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'Comey Made the FBI Political': GOP Leader McCarthy

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Majority House Leader Kevin McCarthy on Trump firing FBI Director Comey, "If you lose trust, it's got to change." (Mariana Urban/KQED)

Speaking Wednesday evening at the San Francisco headquarters of the ride hailing company Lyft, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy broke the ice with a question.

"I voted for Trump," McCarthy said, stating the obvious. "Anybody in here vote for him besides me?"

Not a single hand went up, but McCarthy didn't skip a beat.

"So I’m going to take it you might have a different philosophical place than I am."

Dressed casually in blue jeans with no tie, McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gamely suggested that the crowd of mostly young tech workers should embrace Trump.


"He is not philosophically bent to the far right," McCarthy said of Trump. "He is a disrupter. All of you work for businesses that are disrupters."

Disrupters like Airbnb, which co-sponsored the event with the online publication Politico.

McCarthy said that Trump "wasn't my first, second or third choice to be president," but he said the 45th president was "misknown (sic) as being rigid, but he's open-minded."

McCarthy also defended Trump’s controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey, saying Democrats and Republicans had lost faith in the agency.

"When the FBI director thinks he becomes also the attorney general and the prosecutor, he’s probably overstepped," McCarthy said. "I would argue that Comey made the FBI political, and that’s probably not the place to be."

Of course McCarthy is nothing if not political. When House Speaker John Boehner announced he was retiring in 2015, McCarthy seemed first in line to replace him. Then he went on TV and said (correctly) that the House investigation of Hillary Clinton's role in the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya at the embassy in Benghazi was focused not on getting the truth but at taking her down.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right,? " McCarthy told Sean Hannity of Fox News. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

McCarthy soon announced he would not seek the speakership.

At the Wednesday event in San Francisco, McCarthy answered mostly friendly questions from Politico's Anna Palmer, who promised to focus mostly on issues of interest to the tech industry.

"I love Silicon Valley," Trump said, adding that government needed to take a page from the tech industry's innovative thinking.

But he also took a little shot at the mostly young, white members of the audience. "My district is diverse," he said, adding "a lot more diverse than this room."

A week after Republicans in the House passed the American Health Care Act to replace Obamacare, McCarthy said he was confident a similar bill would get support in the Senate.

"I believe the Senate will pass this," McCarthy said.

Regarding the Republican plan to remove strict Obamacare guidelines for minimum coverage, McCarthy said "you go into the marketplace and now we don't dictate what health care plans you have to provide so you have all different options."

Democrats and health care advocates say the Republican plan will lead to higher premiums and deductibles, especially for older Americans.

When asked about immigration reform, McCarthy said he thought it would happen sooner rather than later. And he signaled that people brought here illegally as kids -- the so-called dreamers -- will be protected.

"So if you were if you came here over the age of 18, I think you have a path to go forward." McCarthy said. "If you came here over the age of 18 and you broke some major felony, I think you need to depart."

Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell also attended the event and said afterwards he’d like to take up McCarthy’s offer to help protect immigrant families.

"Actions speak louder than words," Swalwell said. "And if the Majority Leader is sympathetic, and I’ll take him at his word that he is, we should put into law some of the protections that he’d like to see.

"If they’re serious about immigration reform, they’ll find Democrats, including me, that would like to work with them," he added.

When KQED later asked McCarthy about the seven Republican members of Congress from California targeted for defeat by Democrats, McCarthy said he wasn’t too worried it.

"Those are the same that they said in the last campaign and they won," he said. "Those are the same ones who carried their districts but the presidential race went different. The Democrats focus on it every time. But these members represent their districts."

It’s unlikely McCarthy converted many in the crowd to his cause but some seemed to appreciate that he showed up to make his case.

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