Trump tiptoes away from Kevin McCarthy amid House speaker flop: ‘We’ll see what happens’

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Former president Donald Trump’s support for Rep Kevin McCarthy’s House speaker bid appears to be softening, after the California Republican failed to clinch enough votes to take the gavel after several rounds of voting.

Mr Trump had previously lobbied for Mr McCarthy to become speaker after Republicans eked out a majority in the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections.

Last month, he told right-wing Breitbart News that House Republicans were playing with fire by not backing Mr McCarthy.

“I’m friendly with a lot of those people who are against Kevin. I think almost every one of them are very much inclined toward Trump, and me toward them. But I have to tell them, and I have told them, you’re playing a very dangerous game. You could end up with the worse situation,” he said at the time.

But Mr Trump appears to have changed his tune after Mr McCarthy’s bid for the Speaker’s gavel was stymied by far-right House Republicans, 20 of whom voted against him — 16 more than the maximum number he could lose and still garner votes from a majority of the chamber.

Asked about his support for Mr McCarthy, he hedged his bets in a telephone interview with NBC News.

“We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it all works out,” Mr Trump told correspondent Garrett Haake in an exclusive interview.

“I got everybody calling me wanting my support. But let’s see what happens and we’ll go — I got everybody calling, wanting my support,” he said. “That’s all I can say”.

Mr Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for Mr McCarthy’s candidacy is a significant rebuke to Mr McCarthy, who had personally taken upon himself to rehabilitate the disgraced ex-president by visiting Mr Trump’s Florida residence and allowing himself to be photographed with him just three weeks after he ordered a riotous mob of his supporters to storm Mr McCarthy’s place of work, the US Capitol, in hopes of keeping himself in power against the wishes of American voters.

He took yet more steps to aid Mr Trump in the weeks and months that followed, including by opposing Mr Trump’s second impeachment and intervening to scuttle a deal he’d previously blessed that would have provided for a bipartisan, bicameral commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

But his attempts to court Mr Trump’s strongest supporters in the Republican conference failed immediately after the 118th Congress convened at noon on Tuesday.

On the first voice vote, 19 GOP members supported someone other than him, including many of the Republican members considered among the ex-president’s allies. Two subsequent votes also failed, and the House recessed by voice vote shortly after.