Scalise Backs Ouster of Cheney from House G.O.P. Leadership

Representative Liz Cheney offered a pointed response to those vying to remove her from her position as the No. 3 House Republican.,


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Cheney hit back at G.O.P. leaders amid mounting efforts to oust her.

Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, at the Capitol last week. “This moment is about much more than a House leadership fight,” her spokesman said.Credit…Pool photo by Jonathan Ernst
  • May 5, 2021, 9:47 a.m. ET

Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, hit back at leaders of her own party on Wednesday, warning her colleagues that “history is watching” as they consider expelling her from their leadership ranks for continuing to reject Donald J. Trump’s election lies.

Ms. Cheney’s broadside, published Wednesday afternoon as an opinion essay in The Washington Post, came as the top two House Republicans were working to oust and replace her with a Trump loyalist, and after the former president weighed in demanding Republicans dethrone her. At issue is Ms. Cheney’s insistence on repeatedly rebuking her party for its role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and for embracing Mr. Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 presidential election.

In the column, Ms. Cheney warned that the Republican Party was at a “turning point,” and suggested that some Republicans were playing a dangerous game by continuing to support “the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”

“While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fund-raising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country,” Ms. Cheney said. “Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful.”

Ms. Cheney also lashed out at Mr. McCarthy, noting that he initially agreed that Mr. Trump bore responsibility for the riot, only to walk the remarks back.

“History is watching. Our children are watching,” Ms. Cheney concluded. “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”

Ms. Cheney’s column effectively acted as a rejoinder to Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, who on Wednesday morning became the highest-ranking party figure to openly call for Ms. Cheney’s ouster and the elevation of Representative Elise Stefanik of New York in her place as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, the third-ranking position. Lawmakers said Mr. McCarthy was also working the phones behind the scenes, urging colleagues to support Ms. Stefanik, a close ally and rising Republican star.

“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,” said Lauren Fine, Mr. Scalise’s spokeswoman. “Elise Stefanik is strongly committed to doing that, which is why Whip Scalise has pledged to support her for conference chair.”

Mr. Trump, who has seethed over Ms. Cheney’s criticism of him, piled on a short time later, deriding her as a “warmongering fool” and endorsing Ms. Stefanik, whom he called “a far superior choice.”

“We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First,” he wrote in a statement. “Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”

Ms. Stefanik, who had been quietly building support among colleagues behind the scenes, wasted no time after Mr. Trump’s endorsement in declaring her intentions publicly. In a post on Twitter just minutes after his statement, she thanked him for his support and said Republicans were “unified and focused on FIRING PELOSI & WINNING in 2022!”

It was a remarkable show of force by the party’s top leaders to run out a once-popular figure now deemed unacceptable by fellow Republicans because she has rejected Mr. Trump’s lies and refused to absolve him or the party of its role in perpetuating the false claims of a fraudulent election that fueled the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The fate of Ms. Cheney, who survived a February bid to oust her after she voted to favor of impeaching Mr. Trump for his role in stirring up the riot, has once again become a bellwether for the direction of the Republican Party. It has implications for Republicans’ chances of wresting control of the House in 2022, and has become a test of whether loyalty to Trump and a tolerance for misinformation have overtaken conservatism as the party’s guiding orthodoxy.

The turmoil could come to a head as early as next week, when House Republicans are expected to meet and could call a vote to replace Ms. Cheney.

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