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GOP Ousts Cheney From Leadership Over Her Criticism Of Trump

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney talks to reporters after House Republicans voted to remove her as conference chair Wednesday.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney talks to reporters after House Republicans voted to remove her as conference chair Wednesday.

This is the second time the Wyoming Republican faced calls for her removal as the No. 3 Republican in the House. But this time, she did not have support from top Republicans.

For the second time this year, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming faces a vote from her fellow House Republicans to remove her as conference chair. But this time, she does so without the support of top Republicans such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is openly endorsing 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 President Donald Trump's repeated false statements that the 2020 election was rigged against him, as well as Trump'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. She 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 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 fidelity to the Constitution and democracy is worth any political repercussions she may 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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.