MAGA Movement Leaders Split From Trump Over McCarthy Bid for House Speaker

Former Trump official Russ Vought runs the Center for Renewing America (Image from Intercessors for America prayer call July 17, 2021)

While former President Donald Trump reiterated his support for would-be Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, former Trump official Russ Vought rallied right-wing activists to “keep fighting” against McCarthy, and a group of religious-right leaders who supported Trump’s efforts to stay in office released a statement slamming McCarthy and praising the “courageous” far-right representatives who prevented him from getting a majority in six votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“McCarthy must go,” Vought wrote in a Wednesday evening email to supporters of Citizens for Renewing America, a group he started after Trump was dumped by voters. The group has actively promoted MAGA movement culture wars over “cultural Marxism” and “critical race theory.”

Vought wrote that his team was in “close contact” with many of the roughly 20 House Republicans who denied McCarthy victory in six votes on Tuesday and Wednesday—a group Vought described as “a band of America First patriots.” Vought also went on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” this week to portray the fight against McCarthy as a chance to “dismantle the establishment.”

Dozens of right-wing movement leaders, including Vought and Ginni Thomas, signed the anti-McCarthy statement released by the Conservative Action Project, which is affiliated with the secretive and influential Council for National Policy. The first signer, Conservative Action Project chair Kenneth Blackwell, was revealed by the Jan. 6 committee to have been involved in the effort to pressure Mike Pence to act unconstitutionally and illegally to prevent congressional affirmation of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. In December 2020, members of the Conservative Action Project falsely claimed that Trump had won, urged state legislators in swing states won by Biden to name pro-Trump electors anyway, and called on congressional Republicans to contest electoral votes from those states.

Also on Wednesday, Trump’s fellow Floridian Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his own fundraising email disparaging the GOP’s House leader as “Cavin’ McCarthy” and “Kiev Kevin” and calling him a “California liberal” and “spineless RINO.”