“Can he win that election? Yes, 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.
Trump’s world went crazy. The former president’s top advisers and allies who know both quickly exchanged messages asking, in short: What the fuck?
Some called McCarthy a “jerk”. Others turned to Trump’s campaign hand Brian Jack, who also advises the speaker and has been a key bridge between the two men, to mediate as Trump hits the road in New Hampshire.
McCarthy immediately went into cleaning mode. She called Trump to apologize, according to the New York Times. He offered Breitbart reporter Matt Boyle an exclusive interviewduring which he retracted the comments and accused the media of taking them out of context.
“Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016,” McCarthy told Boyle.
None of these moves assuaged the fury in Trump’s inner circle, people familiar with the matter told POLITICO. They feel that McCarthy has taken advantage of the former president when he benefits him and has not shown unwavering loyalty in return. They don’t understand how he could “spoke down”—as McCarthy, we’re told, told Trump—about something so critical.
Fundraising under Trump’s name without permission is a big no-no for the former president. His team requires explicit approval for any campaign using his name and likeness. Trump’s team asked McCarthy last night to remove the fundraising speech.
This isn’t the first time McCarthy has gone head-to-head with Trump. After the January 6 riots, McCarthy floated the idea of censuring Trump for his actions and was later Recorded discussing the idea of asking Trump to resign. However, the two continued their symbiotic bond: McCarthy quickly took a key role in restoring Trump’s prominence in the Republican Party, and Trump remained in McCarthy’s corner as he battled over the gavel.
But Tuesday’s drama came at a sensitive time, with a major question already bouncing around the Trump world: Why hasn’t McCarthy endorsed Trump?
While it’s unclear whether Trump 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 supporters that he is holding out because an endorsement “could harm” Trump by linking him to the party establishment, according to a GOP campaign consultant who asked not to be named. He also suggested that, as the highest-ranking Republican in office, just two heartbeats away from the presidency, perhaps he should remain neutral.
But Trump’s allies don’t buy it. The former president, it is widely believed, will never let McCarthy sit out in a nasty Republican primary and expects his full support, something many of them believe he will eventually get, and perhaps, now, sooner rather than later.
“At what point is it okay for Kevin McCarthy not to endorse Trump?” asked the consultant. “Donald Trump has been very good to Kevin McCarthy.”
The uproar also raised questions about how long Trump or McCarthy will support.
Many of the former president’s strongest allies in Congress have been piling up their grievances against McCarthy, waiting for the right moment to act. Several would be more than happy to force a vote to oust the speaker if Trump wanted to, and Trump knows it.
“If Donald Trump wanted to… he could get him out as a speaker by the end of the week,” the consultant said.