Rep. Liz Cheney said in an interview Thursday morning that she is “not leaving” the Republican Party despite her harsh criticism of former President Donald Trump and House Republicans removing her as the conference chair via voice vote on Wednesday.
Cheney, R-Wyo., also told NBC’s “Today” that she “absolutely” will run for reelection in 2022 and “absolutely” can win despite Trump allies who are aiming to come together behind one of Cheney’s primary challengers and force her out of Congress.
“I’m not leaving the party,” Cheney said in response to a question from anchor Savannah Guthrie about whether Cheney might become an independent.
“Bring it on,” she also said, regarding a potential Trump-backed primary challenge.
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“As I said, if they think that they’re going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate,” Cheney added, on “Today.”
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his alleged role stoking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That action triggered an effort earlier this year to remove her as the conference chair, which is the third-ranking post in the House Republican conference.
Cheney easily survived that effort partially thanks to support from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who gave a speech on her behalf ahead of the vote.
But as McCarthy tried to mend fences with Trump in the wake of his impeachment trial – and attitudes in the House GOP ranged from wanting to ignore Trump to wanting him to play a large role in support of Republicans in the midterms – Cheney continued to lambaste the former president.
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Her regular condemnations of Trump’s false claims that the presidential election was stolen, and exhortations to fellow Republicans to distance themselves from him, made for awkward moments between Cheney and other House GOP leaders. At Republicans’ policy retreat in Florida late last month, it eventually became clear the schism between Cheney and other House Republicans was untenable.
“I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party,” Trump said in a statement after Cheney’s ouster. “She is a talking point for Democrats.”
Cheney said on “Today” Thursday her continued broadsides against Trump were important because Trump is still pushing falsehoods about the presidential election.
“I think you’ve watched over the course of the last several months the former president get more aggressive, more vocal, pushing the lie,” Cheney said. “I think that’s a really important thing to understand. This isn’t about looking backward, this is about the real-time current potential damage that he’s doing, that he continues to do.”
She added: “It’s an ongoing threat so silence is not an option.”
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Republicans will hold a candidate forum on Thursday to discuss Cheney’s replacement as conference chair. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., has the support of McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and is the only person who has declared her candidacy for the position so far.
Some Republicans have raised concerns about Stefanik’s moderate voting record, but Stefanik’s defenders note that she’s been a staunch defender of Trump and has effectively fundraised for many other Republican candidates in the past. This could make her an effective leader in the party ahead of the 2022 midterms, they say, as Republicans aim to take back the House majority from Democrats.
“Elise is not afraid to stand up and fight back against President Biden’s radical agenda and the left-wing media mob. Even more importantly she’s a proven winner and an expert at flipping districts from blue to red,” Donald Trump Jr., tweeted about Stefanik Wednesday. “She would be a great House GOP Conference Chair.”