Hours after Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from her Republican leadership position for rebuking former President Donald Trump’s ongoing claim that the election was “stolen” from him, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.”
“I think that is all over with,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said at the White House, where he was meeting with President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about Biden’s infrastructure plans.
“We’re sitting here with the president today, so from that point of view I don’t think that’s a problem,” McCarthy said.
The remarks seemed at odds with the battle being waged within his House Republican caucus, which includes members who have continued to echo Trump’s false claims that widespread fraud was committed during the 2020 election.
Earlier in the day, House Republicans voted to remove Cheney from her No. 3 position in caucus leadership for repeatedly rebuking Trump’s claims that the election was “rigged.”
“We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country,” Cheney, R-Wyo., told her colleagues ahead of the vote, according to a source in the room.
Her removal was supported by McCarthy, who’d previously backed her during a bid in February to push her out. McCarthy is supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a staunch Trump supporter, to succeed Cheney as House GOP conference chair. Stefanik signed on to a lawsuit aimed at overturning the election results and has repeatedly questioned some of the election results.
McCarthy made the comments about Republicans not questioning the legitimacy of the election after NBC News’ Kristen Welker asked whether elevating a member of House leadership who questioned the election results would complicate his efforts to work with the president.
Trump, who celebrated Cheney’s ouster in a scathing statement Wednesday, has released more than 20 statements falsely claiming that the election was “rigged” or “stolen” and that he “won by a landslide,” among other assertions, in the past six weeks. This week, Trump compared the election to the theft of “diamonds” that needed to be returned.
Those claims have helped lead to a bizarre election audit that’s currently underway in Arizona, where state Republicans have hired private companies to check ballots with UV lights and special cameras to look for bamboo in them. They’ve also led to Republican legislatures passing a number of restrictive voting laws that they claim are aimed at making election more secure, despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.