WASHINGTON – The first time Donald J. Trump’s defense attorneys came for Rep. Liz Cheney for voting against him for impeachment, Republicans closed their ranks to save her leadership position, and Rep. Kevin McCarthy boasted that theirs The big tent party had enough space for the former president and a strong critic.
Obviously not anymore.
Just three months after knocking back a vote of no confidence by a unilateral lead, the Republican of House No. 3, Ms. Cheney, of Wyoming, faces a far greater challenge that is more likely to end in her fall from the leadership. This time, Mr. McCarthy, the minority leader, encourages efforts to replace them.
Her transgression, say colleagues: Ms. Cheney’s continued public criticism of Mr. Trump, her denunciation of his lies about a stolen election, and her claims that the G.O.P. Tell the truth about how his supporters attacked democracy during the January 6th uprising in the Capitol.
The turnaround again reflects the passion with which Republicans have hugged Mr Trump and the voters who adore him, and how willing many members of the party are to uphold, or at least spread, falsehoods about the 2020 election that he has spread to tolerate.
What began as a struggle for the future of the party after the violent end of the Trump presidency has collapsed in a one-sided bunch by Team Trump with critics such as Ms. Cheney, the scion of a famous Republican family and the lonely woman The house leadership of their party, ostracized or ostracized moving towards the exits.
The final test for Ms. Cheney could be as soon as next week, if a growing group of Republicans, with Mr. McCarthy’s blessing, plan another attempt to dethrone her. Many of her colleagues are now so confident that they will succeed that they openly discuss who will replace Ms. Cheney.
Tensions escalated Tuesday when Mr. McCarthy asked on Mr. Trump’s favorite newscast, Fox & Friends, whether Ms. Cheney could effectively carry out her role as the party’s top ambassador. (He previously told a Fox reporter, “I’ve had it with her” and “I’ve lost confidence,” according to a leaked record of the exchange published by Axios.)
“I have heard from members who are concerned about their ability to carry out the conference chair and message roles,” McCarthy said during the portion of the interview that was aired. “We all have to work as a unit if we can win the majority.”
Ms. Cheney, known for her steely temperament, has only dug herself harder with former allies. Minutes after Mr. McCarthy’s hit TV, she barbed her response through a spokesman, effectively suggesting that the minority leader and the Republicans who are cracking down on her were involved in Mr. Trump’s breakup.
“This is about whether the Republican Party will uphold lies about the 2020 election and try to whitewash what happened on January 6,” said Jeremy Adler, the spokesman. “Liz won’t do that. That’s the problem. “
One of the few Republican voices willing to stand in Ms. Cheney’s defense was Senator Mitt Romney from Utah, who himself was attacked by his party for his unrepentant criticism of Mr. Trump – and even at the Republican Party conference in Utah was booed on Saturday.
“Anyone with a conscience draws a line they will not go beyond: Liz Cheney refuses to lie,” says Romney wrote on Twitter. “As one of my Republican Senate colleagues said to me after my impeachment,” I don’t want to be part of a group that has punished someone for following their conscience. “
Many House Republicans insist they have no problem with Ms. Cheney’s vote against Mr. Trump, which she called a decision of conscience. Nor, they say, are bothered by their neoconservative political positions, which – like that of their father, former Vice President Dick Cheney – lead to a falsehood that contradicts the “America First” position of the party that Mr. Trump cemented.
However, they fear that if they hope to portray Democrats as socialists of big governments that are so vicious, Ms. Cheney’s refusal to stop criticizing Mr. Trump or condemn the January 6 events could weaken the party’s message in the 2022 midterm elections are that they should be elected from the majority. It made Mr. Trump angry too.
Many, including Mr McCarthy, had hoped that as the elected leader, after surviving the February vote of no confidence, how the rest of the party would fare and just move on.
Instead, she has doubled in size and sometimes turned her fire on coworkers. The last straw for many came in Orlando last week, where Republicans gathered for their annual political retreat in hopes of sending a message of unity.
Ms. Cheney told Punchbowl News that in Wyoming – where she faces a major challenge – she would run a campaign to defend her impeachment vote “every day of the week.” She told reporters that any lawmakers who led the bid to invalidate President Biden’s election victory in Congress should be banned from running for president. And she broke off with Republican leaders when she said a proposed independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot should focus on a pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol, rather than the violence by Antifa and Black Lives Matter as Investigate Mr. McCarthy and other Republicans have called.
A few days later, she attracted right-wing attacks for poking Mr Biden with her fist when he was speaking to a joint congressional session, and went to Twitter to defend herself for treating the President in a civil, respectful and dignified manner “had greeted.
“We are not sworn enemies” She wrote. “We are Americans.”
Ms. Cheney was quick to say Monday after Mr. Trump issued a statement calling the 2020 elections “fraudulent” and “THE BIG LIE” tweeted her counter-argumentand wrote that anyone who made such claims “poisoned our democratic system”.
Some Republicans have privately compared their performance to scab picking, and many of Mr. Trump’s allies saw this as an opening to try again to depose them.
“Liz tried (badly) to split our party,” said Texas Republican Representative Lance Gooden. wrote on Twitter modeled on Mr. Trump’s acidic Twitter style on Tuesday. “Trump is still the LEADER of the GOP, Liz! I look forward to it being removed soon! “
Ms. Cheney’s troubles show a rapid shift for the Republican Party in the few months since Mr. Trump left Washington. Early on, she was part of a small but influential group of Republicans that included Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, and denounced Mr. Trump’s role in fueling the rebellion with false claims of a stolen election. But many of those lawmakers have since gone quiet, keeping Ms. Cheney, who was once enthusiastically talked about as future speaker or president, in isolation.
Ms. Cheney declined to speak through a spokesman and some of her allies in the House of Representatives failed to speak on the record in their defense, underscoring the resilience of the vote and the pessimism some of them feel about their chances, yet another challenge to survive. A spokeswoman for Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, another Republican who voted for the indictment against Mr. Trump and was a leading critic of the former president, said in a statement that the Congressman “clearly supports Liz Cheney as conference leader.”
Those who know her best say privately that Ms. Cheney’s predicament reflects both her principles and personality, including a stubborn trail that sometimes leads her to act against her self-interest. An ally who has been upset with her for the past few months described her actions as classic Liz Cheney: she will always do what she sees fit, the Republican said Tuesday, but she will just never stop believing that she is is wrong.
With Ms. Cheney’s support for Bleeding, Republicans have already begun going through the names of possible replacements for what has traditionally been seen as a stepping stone to the top positions in the party. Republicans are aware of the optics of replacing the only woman in the leadership with another man and are careful to choose a woman.
The lead candidate appears to be Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a rising star in her fourth term who has long sought to increase the number of women in the Republican ranks and, more recently, a fierce defense attorney for Mr. Trump has become.
Ms. Stefanik, 36, has begun reaching out to Republican lawmakers to gauge her support, according to two people familiar with the private conversations. On Tuesday evening, one of her political advisors tweeted again speculation that she would “make an excellent conference chair. ”
Pennsylvania representative Guy Reschenthaler, a member of the Republican leadership who initially cast votes for Ms. Cheney, said he was counting potential votes for Ms. Stefanik and believed the job would be hers if she ran.
Republicans have also swum Representative Jackie Walorski of Indiana as a possible alternative. As the Republican chief on the ethics committee, Ms. Walorski successfully reconciled the task of condemning Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s previous statements of conspiracy this year, arguing that she should not be expelled from their committees.