(CNN)House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy discussed the 25th Amendment on a call with GOP leadership days after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and said the process “takes too long,” according to an audio recording obtained by two New York Times reporters and shared with CNN.
McCarthy also said during the call that he wanted to reach out to then-President-elect Joe Biden as he expressed hope for a “smooth transition,” and said he thought impeachment would further divide the nation.
The call took place on January 8, 2021, and the audio was obtained for the new book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns.
At one point in the recording, McCarthy asks an aide for a readout of what House Democrats had been discussing internally. The aide responds, “I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here.”
McCarthy interjects to say, “That takes too long too. It could go back to the House, right?”
The aide responds, “Correct. If the President were to submit a letter overruling the Cabinet and the vice president, two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate to overrule the President. So it’s kind of an armful.”
That same day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter to House Democrats raising the 25th Amendment as an option. The House ended up voting days later on a resolution calling on the vice president to activate the 25th Amendment, with only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, joining all Democrats to support the measure.
CNN has reached out to McCarthy’s office to request comment on the new audio.
At the beginning of the audio, McCarthy can be heard saying, “What the President did is atrocious and totally wrong,” comments that have been previously reported on by The New York Times.
In the aftermath of the deadly attack on the Capitol, a number of Democrats, including members of leadership, publicly called for then-President Donald Trump to be removed from office either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
Invoking the 25th Amendment would have required then-Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to “discharge the powers and duties of his office” — an unprecedented step.
The new audio release of McCarthy is the latest in a series of such releases featuring the House GOP leader that have shed light on what he said privately to other House Republicans in the aftermath of the January 6 attack. And the fact McCarthy was pressing one of his aides for details about how the 25th Amendment process would work shows there was a serious conversation at the highest levels of GOP leadership about the idea — not just idle chatter — even if it was ultimately deemed not a viable option.
Last month, audio showed that McCarthy did consider asking Trump to resign in the days after the riot, contradicting his office’s earlier denials of New York Times reporting that he had done so.
Audio also showed that in the days following the insurrection, McCarthy told Republican lawmakers on a private conference call that Trump had admitted bearing some responsibility for the deadly attack.
McCarthy has moved to tamp down the potential fallout from the audio releases both in public and in private, and he commented on speaking about the 25th Amendment. McCarthy, who initially vehemently denied the Times’ reporting before the audiotapes of those conversations were released, has argued that he was merely floating potential scenarios about Trump’s future and was not advocating for one option over the other.
“I have never asked the President to resign. I never thought he should resign,” McCarthy said in April when pressed on whether he had believed at any point that Trump should resign. “What I was asked on a phone call was about the process, the 25th Amendment, whether someone was impeached. We walked through ifs, ands and buts. It was never in the process to ask Trump to resign.”
Trump, for his part, said after the initial audiotapes were released that while he didn’t like what he had heard McCarthy saying, their relationship remains strong — in part because McCarthy worked so hard after January 6 to win his support.
In the new audio, McCarthy can also be heard discussing wanting to reach out to Biden.
“I do think the impeachment divides the nation further and continues the fight even greater. That’s why I want to reach out to Biden. I wanted the President to meet with Biden; that’s not going to happen,” McCarthy said, adding, “I want to see about us meeting with Biden, sitting down, make a smooth transition to show that, and continue to keep those statements going.”
McCarthy, who said he used to have breakfast with Biden when he was the vice president, also talked about what would be best for Biden, arguing that a smooth transition would “be beneficial to his presidency, too” and that Biden would be in a “stronger” position if he implores the country to move forward.
McCarthy can also be heard saying on the tape, “I’m trying to do it not from a basis of Republicans, of a basis of, hey, it’s not healthy for the nation. That’s a conversation I want to have with Biden himself.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday and further details.
CNN’s Lauren Fox contributed to this report.