Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell wanted Trump to resign over Jan. 6 -- but soon changed their minds
Flickr/Gage Skidmore

"I've had it with this guy."

That was House minority leader Kevin McCarthy's declaration to Republican leaders in the days immediately following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection when he told them he would push Donald Trump to resign. That tune soon changed, according to a new book by New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin.

The book, which was excerpted Thursday by the Times, details how McCarthy and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell privately were much closer to pushing for the president's resignation than previously known. It also illustrates the vast difference between what they said behind closed doors and what they parsed in public.

"The leaders’ swift retreat in January 2021 represented a capitulation at a moment of extraordinary political weakness for Mr. Trump — perhaps the last and best chance for mainstream Republicans to reclaim control of their party from a leader who had stoked an insurrection against American democracy itself," they write.

The political calculations they made once the smoke cleared from the Capitol could not be more clear than in a comment made by McConnell to a friend when explaining why he backed off a public fight with Trump and his political machine. “I didn’t get to be leader by voting with five people in the conference,” McConnell said.

Both McConnell and McCarthy abandoned the notion of pushing for Trump's resignation when "it became clear it would mean difficult votes that would put them at odds with most of their colleagues."

“This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future” draws on hundreds of interviews with lawmakers and officials, and contemporaneous records of pivotal moments in the 2020 presidential campaign.

"During the same Jan. 10 conversation when he said he would call on Mr. Trump to resign," according to the book, "Mr. McCarthy told other GOP leaders he wished the big tech companies would strip some Republican lawmakers of their social media accounts, as Twitter and Facebook had done with Mr. Trump. Members such as Lauren Boebert of Colorado had done so much to stoke paranoia about the 2020 election and made offensive comments online about the Capitol attack."

“'We can’t put up with that,' Mr. McCarthy said, adding, 'Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?'”

The authors say that McConnell’s office declined to comment and that a spokesman for McCarthy denied that the Republican leader told colleagues he would push Trump to leave office. “McCarthy never said he’d call Trump to say he should resign,” the spokesperson said.