Donald Trump is poised to tighten his grip on the Republican party with the ousting of one of his most prominent critics in Congress.
Liz Cheney, the only woman in Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, is widely expected to be voted out next week by members loyal to Trump.
Cheney is a diehard conservative and daughter of George W Bush’s vice-president, Dick Cheney. Her removal for refusing to parrot Trump’s “big lie” that last year’s election was stolen would exemplify how the Republican party remains beholden to the disgraced ex-president.
“The whole @RepLizCheney saga has been so clarifying,” David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, tweeted on Thursday. “She’s as conservative as they come. Her only sin was to call BS on Trump’s election fraud. For that, she will be expelled as a @GOP leader. The party is branding itself.”
Multiple courts, as well as state and federal election officials, have rejected Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud. But Republican-controlled state legislatures are using his allegations to justify legislation imposing new restrictions on voting.
And far from backing down, Trump has issued several public statements in three days reiterating his baseless claims that Joe Biden’s 7m vote margin of victory was the result of fraud while attacking Republicans who refuse to buy into this narrative.
He also joined Republican House leaders in backing Elise Stefanik, a pro-Trump congresswoman, for Cheney’s job as chair of the party’s conference. A vote could come as early as next Wednesday.
Stefanik, 36, whose status in the party rose after she aggressively defended Trump during congressional hearings ahead of his 2019 impeachment, reportedly spoke to the former president by phone on Wednesday.
Trump said in a statement: “Liz Cheney is a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership … Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair.”
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, appears to have calculated that embracing Trump offers the party’s best chance of winning back the House in next year’s midterm elections. McCarthy was caught by a “hot mic” on Fox News saying of Cheney: “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence.”
A statement from the office of Steve Scalise, the No 2 House Republican, made it explicit: “House Republicans need to be solely focused on taking back the House in 2022 and fighting against Speaker Pelosi and President Biden’s radical socialist agenda, and Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for Conference Chair.”
Congressman Jim Jordan, an outspoken Trump loyalist, insisted that “the votes are there” to oust Cheney. “You can’t have a Republican conference chair reciting Democrat talking points,” he told Fox News. “You can’t have a Republican conference chair taking a position that 90% of the party disagrees with, and you can’t have a Republican party chair consistently speaking out against the individual who 74m Americans voted for.”
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