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New audio of Rep. McCarthy raise questions about his integrity

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Republican Party faces a new moment of reckoning tied to its top leaders and the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Newly released recordings of private phone conversations contradict what House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has said publicly about the insurrection. One was from just days after the siege. And on that recording, McCarthy says that former President Trump accepted some responsibility for the actions of his supporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN MCCARTHY: But let me be very clear to all of you, and I've been very clear to the president. He bears responsibility for his words and actions, no ifs, ands or buts. I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened, and he needs to acknowledge that.

SIMON: Trump has not done that. He's never acknowledged responsibility publicly. The recordings were released by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns. They've written a book about the 2020 election. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us.

Claudia, thanks for being with us.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: One of the recordings released this week makes it pretty plain that Kevin McCarthy lied when he publicly said he didn't consider recommending that Trump resign after the attack. What does that mean for his hopes to be the speaker next year if Republicans win the House?

GRISALES: It may not mean much. He needs to address this with his conference. But Trump is the ultimate judge here. And he told The Wall Street Journal last night that while he was not pleased, their relationship remains good. Also, McCarthy told a CBS affiliate station in California that, in the end, he never told Trump to resign and said they had spoken twice yesterday.

SIMON: How are these revelations shaking up House Republicans or not?

GRISALES: Well, we've seen this before. New details from the January 6 attack upend a story that Republicans have told about the siege or Trump's role in it. The controversy creates some blowback. But members often return to their central mantra, which is unwavering loyalty to the former president. And although many Republicans were clearly furious after the attack, they pivoted within weeks. And that includes McCarthy and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. So far in this new case, we're seeing some early mixed reviews of McCarthy among the rank-and-file members. But they'll get a chance to hash this all out behind closed doors when Congress returns to session next week.

SIMON: And how does this work into the House Select Committee's probe of the insurrection? And what would you say currently is the status of that investigation?

GRISALES: These McCarthy tapes are tied to details the panel had raised months ago in part of a larger picture the committee is hoping to fill in as they plan to present their findings in the coming months. Last night, the panel filed a more than 240-page document in a core fight against another Republican; this being former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has been fighting a committee subpoena. In it, investigators shared details from several new depositions, including that the Trump White House received intelligence warning days ahead of the January 6 siege that it could turn violent.

It also named several House Republicans who were part of discussions to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to step out of his constitutional role to certify the election's result. And they have testimony the Trump White House counsel had warned that efforts to install a fake elector scheme was illegal. So it's clear the panel wants to highlight the roles GOP members played with January 6. But whether any will be held accountable for their actions still remains to be seen.

SIMON: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales - thanks so much for being with us.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.