Rep. Liz Cheney, booted from House GOP leadership last week after months of withering criticism of former President Donald Trump and his claims of a stolen election, continued her assault unabated Sunday, warning fellow Republicans that the “soul of our democracy” is at stake.
Ms. Cheney’s determination to take on Mr. Trump and push the party away from him has made her a darling of the mainstream media, but it is jeopardizing her political future.
“We have to recognize what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded, and who continues to suggest our electoral system cannot function,” the Wyoming Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.” “To cause that kind of questioning about our process, frankly [are] the same kind of things the Chinese Communist Party says about Democracy. That it is a failed system and America is a failed nation.”
The base of the Republican Party, and the House GOP in particular, however, seems to be moving in the other direction. After ousting Ms. Cheney from the House Republican leadership team, the conference overwhelmingly voted last week to replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik, a 36-year-old moderate from New York and vocal Trump defender on Capitol Hill.
“I won’t be part of that and I think it is very important for Republicans who won’t be part of that to stand up,” Ms. Cheney said on Sunday. “At this moment, the majority of the Republican Party is not where I am, but it is my responsibility as an elected official, it is my responsibility as a leader to lead and to tell the truth.”
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, she told host Chris Wallace she would not be silenced.
“I think that what we have seen over the course of the last couple of weeks is really the opening salvo in what is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, a battle for the soul of our democracy. I intend to play a very big role in that,” she said.
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney was ousted as GOP conference chair — the No. 3 leadership position among House Republicans — last week for refusing to back off her criticism of Mr. Trump and his stolen election claims. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said the ongoing beef with Mr. Trump was muddying the GOP’s message.
They said the GOP must be laser-focused on President Biden, and spelling out a clear vision for the nation as the party gears up for the 2022 midterm elections.
“I think what Kevin McCarthy was trying to say there was, ‘Look, there is disagreement, and it’s time to move on,’” Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We can keep having that fight if we’d like. But what is the point? What is the outcome? When in reality, we need to be talking about the things that American people actually care about.’”
A CBS News poll released Sunday found that 80% of Republicans agreed with Ms. Cheney’s ouster, and that 66% of Republicans said that loyalty to Mr. Trump is important.
Nearly six in 10 Republicans said Ms. Cheney was wrong about the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, is continuing to run with his stolen election claims.
“As our Country is being destroyed, both inside and out, the Presidential Election of 2020 will go down as THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY!” he said in a statement released shortly after the leadership shakeup.
Mr. Trump had endorsed Ms. Stefanik despite complaints from some members of the conference and other leaders on the right that her voting record is not conservative enough and is out of sync with most of the caucus.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the leadership shakeup shows that “policy doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It literally is all about your loyalty to Donald Trump,” Mr. Kinzinger, a Trump critic, said. As I’ve said before, this is something that like echoes a little bit out of North Korea, where no matter what policy comes out, you’re loyal to the guy.”
Ms. Cheney is the latest in a line of establishment Republicans who have raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s long-term influence on the party.
For others, the risk of taking on Mr. Trump has typically outweighed the reward.
But Ms. Cheney says things are different this go-round because of the lead role Mr. Trump played in provoking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Ms. Cheney said “there’s no question” that Mr. Trump’s repeated lies could lead to more violence.
“It’s dangerous,” Ms. Cheney said. “I think that we have to recognize how quickly things can unravel.”