GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas on Sunday said the Republican Party can’t “excommunicate” former President Donald Trump after being asked if the former president was still a “legitimate” leader of the party.
During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Crenshaw told host Chuck Todd that Trump’s relationship with Republicans is much more nuanced than what is depicted.
“I believe that you’re not going to excommunicate a former president,” he said. “I refuse to go into this sort of black-and-white thinking about it’s totally one thing or totally another. These are complex human relationships that involve millions of people.”
He added: “I have always said, ‘I don’t think Trump’s the devil.’ I won’t say that. I don’t think he’s Jesus, either. I’m a rational human being about this. I’m going agree where I agree, and I’m going to disagree where I disagree.”
Regarding Rep. Liz Cheney’s ouster as House Republican Conference Chair this past week, Crenshaw said that he wouldn’t “allow this drama” over the her situation and disputes over the 2020 election “engulf” the caucus.
“There’s no point in re-litigating some of these things,” Crenshaw said. “I say this to Liz, and I say it to [Rep.] Adam [Kinzinger of Illinois]. You’re not going to get the colleagues who believe in that stuff to apologize to you, to agree with you.”
Crenshaw then said he’d rather debate policy and move away from the recent turmoil within the caucus.
“My Republican supporters do not ask me about Trump,” he said. “They don’t ask me about what he said. They’re not riled up about it.”
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who was ousted as the House Republican Conference Chair after continuing to challenge former President Donald Trump’s false election claims, said in an ABC interview set to air on Sunday that she now regrets voting for the former president in 2020.
Cheney, a staunch conservative and the scion of a GOP political dynasty, was removed from her party’s leadership on Thursday and replaced with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, a 36-year-old lawmaker who had the backing of Trump.
“I was never going to support [President] Joe Biden and I do regret the vote,” Cheney told ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl. “It was a vote based on policy, based on substance and in terms of the kinds of policies he put forward that were good for the country. But I think it’s fair to say that I regret the vote.”
Cheney criticized House Republicans for promoting Stefanik to leadership, emphasizing that it was “dangerous” to elevate an individual who has continued to legitimize Trump’s debunked election allegations.
“What does it say about the party choosing somebody to replace you, who was effectively chosen by Donald Trump and saying what he’s been saying … those very lies you were talking about?” she asked.
She added: “I think it’s dangerous. I think that we have to recognize how quickly things can unravel. We have to recognize what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded and who continues to suggest that our electoral system cannot function, cannot do the will of the people.”
Cheney, who saw the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection as an affront to the rule of law, believed that Trump had abdicated his commitment to the secure and peaceful transfer of power and was threatening American democracy.
“We just had a violent mob assault the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty,” she said in a statement that day. “There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
However, in the months following her impeachment vote, Cheney continued to reject Trump’s claims of a stolen election, angering pro-Trump conservatives like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana who felt like she wasn’t staying on message for the party.
Cheney said in the interview that it was critical for Republicans who rejected Trump’s false election claims to affirm the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“Frankly, it’s the same kinds of things that the Chinese Communist Party says about democracy: that it’s a failed system, and America is a failed nation,” Cheney said of Trump’s claims. “I won’t be part of that. And I think it’s very important for Republicans who won’t be part of that to stand up and speak out.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) did not disclose internal polling that revealed dismal numbers for former President Donald Trump in key swing districts during the House GOP retreat in April, according to two sources who spoke with The Washington Post.
During a presentation at the Florida retreat, NRCC staffers reportedly withheld the information even when pressed by a member of Congress regarding Trump’s support.
The polling data showed Trump’s favorability ratings underwater, with his unfavorable ratings 15 points higher than his favorable numbers, according to The Post.
In the districts that were polled, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had better numbers than Trump, The Post noted.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is facing the possibility of being removed from her leadership role for her criticism of Trump’s influence over the party, was reportedly “alarmed” by the lack of transparency in revealing the former president’s polling data.
Cheney was taken aback, in part, because Trump’s lackluster poll numbers were also withheld from ranking committee chairs during a March retreat.
The NRCC reportedly denied that they sought to keep the polling information away from members, but Cheney saw it as another way that the GOP was seeking to ignore the truth about Trump’s possible drag on the party.
GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, blasted Rep. Liz Cheney for not steering the party with a unified message as it works to oppose President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Banks told host Chris Wallace that Cheney should not continue with her role as House Republican Conference Chair, the No. 3 position with the caucus.
“One of my jobs is to hold my Republican leadership accountable for being focused on the Republican ideals that we stand for and the single mission we have to win back the majority,” he said. “The only reason why we are talking about Liz Cheney is the exact evidence that she’s failed in her mission as the chief spokesperson of our party.”
He added: “Any leader who is not focused on pushing back against the radical and dangerous Biden agenda needs to be replaced.”
The comments from Banks come as Cheney, who represents Wyoming’s at-large congressional district, faces a caucus that has increasingly turned against her due to her continued rebukes of former President Donald Trump.
Cheney, who was one of 10 House Republicans that voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, has never wavered from her criticism of his actions on that day, as he sought to overturn the election results for a race that he lost.
The former president is currently scouting for a candidate to endorse in a 2022 GOP primary election against Cheney, according to The Washington Post.
Cheney’s unwillingness to back down from her opinion has riled the top two House GOP leaders – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana – along with a host of other conservatives.
This week, a majority of the caucus is poised to replace Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who has a much more moderate voting record but has embraced Trump’s false election claims.
A top advisor for former President Donald Trump said unseating House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming in her 2022 GOP primary election was a top priority of the former president, according to the Washington Post.
Trump senior advisor Jason Miller told the Post in a recent interview that the former president’s political advisors have already begun to call contacts in Wyoming to field potential Republican primary challengers to Cheney.
Miller said defeating Cheney was “one of the highest priorities as far as primary endorsements go.”
The Post also reported that Trump met with advisors in Florida earlier this week to review 2022 endorsements; the former president pledged to support one GOP challenger to avoid splitting the “anti-Cheney” vote in a divided field.
Cheney has increasingly found herself on the outs within her caucus as she continues to criticize Trump for refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election that he lost to President Joe Biden.
After the November election, Trump spent months attempting to overturn the election results in a number of key states, including Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. His campaign team lost nearly every major court battle.
Cheney has chastised Trump for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot, accusing him of feeding the insurrectionists with lies about the election results.
The conservative congresswoman, who’s the No. 3 Republican in the House, was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for “incitement of insurrection” in his second impeachment trial.
Cheney received the backing of her caucus to keep her leadership role in a February vote, but she will almost certainly face a vote to remove her as conference chair next week.
GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who tried to overturn the election results earlier this year, is a leading candidate to succeed Cheney.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, both strong Trump allies, have abandoned support for Cheney’s continued tenure in leadership.
Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Cheney from his newly launched blog.
“Warmonger Liz Cheney, who has virtually no support left in the Great State of Wyoming, continues to unknowingly and foolishly say that there was no Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election when in fact, the evidence, including no Legislative approvals as demanded by the US Constitution, shows the exact opposite,” he wrote.
The Post on Wednesday published an op-ed written by Cheney, where she argued that it was imperative for the GOP to adhere to the rule of law and lashed out at the former president.
“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. “We Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”
For years, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming has been seen as a rising star within the party, a straight-talking conservative woman from a dynastic Republican family who ascended to House leadership only two years after her first congressional race.
Cheney was first elected to office on the same day that former President Donald Trump was voted into the White House in 2016.
However, over four years later, their paths have sharply diverged.
In February, Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot.
Unlike most members of her party, Cheney has been unusually candid in her criticism of Trump, especially as it relates to the damage that she feels the former president caused to the democratic process and the peaceful transfer of power.
“What we saw, first hand, on Jan. 6 was a threat to this system,” she said during a February foreign policy event sponsored by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. “What happened on that day must never happen again.”
Trump, even in defeat, still holds an iron grip over most of the party, and he has zeroed in on ensuring Cheney’s political defeat.
During his keynote speech at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida, the former president called out Cheney as a “warmonger,” with the mention of her name resulting in a chorus of boos.
“The good news is in her state, she’s been censured and in her state her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen,” he said at the time. “So hopefully they’ll get rid of her with the next election.”
In February, Cheney faced a mutiny from some of the most conservative elements of the party after her vote to impeach Trump, but the GOP caucus kept her in leadership in a 145-61 vote.
However, the past few weeks have seen a cascade of developments that seriously imperil Cheney’s leadership role – and her future within the party – a stunning reversal for a candidate who in the past has been touted as a potential House speaker, US senator, or president.
Trump continues to dominate GOP politics
During the party’s House legislative retreat in Florida last week, the schism between Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Cheney was increasingly apparent.
McCarthy, who in February publicly backed Cheney remaining in leadership, wouldn’t say if she should remain in her role when asked if she was still a “good fit.”
Last Wednesday, Cheney gave a fist bump to President Joe Biden before his first address to a joint session of Congress, sending partisans into a tizzy.
Responding to attacks from the party’s right flank, Cheney reaffirmed her conservatism while calling for a need to be conciliatory to people with opposing views.
“I disagree strongly w/@JoeBiden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way,” Cheney tweeted on Thursday. “We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.”
Last week, she also floated a possible presidential campaign while also saying that McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky were the leaders of the GOP – leaving out Trump.
“She is alienating herself from the conference”
Cheney’s opinions have infuriated conservatives who feel that she isn’t projecting a unified front against Democrats – with many hoping to oust her from leadership.
“It’s at a boiling point,” said one GOP lawmaker to The Hill. “This isn’t about Liz Cheney wanting to impeach Donald Trump; this isn’t about Donald Trump at all. It’s about Liz Cheney being completely out of synch with the majority of our conference.”
The legislator told The Hill that Cheney’s actions were becoming the subject of text conversations among House GOP colleagues.
“As we’re focused on unifying the Republican conference and our mission to win back the majority, she is focused on the past and proving a point,” the lawmaker told The Hill. “She is alienating herself from the conference, and I have to imagine if she doesn’t resign there will be a new vote in the near future and the result will be lopsided in the opposite direction of what it was before.”
GOP Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told Axios last Friday that Cheney’s comments were “an unwelcome distraction” and openly questioned whether she would still be on the leadership team in the coming weeks.
On Saturday, GOP Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas predicted that Cheney would be out of leadership by the end of the month.
“Liz Cheney has promised she will campaign on impeaching Trump ‘every day of the week,'” he tweeted. “Good luck with that, Liz! PREDICTION: she’ll be out of her GOP leadership role by month’s end!”
Cheney is navigating a different GOP than the one she once knew
Cheney is well-versed in the ways of Republican politics in Washington, DC.
Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a former congressman from Wyoming who also served as House Republican Conference Chair before becoming House Minority Whip and then Secretary of Defense.
A graduate of Colorado College and the University of Chicago Law School, the congresswoman practiced law before embarking on a career with the State Department, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs under then-President George W. Bush.
She has long been a defense hawk, a position in line with many Republicans from the second Bush administration.
However, in a Trump-dominated GOP, Cheney is encountering forces that are different than anything she’s had to deal with in the past. Simply having conservative credentials isn’t enough anymore.
Cheney still has her boosters within the caucus
Cheney is not without her allies, though, as they delivered votes for her in the leadership secret ballot earlier this year.
GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, who also voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Capitol riot, emphasized that Cheney was one of the few Republicans willing to call out the former president’s debunked election claims.
“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit,” he told The Hill. “Liz isn’t going to lie to people. Liz is going to say what she believes. She’s going to stand on principle. If that’s going to be distracting for folks, she’s not the best fit. I wish that weren’t the case.”
Gonzalez told The Hill he would back Cheney if a second leadership vote is held.
As the GOP tries to combat its electoral difficulties with suburban women and minority voters, another Cheney ally told The Hill that her presence lends the argument that the party is welcoming to all.
“Does Cheney’s stubborn insistence to stick with her conviction rub some of us wrong? Yes. But I sure wish McCarthy realizes that it benefits us in the long run if we have one member of our leadership team who won’t kiss Trump’s ass,” the Cheney ally said. “It’s good for the Republican party.”
This past year, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming has been tested by the most conservative elements of her party.
As the No. 3 House Republican, Cheney’s has a huge platform to influence the direction of the party.
However, after Cheney decided to join nine other Republicans and every House Democrat to impeach former President Donald Trump of “incitement of insurrection” for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot, her stock within the party sank among many members.
By going against the reigning leader from her own party, her position in leadership was quickly imperiled.
After the contentious vote, House Republicans discussed Cheney’s fate during the party’s Feb. 3 conference meeting.
Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, gave a deeply personal speech, saying she was “deeply, deeply concerned about where our party is headed,” according to The New York Times Magazine.
“We cannot become the party of QAnon,” she stressed. “We cannot become the party of Holocaust denial. We cannot become the party of white supremacy. We all watched in horror what happened on Jan. 6.”
On that fateful day, Trump blasted Cheney in his speech to his supporters that gathered near the Capitol before many of them stormed the Capitol building.
“The Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them,” he said.
The former vice president called his daughter to let her know that Trump called her out by name during his speech, according to The Times.
During the Feb. 3 GOP conference meeting, several members asked Cheney to apologize for her vote to impeach Trump, but she refused.