House Republicans on Wednesday removed MP Liz Cheney from her party leadership role after calling on the GOP to reject former President Donald Trump.
But Cheney remained defiant and vowed to continue the fight against Trump.
“I will do everything I can to make sure the former president never gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney told reporters after she was ousted as chair of the House GOP conference during a closed meeting.
“The party is in a place we need to bring it back from,” she said. “We cannot allow ourselves to be withdrawn by the very dangerous lies of a former president.”
Cheney gave her colleagues one final pitch at the beginning of the meeting, which started around 9 a.m. CET and lasted about 20 minutes.
US Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, speaks to the media at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on May 12, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
“We cannot let the former president pull us back and be complicit in his efforts to undo our democracy,” Cheney said, NBC News reported. “In this way lies our destruction and possibly the destruction of our country.”
“If you want leaders who enable and spread his destructive lies, I am not your person, you have many others to choose from. That will be your legacy,” she said.
“But I promise you that after today I will wage the 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.” Said Cheney.
In a statement following the GOP conference vote, Trump applauded Cheney’s ousting with a string of personal slurs against Wyoming lawmakers.
The showdown came days after two other senior Republicans in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, said they were done with Cheney as chairman of the House’s GOP conference.
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.
A vote for the new conference chair will be held on Friday, McCarthy said at the end of Wednesday’s session, NBC reported.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., arrives for the House Republican Conference meeting where she is expected to be elected to replace Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., As Chair of the House Republicans Conference at the Capitol on Wednesday. May 12, 2021.
Bill Clark | CQ Appeal, Inc. | Getty Images
The urge to swap the strictly conservative and politically deeply rooted Cheney for the Trump-supportive Stefanik is a good example of the GOP’s shift towards a firm realignment behind the former president with the upcoming medium-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.
Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House of Representatives, differed from almost all other conferences that, after Trump’s loss, only became more involved in maintaining the status of the ex-president as leader.
Trump never conceded the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and still falsely claims he won the race – although his reach was 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 getting the house back in 2022.
Republican Conference Chairperson Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a press conference with House Minority MP Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (R) and Republican Whip Rep Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the U.S. United States Capitol December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum | Getty Images
“Every day we relitute 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”
Cheney has vowed to continue the fight against Trump’s “Big Lie” even if booted by the leadership. On the eve of the expected vote to oust her, Cheney appeared to have a head start and went to the floor of the house to represent her case.
“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 his aggressive efforts to convince Americans to believe him the 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 about our duty as Americans.”
“Silence and ignoring the lie encourages 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 on 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 means that the Republican Party can’t move forward without President Trump being a part of it,” Graham said.
While Cheney was ousted behind closed doors, the party series aired their views in broad daylight – resulting in unusual political optics such as Chuck Schumer, majority leader in the Democratic Senate, who praised Cheney for speaking “truth about power” .
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Called Cheney “a leader of great courage, patriotism and integrity” in a statement Wednesday.
“Today the Republicans in the House declared that these values were not wanted in the Republican Party,” said Pelosi.
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 right 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.