Former Republican President George W. Bush waded into the escalating GOP civil war over Donald Trump‘s impeachment on Friday, after Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz rallied to defeat Congresswoman Liz Cheney in her home state of Wyoming.
As the Republican party grapples with its future under President Joe Biden, the civil war has intensified after 10 House members voted in favor of impeaching Trump for allegedly inciting the deadly insurrection on January 6. Bush spoke out one day after Gaetz railed against Liz Cheney—the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney—the No. 3 Republican in the House who joined nine others in voting to impeach.
Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, told CNN Friday that the former Republican president isn’t “thinking about the next election cycle yet,” but said that he’s “planning to call VP Cheney tomorrow for two reasons: to wish him a happy 80th birthday, and to thank him for his daughter’s service.”
The show of support comes as Cheney faces mounting GOP criticism over her “vote of conscience” to impeach, with several Trump allies in the House calling on her to resign from her leadership role for breaking with the Republican party.
On Thursday, Gaetz campaigned against Cheney in Wyoming, calling on voters to oust her in the next election cycle for voting to impeach Trump.
“We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican party, and I intend to win it,” the Florida lawmaker told a crowd of Trump supporters and counter protesters. “You can help me break a corrupt system. You can send a representative who actually represents you, and you can send Liz Cheney home—back home to Washington, D.C.”
Cheney’s vote to impeach sparked backlash in her state, which saw nearly 70 percent voting for Trump in November. Republican State Senator Anthony Bouchard, who will run against Cheney in 2022, has already begun campaigning against her impeachment vote.
“There has not been a time during our tenure when we have seen this type of an outcry from our fellow Republicans, with the anger and frustration being palpable in the comments we have received,” Bouchard said on January 13.
Additionally, more than 55,000 Americans have backed a Change.org petition to “recall” Cheney.
“You’re a Republican, you’re supposed to back your party regardless,” Shelley Horn, a Wyoming resident who started the petition, told CNN. “You just can’t go, ‘Oh well, I need to vote with my conscience.’ No! Vote for what your people put you in there to do.”
Cheney has dismissed calls for her resignation. “I’m not going anywhere,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill. “This is a vote of conscience. It’s one where there are different views in our conference.”
Other House Republicans who voted to impeach have also faced retaliation for breaking with the party. On Saturday, the South Carolina Republican Party voted to officially censure Congressman Tom Rice for his vote to impeach.
“We made our disappointment clear the night of the impeachment vote. Trying to impeach a president, with a week left in his term, is never legitimate and is nothing more than a political kick on the way out the door,” said South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick in a statement.
Newsweek reached out to Cheney’s office for comment.
Updated 8:07 PM ET: to include comment from Drew McKissick.