President Donald Trump stands with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., during an event on California water accessibility, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Bakersfield, Calif.

Trump advisers express skepticism he backed Matt Gaetz’s push to oust Kevin McCarthy

In the wake of the historic ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker, there is growing intrigue around whether former President Donald Trump supported the move.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., led the push, which succeeded when eight Republicans joined with all 208 Democrats to boot McCarthy.

After the vote, Gaetz spoke with reporters and suggested that he had Trump’s backing.

“My conversations with the former president leave me with great confidence that I did the right thing,” he said.

Gaetz’s comments leave some wiggle room. He didn’t specify which “conversations” he had with Trump or exactly what was said.

Publicly, Trump wasn’t cheering on Gaetz, and for days, he hadn’t chimed in on the issue.

His only public comment came Tuesday on Truth Social, the social media platform he owns, where he lamented the GOP infighting.

“Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our country,” Trump wrote.

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Trump also had his own problems to deal with, as he spent much of Tuesday in a New York City courthouse for the second day of the trial in state Attorney General Letitia James’ $250 million civil fraud case again him. He ignored two NBC News questions about the issue outside the courthouse.

After Gaetz publicly said Trump supported him, multiple Trump advisers and supporters expressed skepticism.

“I point you to President Trump’s Truth from earlier today,” said Chris LaCivita, a Trump adviser.

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A second adviser similarly directed NBC News to the Truth Social post, which didn’t support Gaetz’s claim that Trump backed him.

“Let’s hear Trump say that,” a Trump ally said when asked whether they believed what Gaetz said.

Trump’s low profile in the fight for McCarthy’s future was a departure from earlier this year, when he spoke to lawmakers on the phone and publicly endorsed McCarthy in the election to become speaker.

McCarthy ultimately overcame significant opposition from within his own party and became speaker after a 15-round floor fight.

And in the recent fight over funding the government, Trump privately told some conservative members that they ultimately could do whatever they had to do, a source familiar with the conversations said, despite his social media post urging Republicans to shut down the government.

Some conservative members who had heard from Trump during the funding fight last week didn’t hear from him over the effort to oust McCarthy, several sources familiar said.

The Trump ally said Gaetz essentially tied the former president to what happened Tuesday.

“By Matt coming out and saying what he just said, the president owns this, whether he likes it or not,” the person said.

Gaetz didn’t respond to a request for comment about the Trump team’s not backing his statement that Trump supported his effort.

The House will now need to elect a new speaker, a process without a set timeline. In the meantime, Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a McCarthy ally, will serve as interim speaker.

McCarthy said Tuesday that he won’t run again for speaker.

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Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is a senior national politics reporter for NBC News, based in Florida.

Katherine Doyle

Katherine Doyle is a White House reporter for NBC News.

Vaughn Hillyard

Vaughn Hillyard is a political reporter for NBC News.