Former President Donald J. Trump was “really depressed” in the days after losing re-election and leaving office in January 2021, so much so that he was “not eating.”At least that is what Kevin McCarthy told Liz Cheney in trying to explain why he had traveled to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, an act of solidarity that many have identified as a pivotal moment in reviving the former president’s political viability.Mr. McCarthy, the California congressman who was then the House Republican leader, had condemned Mr. Trump for fueling the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol and even suggested that he resign, only to turn around and effectively absolve the former president by embracing him again. In her new book, Ms. Cheney, perhaps the country’s most vocal anti-Trump Republican, reports that Mr. McCarthy justified the Jan. 28 visit as an act of compassion for a beaten ally.Ms. Cheney wrote that she was so shocked when she first saw the photograph of Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Trump standing side by side with grins on their faces that she thought it was a fake. “Not even Kevin McCarthy could be this craven, I thought,” she wrote. “I was wrong.” She went to see Mr. McCarthy to confront him about rehabilitating the twice-impeached former president who had just tried to overturn an election he lost.“Mar-a-Lago?” she asked Mr. McCarthy, according to the book. “What the hell?”He tried to downplay the meeting, saying he had already been in Florida when Mr. Trump’s staff called. “They’re really worried,” Mr. McCarthy said by her account. “Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”“What?” she recalled replying. “You went to Mar-a-Lago because Trump’s not eating?”“Yeah, he’s really depressed,” Mr. McCarthy said.Ms. Cheney’s book, “Oath and Honor,” a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times ahead of its publication on Tuesday, offers a scathing assessment of not only Mr. McCarthy but an array of Republicans who in her view subordinated their integrity to curry favor with Mr. Trump. Her account of his subjugation of the party presents a tapestry of hypocrisy, with inside-the-room scenes of Republicans privately scorning “the Orange Jesus,” as one wryly called him, while publicly doing his bidding.
The much-anticipated memoir arrives on bookshelves even as Mr. Trump is in a commanding position to win next year’s Republican presidential nomination. Ms. Cheney, who represented Wyoming in Congress and led the House Republican Conference, making her the third-ranking member of her party, has assailed him as a budding autocrat in more visceral terms than most of his challengers for the nomination.
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a conservative star in her own right who was once on track to become House speaker, Ms. Cheney ultimately paid a price for her opposition to Mr. Trump and her service as vice chair of the House committee that investigated his role in instigating the Jan. 6 attack. She lost her leadership position and eventually her seat in a Republican primary last year. But she has vowed to do whatever she can to keep Mr. Trump from returning to the Oval Office.Indeed, she subtitled her book “A Memoir and a Warning” to make the point that Mr. Trump represents a clear and present danger to America if he is on the ballot next November. “We will be voting on whether to preserve our republic,” she wrote. “As a nation, we can endure damaging policies for a four-year term. But we cannot survive a president willing to terminate our Constitution.”
A re-elected Mr. Trump, she said, would face few checks on his power. “Step by step, Donald Trump would tear down the other structures that restrain an American president,” she wrote. “The assumption that our institutions will protect themselves,” she added, “is purely wishful thinking by people who prefer to look the other way.”
Asked for comment on Wednesday, Mr. Trump, who has openly called for “termination” of the Constitution to immediately remove President Biden from office and reinstall himself without waiting for another election, did not directly address any of Ms. Cheney’s specific assertions but simply dismissed her as a disgruntled critic.“Liz Cheney is a loser who is now lying in order to sell a book that either belongs in the discount bargain bin in the fiction section of the bookstore or should be repurposed as toilet paper,” Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said by email.