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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 
president.

   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 
this week.

   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 
electorate.

   "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."

 
 
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