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The Liz Cheney/Donald Trump/Republican Party Infighting, Explained

Let them fight.

Liz Cheney stands by herself as people talk around her in the House chamber before Biden's address.

Donald Trump has been out of office and out of our lives for months but he still has a strong grasp on the Republican Party. Nowhere is that clearer than in the GOP’s treatment of the few members who have spoken out against Trump.

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This past weekend, Senator Mitt Romney—a vocal critic of Trump’s and one of the few Republicans to vote to convict in the second impeachment trial—was booed and heckled while speaking at the Utah Republican state convention. Members of his own party yelled “traitor” and other insults. Romney asked the crowd “Aren’t you embarrassed?” which, clearly they are not.

Meanwhile, over in the House, Republican members of Congress are working to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her position of party leadership.

Cheney voted to impeach Trump and she’s continued to be outspoken in her feelings about him and everyone else who has continued to push election fraud conspiracy theories even after Trump left office.

On Monday of this week, Cheney tweeted a response to a statement from Trump in which he called the 2020 presidential election “THE BIG LIE.”

“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” she wrote. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Even before that tweet, she was at odds with a number of her colleagues, having publicly condemned Republicans who supported Trump’s lies and those who downplayed, justified, or otherwise supported the Capitol riot on January 6th.

She retweeted this back in March:

So this has been going on for a while. But, as the New York Times writes:

The tensions came to a head last week, after Ms. Cheney told reporters that any lawmaker who led the bid to invalidate President Biden’s electoral victory in Congress should be disqualified from running for president. She also broke with Mr. McCarthy on the scope of a proposed independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, telling reporters in response to a question that she believed it should be narrowly focused on the assault on the Capitol.

Mr. McCarthy and other Republican leaders have instead argued that the inquiry should be broadened to include “political violence across this country,” including by Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists.

Some Republicans also appear to be upset that Cheney dared to accept Joe Biden’s fist-bump greeting ahead of his recent address to Congress. I guess they expected her to, I don’t know, spit on him and run away?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been sidestepping questions about his direct feelings about Cheney, but on Tuesday, he was caught on a hot mic criticizing her ahead of a Fox News interview.

“I think she’s got real problems,” McCarthy told Steve Doocy off-air. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. … Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”

That motion he’s talking about is the start of the process to remove Cheney from her position as the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest position of power in House Republican leadership. A similar motion to her leadership came up in February, but she overwhelmingly won the vote, which was held by secret ballot, 145-61.

Now, though,some Republicans have been “openly predicting” (per the Times) that another vote is coming and that things won’t go her way this time. And Trump issued a “statement” (which is essentially just a tweet posted to his website) Wednesday slamming Cheney and recommending Rep. Elise Stefanik replace her.

You probably remember Stefanik from being completely insufferable during Trump’s first impeachment trial. Looks like the toadying finally paid off.

“Liz Cheney is a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership,” Trump scream-wrote. “We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First. Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL endorsement for GOP Conference Chair. Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”

Basically, Cheney wants the Republican party to decide if they have fully transformed into the party of Trump. She wrote as much in an op-ed published at the Washington Post Wednesday.

“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote.

“History is watching. Our children are watching. 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.”

That’s a nice sentiment but let’s also be clear that there are no heroes in this fight. In the same op-ed, Cheney feels the need to decry liberal “wokeness” and reminds everyone that she is “a conservative Republican.”

So on the one side, we have two hallmark old-school Republicans, so representative of the party that one was once its nominee for president and the other is the daughter of a war criminal who held the party in such a firm grip that he literally shot his friend in the face and no one said a thing about it.

On the other side, we have those who have hitched their wagon to Trump and have found they thrive in the environment he cultivated, where politics has little to nothing to do with public service and everything to do with outrage-based performance art—the Josh Hawleys, Marjorie Taylor Greenes, and Elise Stefaniks of Congress. They’re not going to let that go easily.

In short:

Dr. Ishiro Serizawa says "Let them fight" in 2014's Godzilla.

(via Axios, NYT, Washington Post, image: JONATHAN ERNST/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Author

Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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