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GOP Ousts Cheney From Leadership Over Her Criticism Of Trump

Drew Angerer, Getty Images
Getty Images
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, seen here outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, once again faces a vote from the Republican conference to remove her from her leadership role. She beat back an effort in February.

Updated May 12, 2021 at 9:25 AM ET

House Republicans have removed Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as conference chair in retaliation for her unyielding criticism of former President Donald Trump, his continued false claims of a stolen election, his role in the Jan. 6 riot and his future in the Republican Party.

The move, by a voice vote, marks the second time this year that Cheney faced a vote from her fellow House Republicans to remove her as conference chair. But this time, she didn't have the support of top Republicans such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who openly endorses a candidate to supplant her.

McCarthy, who helped Cheney thwart a vote to remove her from House GOP leadership in February, sent a letter Monday to rank-and-file Republicans announcing a conference vote Wednesday on Cheney's position.

"If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team," he wrote. "Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it's clear that we need to make a change."

The "internal conflicts" he references stem from former Trump's repeated false statements that the 2020 election was rigged against him, as well as the former president's role in the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

In Tuesday night remarks on the House floor, Cheney pointedly criticized Trump and accused him of fomenting the deadly insurrection.

"Today, we face a threat America has never seen before: A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol, in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him," Cheney said.

"He risks inciting further violence," she continued. "Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all."

Cheney added: "I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy."

Trump has cheered Cheney's ousting and on Wednesday morning issued a statement saying House Republicans "have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart." !

Cheney has been steadfast in her criticism of him, publicly arguing he has no place in the present or future of the party. That's at odds with the majority of House Republicans, including McCarthy, who are counting on Trump's support to help them win back the House next year.

Republicans argue that Cheney's position on the former president puts her out of step with the GOP conference, which makes her job to carry out party messaging untenable.

Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., put it succinctly when he told Fox's Sean Hannity that "the people who try to erase [Trump] are going to wind up getting erased."

Cheney acknowledged the blowback in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post but argued that fidelity to the Constitution and democracy is worth any political repercussions she might face.

McCarthy is publicly backing Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to take over Cheney's leadership role.

Stefanik is a moderate-turned-Trump loyalist who became a national star during Trump's first impeachment hearings. She joined 138 House Republicans in voting to object to the Electoral College counts in Pennsylvania and has the support of Trump.
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