Trump Bent on Retribution for Cheney 05/13 06:14
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican leaders insisted that purging Trump critic
Rep. Liz Cheney from their ranks was necessary to unify the party ahead of next
year's midterm elections.
But former President Donald Trump, who celebrated Cheney's ouster by calling
her a "bitter, horrible human being," has made clear he has no interest in
putting the hostilities behind him as he continues to seek vengeance and lie
about the 2020 election.
"Whatever the rest of the country thinks or whatever his opponents in the
news media think, he believes that he lost the White House illegitimately, and
that's a pretty big grudge, so I don't think he's going to give up that sense
of grievance very easily," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a longtime
Trump friend and informal adviser.
Six months after losing reelection, Trump has emerged more emboldened than
ever after House Republicans voted Wednesday to remove Cheney -- the Wyoming
congresswoman and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney -- from her
post as the No. 3 Republican over her repeated criticisms of the former
It's the latest sign of how firmly Trump has cemented his grip on a
Republican Party that now has little room for those who dare to confront his
election delusions -- rejected in the courts and by Trump's own attorney
general and homeland security officials -- even after the Jan. 6 insurrection
at the Capitol.
His posture is forcing some Republicans into an awkward straddle of pledging
allegiance to Trump while acknowledging the presidency of Democrat Joe Biden.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who has courted Trump and led the purge
of Cheney, acknowledged after a meeting Wednesday at the White House that
Biden's election was legitimate.
"I don't think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential
election," he said.
But that's precisely what Trump has been doing.
Indeed, Trump in recent weeks has only escalated his attacks on the election
outcome, obsessing over a partisan Arizona audit and releasing a flurry of
statements denouncing what he now calls a "fake Presidential Election."
"If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020
Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned," he said in a statement
There remains no evidence to support Trump's allegations of mass voter
fraud, claims he began to make long before Election Day as polls showed him
losing to Biden.
But that hasn't stopped Trump from continuing to try to convince his
supporters that he was the rightful winner -- ongoing attacks on the democratic
system that Cheney warned could incite further violence as she delivered a
defiant floor speech Tuesday night ahead of her colleagues' vote to oust her
from her leadership position.
"Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar," she said in a
mostly empty chamber. "I will not sit back and watch in silence while others
lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former
president's crusade to undermine our democracy."
After the vote, Cheney vowed to keep up her opposition to Trump. As he
considers a comeback run in 2024, she told reporters she will do everything in
her power "to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near
the Oval Office."
McCarthy and others who had originally defended Cheney after she voted to
impeach Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot argued the move was
necessary to unify the party. But they now insist her ongoing criticism of
Trump has become a distraction, preventing Republicans from focusing on their
opposition to Biden as they try to take back the House and win control of the
Senate next year.
"If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from
destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to
not detract from the efforts of our collective team," he wrote in a letter to
colleagues justifying the move.
Trump remains deeply popular among rank-and-file Republicans, and many in
the party are loath to risk alienating the new voters he attracted, especially
ahead of midterm elections that historically draw a far smaller slice of the
"It's impossible for this party to move forward without President Trump
being its leader because the people who are conservative have chosen him as
their leader," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Fox
News this week.
But others warn the episode may further repel voters, especially those in
the suburbs who left the party in droves under the former president.
Republican leaders "need to figure out what they're going to do with
suburban women because this doesn't put us in the right direction in terms of
gaining suburban women," said former Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the only Black
woman ever elected to Congress as a Republican.
"There's a cost to everything and I hope that they're willing to understand
what the cost of this" is, added Love. "If the cost of having (Cheney) there as
conference chair was too high, I hope they realize they're going to pay for it
one way or the other."
As a sign of the continued discontent, more than 100 Republicans, including
numerous former administration officials, are planning to release a letter
later this week threatening to create a new party if the GOP does not adopt a
set of principles -- "A Call for American Renewal" -- they lay out, said Miles
Taylor, a former Trump DHS official who is one of the organizers.
"We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to
either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the
creation of such an alternative," they write.
Trump's latest victory comes as he begins a new chapter of his
post-presidency. After spending the last four months at his Mar-a-Lago club in
Florida plotting his next steps and building out a political operation, Trump
has decamped to Bedminster, New Jersey, for the summer. (He spent several days
in New York this week after last weekend's Mother's Day brunch marking the end
of the Palm Beach social season.)
Friends and aides expect Trump to continue much as he has, welcoming a
procession of GOP hopefuls looking for his endorsement and building on
fundraising that has already amassed around $90 million.
Trump spokesperson Jason Miller declined to comment for this story, but has
said that Trump remains dedicated to ousting Republicans who voted for his
impeachment and opposed his efforts to overturn Biden's victory in the election
-- even as he pledges to help the GOP win back the House and Senate in 2022.
Gingrich, for his part, said that Cheney had made it "I think, literally
impossible to avoid this vote" by going "out of her way to anger and irritate
her conference," but predicted her ouster would help Republicans by turning
attention back to Democrats.
"My guess is that there will be a new focus on issues that help them win a
majority," he said. "There are more than enough things to fight over. And I
think they'll be drawn more and more to taking on Biden."