June 13, 2021

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Facing an ouster from House leadership, Cheney says GOP at ‘turning point’ in new op-ed – CNN

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(CNN) —  

In a new op-ed for The Washington Post, Rep. Liz Cheney says the Republican Party is at a “turning point” and must decide whether to accept or reject Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, which she says provoked the violence on January 6 and could provoke violence again.

“Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work – confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney writes. “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”

In the op-ed, the embattled No. 3 House Republican calls for Republicans to support both the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot as well as a separate, bipartisan congressional commission into the event. Cheney calls out her Republican colleague, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for “[changing] his story” on Trump’s responsibility for the riots. She also repeats her view that Republicans should “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality” if it hopes to win national elections in the future.

“History is watching. Our children are watching,” Cheney writes. “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.”

The op-ed comes as Cheney’s future in the House leadership is in jeopardy, with a vote to remove her as conference chair coming as early as next week.

Cheney survived a similar vote in February, when House Republicans voted 145-61 in favor of keeping her on the leadership team. However she appears to be in a much weaker position now. A number of House Republicans as well as Trump himself have endorsed New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney in the leadership post.

“Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL Endorsement for GOP Conference Chair,” Trump wrote in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”

Cheney’s continued opposition to Trump and his lies about the 2020 election have touched off the push to oust her. Her team has argued the episode speaks to larger issues about the future of the GOP.

“This moment is about much more than a House leadership fight,” Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler told CNN.

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in January. Since then, the third-term Wyoming congresswoman has made a series of statements arguing the Republican Party should turn away from Trump and his false claims about the 2020 election.

And last week, Cheney publicly contradicted McCarthy on the question of the scope of a Congressional commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol attack. While House Republicans and Democrats are still negotiating the scope of the commission, an investigation into January 6 could include GOP members as witnesses, including McCarthy, who has said publicly he spoke with Trump on the phone during the riot.

In an interview with Fox News last week, McCarthy called for a potential commission to broaden its purview to examine other examples of political violence at the Capitol and elsewhere. But Cheney disagreed.

“I think it’s very important that the January 6 commission focus on what happened on January 6 and what led to that attack,” Cheney told reporters during an April 26 news conference at the House GOP retreat in Orlando.

Comments like those and others she made critical of Trump and his influence on the party during the Orlando retreat appeared to have worsened Cheney’s position among House Republicans. McCarthy said on Fox News earlier this week that GOP members are “concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair to carry out the message.”

Several GOP House members have since spoken publicly about their support for replacing Cheney with Stefanik, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House. Even allies like Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, have recently declined to answer questions about Cheney’s future in leadership.

McConnell refused to offer any support to Cheney when asked about her situation by a reporter on Wednesday.

“One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell responded.

There are a number of former party leaders, however, who are indicating they are in Cheney’s corner. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, tweeted his support for Cheney on Tuesday.

“Every person of conscience draws a line beyond which they will not go: Liz Cheney refuses to lie,” Romney said.

And former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Romney’s 2012 running mate, has backed Cheney with fundraising help. Ryan also participated in an off-the-record event with Cheney on Monday at the American Enterprise Institute’s retreat, where Cheney reiterated her criticism of Trump.

This story has been updated with additional details Wednesday.

CNN’s Annie Grayer, Daniella Diaz and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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