A former staffer for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that the California congressman’s leadership direction is being motivated by fringe members of the House GOP like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
- A former staffer for Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he’s driven by the “most extreme wings” of the GOP.
- Former McCarthy aide Ryan O’Toole told CNN the congressman did not have a leadership strategy.
- O’Toole said McCarthy was instead motivated by what Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz want.
A former staffer for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says the congressman’s leadership strategy for the House GOP is driven by the most extreme wings of the Republican party.
Ryan O’Toole, a McCarthy staffer during the Capitol riot in January 2021, who is now a deputy policy director for Rep. Liz Cheney, spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper about what he saw when he was on the House floor on January 6, 2021.
“How do you explain McCarthy’s evolving opinion on Trump’s role in the insurrection, blaming him directly for the mob and then months later, leading the whitewashing of it?” Tapper asked.
“I think there’s a great leadership quote (from) Boston Mayor (James Michael) Curley: ‘There go the people, I am their leader. I must follow them.’ I think that really describes leader McCarthy’s leadership strategy — and that there’s not one,” O’Toole told Tapper.
“His leadership strategy is dictated by the most extreme wings of his party. And so when Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz puts their thumb on the scale, that’s what he responds to, and that drives the House Republican Conference into the arms of somebody like Donald Trump. And so the leadership that enables that behavior is continuing today, as we’ve seen,” O’Toole added.
He also said that he did not know why McCarthy changed his position on Trump’s role in the Capitol riot.
“For me, after January 6, my conscience and my values were clear. We need to be loyal to the Constitution, and I made a choice to leave and go on for somebody who did believe in that. After January 6, Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago, and I think that says things pretty clearly for the American people,” O’Toole added.
Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger echoed O’Toole’s view.
“What I underestimated was the impact that one person would have on that, and that is Kevin McCarthy and his visit to Mar-a-Lago,” Kinzinger told the Associated Press, citing McCarthy’s visit to Trump’s Florida estate in the days following the insurrection. It was during that meeting that Trump and McCarthy reportedly agreed to work together to help the GOP take back the House during the midterm elections.
“Kevin McCarthy is legitimately, singlehandedly, the reason that Donald Trump is still a force in the party,” Kinzinger said. “That full-hearted embrace, I saw firsthand in members, made them not just scared to take on Trump but in some cases also full-heartedly embrace him.”
McCarthy might be angling to become the next speaker of the House if the Republicans do take Congress during the upcoming 2022 midterms. However, in November, Georgia lawmaker Greene said that McCarthy “doesn’t have the votes” or the full support from the House GOP to be speaker of the House. Greene rebuked him for not standing up for her or Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar when they were stripped of their seats on House committees.
McCarthy has also continually faced criticism about his leadership from Trump, too. Trump claimed in November that the Republicans could have stayed in power if McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had “fought harder.”
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