Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, told GOP lawmakers in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that former President Donald Trump acknowledged he bore “some responsibility” for what happened that day, new audio revealed Friday.

The audio, obtained by The New York Times, is part of a series of revelations about Republican leaders’ private condemnations of Trump in the days after his supporters stormed the Capitol.

McCarthy’s assertion would be the clearest indication that Trump may have admitted some measure of culpability for the deadly mob. The revelation comes as congressional investigators scour for evidence of Trump’s involvement in his supporters’ failed attempt to block the official certification of his loss in the 2020 election.

“Let me be very clear to all of you, and I have been very clear to the president: He bears responsibilities for his words and actions,” McCarthy told House Republicans on a Jan. 11, 2021, conference call. “No if, ands or buts.

“I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened?” McCarthy said. “Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened and he’d need to acknowledge that.”

Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

The recording of the meeting was obtained in reporting for the upcoming book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future.” The book, which details several private conversations among Republicans talking derisively about Trump, has quickly become an embarrassment and a potential political problem for McCarthy.


On Thursday, the Times reported that McCarthy told his leadership team that he planned to urge Trump to quit after the attack. McCarthy said he would tell Trump of the impending impeachment resolution: “I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”

McCarthy called the report “totally false and wrong,” but the claim was swiftly disproved when the Times published a recording of the call hours later.

The exposure of McCarthy’s dishonesty comes at a pivotal moment in the 57-year-old Republican leader’s long-plotted rise to power. The Californian is widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives if Republicans take control of the chamber after the midterm elections, an outcome seen as highly likely by strategists in both parties. But he has long faced questions about his capacity to manage the unruly, ideologically fractious flock of lawmakers who make up the House Republican conference.

Those lawmakers were looking to Trump on Friday to guide their response. Trump and McCarthy spoke Thursday evening, a conversation first reported by The Washington Post, and Trump remained largely quiet Friday.

In private, Trump enjoyed watching McCarthy’s misfortune, according to four people who had spoken to him about the episode but asked for anonymity to discuss private conversations. In his view, the fact that McCarthy never followed through on his tough talk, and instead reaffirmed his devotion, only illustrated Trump’s grip on his party, they said.

The once, and perhaps future, Republican standard-bearer has often been privately dismissive of McCarthy. And it could serve Trump’s purposes if McCarthy continues as House Republican leader — but as a weakened figure even more closely dependent on Trump’s approval.


McCarthy is already a fragile figure atop the House Republican conference, embraced by the party’s various factions more out of convenience than fierce loyalty. Still, few lawmakers used the moment to criticize him Friday.

“He has wide support from the conference,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., a former member of the House GOP leadership.

Many lawmakers, lobbyists and aides in Washington, however, were surprised at McCarthy’s carelessness, disapproving of, if not exactly disbelieving, the notion that he would flatly deny comments he had made in group settings.

Even his allies were uneasy about how breezily McCarthy disregarded the truth.

“You either say you don’t recall the conversation or that you don’t discuss private conversations and are disappointed in those who leak them,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

McCarthy made the recorded remarks in the chaotic days after the attack, as he plotted a path forward with this team and sought to calm Republicans panicked about the potential political fallout.


“I know this is not fun; I know this is not great. … I don’t want to rush things; I want everybody to have all the information needed,” McCarthy said, according to an audio clip of a Jan. 10, 2021, meeting with a small group of lawmakers. “I’ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it.”

The next day, speaking to a larger group, McCarthy seemed to be trying to reassure Republicans that Trump understood the gravity of the moment and might emerge conciliatory. It is difficult to gauge the accuracy of McCarthy’s claim about Trump.

In the 15 months since the attack, Trump has largely sought to deflect criticism when asked publicly about his role. Earlier this month, he told The Washington Post that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser were to blame for failing to secure the Capitol.

In that interview, Trump disclosed that he had wanted to march to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Secret Service said I couldn’t go,” he said. “I would have gone there in a minute.”

This week was not the first time McCarthy had not been fully truthful about his private remarks.

Earlier this year, he was asked in a news conference about the call with House Republicans after the attack. He sidestepped the question: “I’m not sure what call you’re talking about.”