plan on Thursday to begin bringing Ukrainians fleeing war to the U.S., addressing a promise the president made nearly a month ago to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.” NBC News

  • Biden also unveiled plans to send another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine and $500 million in economic aid, while also announcing that the U.S. would ban Russian ships from docking at American ports.

In the states. “After months of back and forth, lawmakers in Florida have passed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial congressional district voting map — and have pushed forward his last-minute plan to scrap Disney World’s special regulatory status in the state.” NPR

Number to know. “Nearly 400,000 fewer children entered kindergarten during the last school year because of pandemic-related disruptions, raising concerns that no one knows how many kids received childhood vaccinations for common diseases, according to federal health data released Thursday.” Washington Post

Florida lawmakers ended a special tax district for Disney World, escalating their feud with the corporation. (Wikimedia Commons)

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (12 pm); delivering Earth Day remarks in Seattle on climate change (1 pm); delivering remarks in Auburn, Washington to outline his plan to lower health care and energy costs (3:30 pm); traveling to Delaware, where he will spend the weekend (5:15 pm).

  • In Seattle, Biden will sign an executive order to protest some of the nation’s largest and oldest trees against wildfires, deforestation, and climate change.

At the Capitol: Both chambers of Congress are on recess this week.

At the Supreme Court: The justices will meet for their weekly conference to discuss pending cases and petitions.

In the states: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) will testify at an administrative hearing on a challenge to her candidacy over her role in the January 6 attack (9:30 am).

Links to watch for yourself: Biden in SeattleBiden in AuburnMTG hearing

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe