Team Trump has finally lost patience with House GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and unless he can get out of this hole quickly with the Tangerine Tyrant, he may not be Speaker of the House of much longer.
The former president embraced McCarthy — once dubbed a “RINO” by conservatives — during his time in the White House, elevating the California Republican as he feuded with other GOP congressional leaders. He personally intervened in January to ensure McCarthy won his dream job, ultimately convincing his critics to stand down amid a battle for the speakership.
And just a few weeks ago, Trump notably kept quiet about the debt ceiling deal McCarthy struck with President JOE BIDEN — a major, and intentional, boost for the speaker that was crucial in ensuring the deal could withstand a conservative pile-on.
That’s why it came as a shock yesterday when McCarthy dissed Trump in a CNBC interview, openly questioning whether Trump would be Republicans’ best presidential nominee in 2024 after carefully avoiding the topic for months.
“Can he win that election? Yeah, he can win that election,” McCarthy said, referring to a Biden-Trump matchup. “The question is: ‘Is he the strongest to win the election?’ I don’t know that answer.”
Unsurprisingly, Trump world flipped out. We’re told top aides to the former president and allies who know both men quickly traded messages asking, in short: What the fuck? Some called McCarthy a “moron,” we’re told. Others looked to Trump campaign hand BRIAN JACK, who also advises the speaker and has been a critical bridge between both men, to play mediator as Trump hit the trail in New Hampshire.
McCarthy immediately pivoted into clean-up mode. He called Trump to apologize, according to the NYT’s Annie Karni. He offered Trump-loving Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle an exclusive interview, where he walked the comments back and accused the media of taking them out of context.
“Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016,” McCarthy told Boyle.
This morning, we can report that none of these moves have assuaged the fury in Trump’s inner circle. McCarthy, they feel, has taken advantage of the former president when it benefits him and failed to show unflinching loyalty in return. They don’t understand how he could “misspeak” — as McCarthy, we’re told, put it to Trump — on something so critical.
In fact, McCarthy’s damage control made things worse. After the debacle yesterday, the speaker’s campaign allies pushed out fundraising emails and texts claiming, “Trump is the STRONGEST opponent to Biden!” — then asking for money.
Fundraising off of Trump’s name without permission is a huge no-no for the former president, whose team requires explicit approval for any campaign to use his name and likeness. Trump’s team, we’re told, asked McCarthy’s last night to take down the fundraising pitch.
Now, it’s not the first time McCarthy has been crosswise with Trump. Shortly after the Jan. 6 insurrection, McCarthy floated the idea of censuring Trump for his actions and was later caught on tape discussing the idea of asking Trump to resign. Yet the two continued their symbiotic bond: McCarthy quickly assumed a key role in restoring Trump’s prominence in the GOP, and Trump stayed in McCarthy’s corner as he battled for the gavel.
But yesterday’s drama came at a sensitive moment, with a major question already bouncing around Trump world: Why hasn’t McCarthy endorsed Trump?
While it’s unclear if Trump has explicitly asked McCarthy for his support, his silence on the matter has baffled the former president and his close allies.
McCarthy has told some Trump backers that he’s holding off because an endorsement “might hurt” Trump by tying him to the party establishment, according to one GOP campaign consultant who asked not to be named. He’s also suggested that as the highest-ranking Republican in office, just two heartbeats away from the presidency, perhaps he should stay neutral.
But Trump’s allies aren’t buying that. The former president, the thinking goes, will never allow McCarthy to stay on the sidelines in a nasty GOP primary and expects his full support, something many of them think he’ll get eventually — and perhaps, now, sooner rather than later.
“At what point is it okay for Kevin McCarthy not to endorse Trump?” the consultant above asked. “Donald Trump has been very good to Kevin McCarthy.”
Yesterday’s brouhaha also raised questions about how long Trump should — or would — support McCarthy.
Many of the ex-president’s strongest allies in Congress have been stacking up their grievances against McCarthy, waiting for the right moment to make a move. Several would be more than happy to force a vote to oust the speaker if Trump wanted — and Trump knows that.
“If Donald Trump wanted … he could have him out as speaker by the end of the week,” the GOP consultant said.
Now, a large part of this is Team WIN THE MORNING high school kabuki bullshit.
But not all of it.
McCarthy already has had to deal with several of his caucus supporting Ron DeSantis, most notably my own Congressman, Thomas Massie, who took his Rules Commitee slot and then jumped the Trump ship. McCarthy endorsing Trump could cost him his job.
But Trump wants results: impeachments of Biden, VP Harris, several cabinet members, and more, expungements of his own impeachments (ahich actually aren't a thing but hey) and most of all for McCarthy to directly interfere with Jack Smith's investigation and indictments, and McCarthy can't deliver on those.
Personally I'd love to see this fight go public and for Trump to call for McCarthy's ouster, and if that actually happens, woo boy. Whether or not McCarthy can continue walking a greased tightrope in a hurricane is anyone's guess. He's made it to the six-month mark. But if Trump wants him gone and names, say, Elise Stefanik as his favored replacement, well, get the popcorn.
We all know how Trump treats his contractors and lackies in the end.