Politics Life after leadership: Liz Cheney plots her long game against Donald Trump
How Democrats Learned to Love the Cheneys
Is Cheney's dissent conviction or calculation?This metamorphosis—lampooned as “strange new respect” by journalist Tom Bethell in 1992 as the liberal journalist’s instinct to overpraise any leftward gesture by a right-wing politician—can be accomplished any number of ways. In Romney’s case, he achieved his strange new respect in 2020, when he cast his ballot to impeach President Donald Trump. John Bolton won his by publishing a show-and-tell about working for the Trump administration, 2020’s The Room Where It Happened.
entered this week knowing it would likely be her last as a member of the House Republican leadership team.
The Wyoming congresswoman fully expects to lose her position as the No. 3 Republican in the House whenon Wednesday, according to a source familiar with her thinking.
But Cheney is also planning to take advantage of her expected removal as a way to furtherover the GOP and continue hammering the message that got her in trouble in the first place: that Trump's lies about the 2020 election are damaging for her party and the country.
Who is Liz Cheney? House Republicans' No. 3, daughter of a VP, Trump critic
Liz Cheney is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who held the same GOP leadership position from which she may be ousted.Cheney was one of 10 Republicans in the House to vote for Trump's impeachment over his alleged incitement of the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, and has since remained firm in her belief that Trump's rhetoric led to the violence.
Four months after the, Cheney has told friends she "does not believe Trump will just fade away" and that she's planning to wage a protracted political war -- through public statements and in the media -- against the former President. The way Cheney sees it, according to sources, Wednesday's vote is a chance to put her GOP colleagues on the record: They are either voting for truth and the rule of law or they are voting to continue down the path of lies and insurrection.
"I think it's a mistake to think that she's going to fade," said one person who knows Cheney well.
That will almost certainly continue to bring Cheney into conflict with Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, especially if investigations on Capitol Hill and from the Justice Department. And the prevailing House GOP message of unity over all will continue to heighten the tension between Cheney and the rest of the conference.
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"It's not about right or wrong, it's about the focus of our conference, and focusing on pushing back on the agenda that's being pushed by the Biden administration," said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, on Tuesday.
But Cheney is also facing her own electoral challenge. In order to be fully effective in her anti-Trump campaign she'll need to survive a competitive Republican primary for her at-large district in Wyoming next year. With Trump and his allies, Cheney's political future is at stake as she makes her next moves.
The question for Cheney is how large and prominent her platform will be once she is no longer a member of the GOP leadership team. The damage done to her brand within the House Republican conference has been significant since her colleagues last voted 145-61 in favor of keeping her in leadership.
Before, Cheney had reached out to a wide array of members to ensure their support. But GOP lawmakers tell CNN she's done little to maintain some of those tenuous relations ever since.
Liz Cheney: House Republicans are preparing to oust No. 3 leader this week. Here's what to watch.
House Republicans could vote as early as Wednesday to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as GOP conference chair, a move that would underscore former President Donald Trump's firm grip on the party months after leaving office. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 14: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) attends a press conference following a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House Republican members spoke about their recent trip to the southern border and the surge of migrant children entering the United States.
A person with knowledge of the Republican delegation told CNN that Wednesday's vote will likely be "lopsided" against Cheney. House members who stood by her in February, such as Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, are turning against her now.
"Rep. Cheney can no longer unify the House Republican conference," Gallagher said in a statement firstby the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Tuesday. The Journal also reported that four of the five Republican members of the Wisconsin delegation said they would vote against Cheney on Wednesday.
One GOP member who is sympathetic to Cheney says she has "not worked on repairing relationships since February," saying freshmen members in particular are not happy with her in recent weeks. "She's not open to much feedback or discussion," the member said.
But what Cheney has lost in influence among House Republicans she could gain as the recognizable leader of the GOP's anti-Trump wing. Her national name recognition has improved over the past few months, and she has raised a personal record in quarterly campaign dollars ---- for her reelection.
Liz Cheney live updates: House Republicans expected to vote on removing her from leadership
The vote is the result of weeks of drama among House Republicans, some who see Rep. Liz Cheney's criticism of Donald Trump as a distraction.Cheney, the third most-powerful House Republican, has angered some in the party for her repeated criticism of Trump and his claim the 2020 election was stolen from him. A vote behind closed doors and by secret ballot is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
"She's going to remain a compelling story because she's incredibly articulate and very smart, and because Trump's not going to let these issues go," said Eric Edelman, a former ambassador and Pentagon official who also worked as a national security aide for Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheneylast week that reads as a preview of the fight she's seeking to have within the GOP.
"Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work -- confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this," Cheney wrote in the Post. "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's also likely to make a political case that Trump remains a drag on the party. One recent poll conducted for the National Republican Congressional Committee found the former President was underwater in some of the House GOP's key battleground districts they'll need to win in 2022, according to a person familiar with the poll results. But the details about Trump's poor position were excluded from a report on that poll presented to a group of GOP members at a March leadership retreat in Florida, according to that person.
Liz Cheney's future in Republican leadership decided by voice vote in closed-door meeting
Under long-standing conference rules, votes were cast in secret by the members who physically show up to the morning meeting in the Capitol. No proxy voting is allowed. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. A simple majority of those voting decided Cheney's fate. That's what happened in February when some Republicans sought to strip Cheney of the leadership post following the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump that she supported. The vote was 145-61 (with one abstention) by voice vote to keep Cheney on as conference chair.
Trump's unfavorable polling was firstby The Washington Post.
Allies few and far between
As Cheney takes on Trump, she has only a few allies among elected Republican officials. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, for instance, has criticized House Republicans for their plans to throw Cheney out of leadership.
"I think we're better trying to expand the number of people who want to vote for Republicans as opposed to shrink that number. And I think she's a person of integrity, who follows her conscience and speaks the truth. And I think it will do nothing but drive some people away from our party," Romney said Monday. "It certainly doesn't add more people, because the people who are supporters of the President are not going anywhere else."
, who has started a super PAC to support Republican candidates who push back on the party's embrace of Trump, said on Twitter this week that he had warned the conference during a phone call before January 6 that McCarthy's rhetoric suggesting the 2020 election was stolen would "lead to violence."
"Kevin dismissively responded with 'ok Adam, operator next question.' And we got violence," Kinzinger tweeted. (McCarthy's office had no comment to CNN about Kinzinger's tweet.)
And a handful of Republican governors have been resistant to Trump's influence on the party. Asa Hutchinson, the term-limited governor of Arkansas and a former House member, said the move against Cheney by her GOP colleagues is not "healthy" and has said he won't support a hypothetical 2024 White House bid by Trump.
With Liz Cheney removed as House GOP chair, what's next?
The first order of business will be to replace Cheney, and it looks like Rep. Elise Stefanik will step into that role.Wednesday's decision by House Republicans to remove the Wyoming congresswoman as chair of the House GOP Conference is only the beginning of a new chapter for a party that hopes to recapture Congress in 2022 after making key gains in November's elections.
Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who did not vote for Trump in 2020 and called for his removal from office after January 6, has also expressed his desire for the party to move on from Trump.
"I think we're going to have a real battle for the soul of the Republican Party for the next couple of years," Hogan. "Are we going to be a party that can't win national elections again?"
Still, Cheney has few friends in her fight in the halls of Congress, even if Republicans on the Senate side have expressed more unease with how the House is proceeding.
"Cancel culture is cancel culture, no matter how you look at it," said Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa who's a member of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership team, to reporters on Monday. "I support President Trump and his policies, so I have a slightly different view on that -- but I still think we shouldn't be trying to cancel voices."
But a number of Senate Republicans downplayed the squabble as simply an inside-the-Beltway dispute that most voters are ignoring. McConnell last week declined to speak on Cheney's behalf, despite being close to the Wyoming Republican.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a strong Trump ally, said on Monday that there is room for members of the Republican Party to be anti-Trump, but there are limits.
"You're just not gonna be a leader of the party if you're anti-Trump," Graham told CNN.
Liz Cheney says she regrets voting for Trump in 2020 .
Liz Cheney said she regrets voting for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, speaking in a "This Week" interview with ABC Chief Washington 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." © ABC News Cheney, R-Wyo., also blasted House Republicans for elevating Rep.