Bakersfield Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he implored President Donald Trump during an intense, hourlong phone conversation Monday morning to accept his electoral defeat and move forward with a peaceful transition of power.
The president “listened deeply” as the House minority leader pleaded with him, telling him the election was over and he needed to move on — “Stop this!” McCarthy recalled telling him.
But he said Trump would not commit to taking the congressman’s insistence that he call and meet President-elect Joe Biden then leave him a letter of welcome on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
“I think he took it all in and we’ll see what comes about,” McCarthy said in an exclusive interview with The Californian on Tuesday evening.
McCarthy said he also refuted the president’s assertion members of Antifa were among the rioters who stormed the US Capitol last week.
“They were in my office. They left zip ties,” McCarthy said. “I saw them as they broke my window.”
“The president said there was some Antifa there. I said, ‘No, the people arrested, they’re MAGA,’ ” the acronym for the president’s call to “Make America Great Again.”
The White House did not reply to a request for comment Tuesday.
McCarthy said neither man raised his voice during Monday’s call, which began when the president called him at about 10 a.m. An intense and emotional conversation followed, he said: “one friend talking to another and I’m not letting up on him.”
“I believe it’s very important to do the thing that sets our country (apart) from all the others, is a peaceful transition” of power, he said, adding he has not spoken with Trump since Monday morning’s call.
McCarthy also criticized the FBI’s failure to share with him and other congressional leaders newly disclosed reports agency investigators had been aware of planning for the riot.
“They never told me and I’m the Republican leader and I’m trying to tell my members,” he said. “We could’ve been better prepared.”
His close connection with the president may put McCarthy in a unique position to offer advice in urgent situations. McCarthy said few others share conversations of such weight and length with Trump. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not spoken with Trump since mid-December.
“I’m one of the only ones” talking with the president, McCarthy said. “Then I’m criticized. We’d be in a government shutdown if not” for his interventions, he said.
Their conversation follows at least two other crucial phone calls in which McCarthy has recalled asking the president to take urgent action.
The first was around Christmas when McCarthy said he spent days trying to persuade the president to sign a bill extending federal unemployment benefits and offering individuals a $600 stimulus check. Trump was initially against it but ultimately signed the bill.
The other instance McCarthy recalled was during the riot. He said the two shared a “very heated conversation” as the riot was taking place and he was urging the president to “get help” to the Capitol.
“We have conversations and I have disagreements with him. And I express them to him,” McCarthy said regarding his relationship with the president. “I want this country to be united and I give him advice just like I call President (-elect) Biden.”
It’s important now that the country “lower the tone,” he said.
“It’s raising the ability for greater violence and we’ve got to stop that and come together as one nation,” he said. “And I want to be part of helping heal.”
McCarthy dismissed a report by The New York Times Tuesday that he had asked other Republicans about whether he should ask the president to resign in the aftermath of the riot. He said he had no idea what prompted that story, which the newspaper attributed to three unnamed Republican officials.
“I do not think the president will step down, even if somebody asked him,” he said.