Liz Cheney defends Donald Trump impeachment vote in tense GOP meeting despite backlash: 'I won't apologize'
Wyoming GOP Representative Liz Cheney, one of the party’s most prominent faces in the House, refused to apologize on Wednesday, February 3, over supporting the impeachment vote against former president Donald Trump last month. She called it a vote of her conscience during a tense closed-door GOP meeting, CNN reported citing informed sources. “I won’t apologize for the vote,” Cheney said in the meeting. She had also called it a vote of conscience soon after Trump was impeached by the House.
Cheney, who is also the chair of the House Republican Conference, was among the 10 GOP Congress members who joined the Democrats to impeach Trump on charges of inciting insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 that saw five people dead. She spoke for eight minutes during the meeting, two persons present there said, offering her defense of the Constitution. It was also reported that Cheney wanted a vote to be called on her leadership which suggested that she was confident of having the trust of a wide section of the GOP.
The Republican Party has found its house in a mess after the end of Trump’s tenure at the White House. The GOP is seriously split on the question of supporting the former president and the second impeachment trial against him in the Senate after the Democratic-controlled House impeached him last month.
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The Red Party is so upset with Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, for voting in favor of Trump’s impeachment that its members in the House were reportedly preparing for a referendum on her role in leadership. There were also people in the GOP who backed Cheney. Top Republican in the Senate — Mitch McConnell — stepped into the controversy to back Cheney even as Trump’s allies brutally targeted her. Even former president George W Bush publicly praised Cheney a day after Florida GOP Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally, held a rally in Cheney’s state last week to call for her defeat for voting against the former commander-in-chief. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise also said on Wednesday that they supported the Wyoming lawmaker, reports said citing sources who were present at the meeting.
The Federalist said in a report on Tuesday, February 2, that Cheney claimed her choice to indict the president whose restrained foreign policy approach she frequently opposed was a “vote of conscience”. The move made by three-time Congresswoman annoyed members of the caucus that she apparently leads, the report cited many of those members saying. They also were disappointed with Cheney’s “extreme rhetoric” while seeking Trump’s ouster after the January 6 riots.
“The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney said of the riots in a statement which is frequently quoted by the Democrats and the media. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
While the Republican Party is also fighting over the removal of controversial first-time Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who the Democrats want ousted over her past remarks that appeared to endorse violence against the Democratic leadership, the controversy over Cheney has refused to die down.
Cheney's challenges pile up ahead of 2022 poll
Cheney’s support for the Dems’ impeachment drive against Trump has already seen challenges popping up for her. Hard-line conservative Wyoming state Senator Anthony Bouchard has already nominated himself against Cheney for her 2022 re-election bid. The Republican Party Central Committee of Carbon County in Wyoming voted unanimously to censure Cheney, saying her decision to back Trump’s impeachment did not reflect her constituents’ wishes and demanded that she explain her position before the committee. The Wyoming State Republican party also criticized the vote while an online recall petition against her got more than 58,000 signatures at the time of writing this report.
The 54-year-old lawmaker already has a history of upsetting members of the conference, thanks to factors such as lackluster fundraising, inability to pick candidates and supporting opponents of a member who was in disagreement with her “preferred levels of foreign interventionism”, the Federalist report added.
“While members repeatedly said they didn’t necessarily have a problem with a random member of the Republican conference voting for impeachment, they viewed a member of leadership doing so as a scandal. One Republican recounted the punishment received when this person voted against a rule change leadership sought. How could Cheney remain in leadership after helping the Democrats’ push to divide the Republican Party and demoralize its voters, the member wondered,” the Federalist piece said.
Last week, a poll showed that Cheney’s popularity slumped in Wyoming after her impeachment move. The survey conducted by John McLaughlin, a Trump pollster, showed that only 10 percent of GOP primary voters were in favor of backing Cheney in next year’s election. Only 13 percent said they would back her re-election. Journalist Tara Palmeri, who went to cover Gaetz’s rally in Cheyenne, Wyoming, said Trump’s support outsmarted that for Cheney by far and she did not find anybody backing the lawmaker as Gaetz launched a scathing attack on her turf.
“If Liz Cheney had a rally with all of her supporters, they could likely meet inside one of the elevators in the capital, and still have plenty of room for social distancing,” Gaetz said at the rally.
McCarthy backed Cheney despite showing concerns
It all depended on how House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy handled the issue and he backed both Cheney and Greene, risking alienation from various quarters. While McCarthy risked fuelling a Democratic effort to remove Greene through a House vote, he also put himself in peril of drawing the ire of the pro-Trump Republican members — a big constituent of the party’s base — by not opposing Cheney.
McCarthy, who was recently accused by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be weak, showed hesitation in backing a vote of no confidence over Cheney despite being concerned with her. “Look, I support her, but I also have concerns,” McCarthy uttered during a “Full Court Press” interview with Greta Van Susteren last week, adding: “She took a position as a number three member in conference, she never told me ahead of time.” He had also indicated the same in the wake of Trump's impeachment. But with McCarthy eventually resisting her removal, a complicated process could ensue over Cheney’s ouster.
The Federalist said that two proposals were doing the rounds at the Capitol on the matter, including a petition for the Wednesday meeting that required 20 percent of the conference’s signatures (or 43 of its members) and a resolution on Cheney to step down. On the other hand, conservatives need two-thirds of the conference or 142 members to support the resolution removing Cheney, as per the Wall Street Journal, although for some Republicans, the threshold needed might be closer to half (somewhere around 105). Politico reported last month that 107 GOP members voiced their support in favor of removing Cheney.