House Republicans voted Wednesday to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as conference chair, capping months of growing backlash over her criticisms of former President Trump, according to two sources in the room.
Why it matters: The stunning removal of the No. 3 House Republican over her condemnation of Trump's election lies reflects the influence the former president still retains over the GOP. It's the most significant turning point in an internal party feud that is unlikely to subside any time soon.
Behind the scenes: "I have tremendous affection and admiration for many of you in this room. I know we all came to Washington to do important work for the nation," Cheney told members at the start of the conference meeting, according to a source familiar.
- "We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country," she continued.
- "If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy."
How we got here: Republicans have been unhappy with Cheney ever since she sided against Trump in his baseless claims of election fraud. She was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the former president for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
- In February, the GOP conference voted 145-61 in a secret ballot to fend off the first bid to oust Cheney from leadership.
- House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy supported Cheney at the time and said she "got a resounding shot in the arm" with the vote, insisting that it showed the party was "united."
- Since then, Cheney has continued to criticize Trump, who has re-emerged publicly after his election loss and tightened his grip over the Republican Party.
Earlier this month, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)came out publicly in favor of replacing Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). Trump soon followed his suit with his own endorsement.
- Though McCarthy said publicly the House GOP had "no concern" about Cheney's vote to impeach Trump, he was caught on a hot mic saying he's "lost confidence" in her and "she's got real problems."
- On Sunday, McCarthy made his position public and officially endorsed Stefanik to replace Cheney, telling Fox News that the GOP needs to be "united" with a conference chair who will consistently deliver the party's message.
What they're saying: In her last public speech as conference chair, Cheney tore into the Republican Party's slide toward authoritarianism and said Trump's baseless claims of election fraud pose a threat that "America has never seen before."
- "Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that."
- "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."
What's next: Cheney has told associates she plans to run for re-election and has no intention of abandoning her fight for the direction of the Republican Party.
- "I promise you this, after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln," Cheney told members before the vote.