By Melanie Zanona, CNN
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy heaped praised on former President Donald Trump at a Dallas fundraiser on Monday evening, calling him Republicans’ “secret weapon” and suggesting he could become president again, according to sources in the room.
When Trump took the stage at the event raising money for the House GOP’s campaign arm, he spoke highly of McCarthy as well throughout his speech, sources said.
“Kevin’s been with me from the beginning,” Trump said, according to attendees. Trump noted they’ve done a lot together to “fight back” and ticked off a list of some of their accomplishments, including a trade deal.
It was their first appearance on stage together, though it came behind closed doors, since the release of tapes featuring McCarthy privately bashing Trump in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
McCarthy was the subject of multiple stories related to comments he made to other Republicans in January 2021, which were featured in the book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns of The New York Times. As part of their reporting, the authors released several audio clips last month where McCarthy criticized Trump, including when he said he would recommend to Trump that he resign following his handling of the Capitol Hill insurrection.
Trump and McCarthy have spoken numerous times and met at least once since that controversy first broke, and have maintained a good relationship.
This is the second fundraiser that Trump has done for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the past year, following headlining their annual dinner in November.
The fundraiser was the first time that many Republicans heard from Trump directly describing his relationship to McCarthy with him in the room. Trump told The Wall Street Journal last month that his relationship with McCarthy remains good, despite the audio’s release.
“He made a call. I heard the call. I didn’t like the call. But almost immediately as you know, because he came here and we took a picture right there—you know, the support was very strong,” Trump told the WSJ, referring to when McCarthy trekked down to Mar-a-Lago weeks after January 6 and posed for a picture with Trump in an effort to get back in his good graces.
Trump continued: “I think it’s all a big compliment, frankly,” Trump said, referring to the Republicans who initially criticized him after January 6 but quickly changed their tune. “They realized they were wrong and supported me.”
During Monday’s fundraiser, Trump also made a joke about how Trump-backed Ohio GOP Senate candidate JD Vance has criticized him in the past, saying if he used that as disqualifier he wouldn’t be able to support anyone, sources said.
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