Congresswoman Liz Cheney has accused Republican representative Elise Stefanik, her replacement after she was ousted from GOP leadership this week, of being “complicit” in Donald Trump’s “big lie” of election fraud.
On Wednesday, Rep. Cheney was removed as House GOP conference chairwoman by her colleagues after repeatedly criticising the former president’s baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and his role in sparking the 6 January riots at the US Capitol.
Rep. Cheney spoke about her ouster and the decision by a number of Republicans to entertain Mr Trump’s continued wild allegations and conspiracy theories.
“I’m not willing to do that,” Rep. Cheney told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
She described Rep. Stefanik, along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as being “complicit” in spreading the “big lie” to voters.
“I think that it is absolutely the case that we have to have the strongest position possible going forward so we can take back the House, the Senate, and the White House,” Rep. Cheney said.
“The issue is we cannot do that if we are embracing the big lie; if we are embracing what former president Trump continues to say on a nearly daily basis, which is claims that the election was stolen.”
Mr Wallace asked the congresswoman why she was willing to ostracize “tens of millions” of voters who still support Mr Trump.
She responded: “Those millions of people that you mention who supported the president have been misled. They’ve been betrayed. And certainly, as we see his continued action to attack our democracy, his continued refusal to accept the results of the last election, you see that ongoing danger.”
Mr Trump continued to push baseless theories of election fraud this weekend on his recently-established blog. The former president was de-platformed by Facebook and Twitter “due to the risk of further incitement of violence”. Ahead of Rep Cheney’s ouster, Mr Trump called the lawmaker a “bitter, horrible human being.”
On Saturday the former president made wild accusations regarding Arizona’s election process by baselessly claiming that there had been “DELETION of an entire Database and critical Election files of Maricopa County.”
The Wyoming representative, and daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, was one of ten House GOP lawmakers who voted to impeach Mr Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol riots which left five people dead including a police officer.
Rep. Cheney was vocal in her criticism of the former president, ultimately alienating Trump loyalists in the party. On a hot mic earlier this month during an interview with Fox News, Leader McCarthy was caught saying he had “lost confidence” in Rep. Cheney.
But rather than be cowed by her removal from party leadership, Ms Cheney has doubled down on what she views as her role in moving the Republican party forward.
“I am firmly committed to being part of leading this party back to a place where we believe and advocate on behalf of policies and substance,” Ms Cheney said on Sunday.
Fractures have emerged in the GOP following the bitter and divisive 2020 presidential election.
In a separate interview with Fox News on Sunday, Rep. Stefanik accused Ms Cheney of “looking backwards” instead of moving forwards with the GOP, calling Mr Trump “an important voice in the Republican party”.
“He’s critical to the party. He’s the leader of the Republican Party,” the New York representative said. “Voters determine the leader of the Republican Party and they continue to look to President Trump for his vision and he’s going to be an important part of us winning back the House in 2022.”
Republican divisions spilled out across the Sunday talk shows as GOP members aired their grievances.
Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw defended Mr McCarthy’s decision to remove Ms Cheney from leadership so that the GOP could move on.
“I think what [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy was trying to say there was, ‘Look, there is disagreement, and it’s time to move on. We can keep having that fight if we’d like. But what is the point? What is the outcome? When in reality, we need to be talking about the things that American people actually care about,’” Mr Crenshaw told NBC News.
Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who often declines to toe the party line, condemned colleagues for removing Ms Cheney.
“I’ve said that this is a four-year battle for the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve got another election coming up next year in 2022. You know, I think it was a mistake. Liz Cheney is a solid conservative Republican ... and to ostracize somebody, remove them from their leadership position, is crazy,” he told CNN on Sunday.