House Republicans on Wednesday released MP Liz Cheney from her party leadership role after she urged the party to reject former President Donald Trump as its leader.
Despite voting to oust her, Cheney remained defiant and vowed to continue the fight against Trump even if the GOP rejects her.
“We cannot let the former president withdraw us and make us complicit in his efforts to undo our democracy,” Cheney said during a closed GOP conference meeting that began around 9:00 am CET, NBC News reported.
“In this way lies our destruction and possibly the destruction of our country,” she said. “If you want leaders who enable and spread his destructive lies, I am not you, you have many others to choose from. That will be your legacy.”
“But I promise you that after today I will fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, defeat socialism, defend our republic, and make the GOP worthy of Lincoln’s party again be.” Cheney reportedly said.
The showdown came days after two other senior House Republicans, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, said they were done with Cheney as chairman of the House’s GOP conference.
US Representative Liz Cheney (C), Republican of Wyoming, arrives at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on May 12, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
She and Trump have endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik, a fourth-term New York Congresswoman who gained national attention in 2019 for forcibly defending Trump during his first impeachment trial.
The urge to swap the strictly conservative and politically deeply rooted Cheney for the less conservative, Trump-supportive Stefanik is a good example of the GOP’s shift towards a firm realignment behind the former president with the upcoming mid-term congressional elections in 2022.
Cheney, one of only 10 Republicans who voted against Trump for inciting the deadly invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, survived an earlier attempt in February to oust her. At the time, the Wyoming Republican had the support of her counterparts.
To their chagrin, Cheney has continued to beat Trump in the three months since then for spreading the lie that the 2020 elections were rigged against him.
This sets Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, apart from almost the rest of her conference, which after Trump’s loss has only been more committed to maintaining the status of the ex-president as his leader.
Trump never conceded the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and still falsely claims he won the race – although his reach is limited after several social media companies banned him from their platforms after the January 6 uprising.
There is no evidence of widespread electoral fraud. William Barr, Trump’s attorney general at the time, said the Justice Department had found no evidence of fraud that would undo Biden’s victory. However, opinion polls suggest that large segments of Trump’s supporters still believe that illegal voting or cheating changed the outcome of the race.
Some Republicans, including McCarthy and Scalise, have suggested that Cheney’s refusal to back down on Trump is a distraction that violates the GOP’s goal of winning the house back in 2022.
“Every day we relit the past is one less day we have to seize the future,” McCarthy said Tuesday in a letter in which Cheney was not mentioned by name.
But Cheney argued in a scorching speech on Tuesday night on the floor of the house and in a statement last week that countering Trump’s election lies was practically a patriotic duty.
“Ignoring the lie encourages the liar”
U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) walks with her staff as she departs after a vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, United States, on May 11, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before: a former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol to steal elections has resumed aggressive efforts to convince Americans that his elections were stolen, “Cheney said.
Trump “risks further violence,” she said, and he “continues to undermine our democratic process and sow doubts as to whether democracy really works at all.”
She noted that after dozens of legal challenges and official investigations, no widespread electoral fraud has been discovered.
“The election is over,” said Cheney. “Those who refuse to accept the decisions of our courts are at war with the constitution.”
“Our duty is clear: each of us who have sworn the oath must act to prevent the dissolution of our democracy,” she said. “This is not about politics, this is not about partisanship. This is our duty as Americans.”
“Silence and ignoring the lie ignores the liar.”
“I’m not going to take part in that,” added Cheney. “I will not sit back and watch in silence as others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
After the 2020 election cycle, Republicans lost control of the White House and Senate. But much of the party still sees Trump as the biggest draw.
“He’s by far the most popular Republican in the country. If you try to get him out of the Republican Party, half the people will leave,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., a dedicated Trump ally, said Tuesday Fox News.
“So that doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the president, it just means that the Republican Party can’t move forward without President Trump being a part of it,” Graham said.
While the vote on Wednesday will be secret, the internal Cheney argument was aired in broad daylight – which led to unusual political optics, such as Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who praised Cheney for giving “truth to power” say.
The Biden administration has largely stayed away from the fight. “We’ll leave that up to them to work among themselves,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday when asked about the GOP power struggle.
But when asked directly about it last week, Biden said the GOP looked like it was going through some “kind of mini-revolution”.
“We urgently need a Republican Party. We need a two-party system. It is not healthy to have a one-party system,” Biden said in the White House. “And I think Republicans are further from figuring out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they’d be at that point.”
McCarthy and other Republicans are expected to visit the White House later this week to discuss the government’s economic investment plans.
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