WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Liz Cheney said the GOP needs to acknowledge the damage done by former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him and his provoking of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.
In the latest sign that a rift in the Republican Party is far from healing, Cheney, the third-ranking member of House GOP leadership, used part of a speech Tuesday at the Reagan Institute in Washington to criticize the former president, who has repeatedly lashed out at the Wyoming Republican over her vote in favor of his impeachment.
“It’s incumbent upon everybody who takes an oath of office and swears to to protect and defend the Constitution that we recognize what happened on Jan. 6, that we commit ourselves that it must never happen again and that we recognize the damage that was done by the president, President Trump, saying that somehow the election was stolen, making those claims for months and summoning the mob and provoking them then in the attack on the Capitol,” Cheney said at the event.
Republicans are in the middle of a power struggle over the future of the party between traditionalists, like Cheney, and Trump loyalists. Although the tension had been present during all four years of Trump’s presidency, it broke into open conflict over his attempt to overturn the results of the election he lost to President Joe Biden. In his speech to the crowd that later stormed the Capitol, Trump said his supporters need to “get rid of the weak Congress, people, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world.”
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over his role in stoking the riot on Jan. 6, prompting an unsuccessful attempt to oust her from House party leadership. She and some of the other GOP lawmakers who broke with Trump in the impeachment saga have faced backlash from state parties and primary threats from Republican challengers.
Cheney said Republicans have to repair the damage to the party, in part by excising the extremist fringe that was prominent in the Capitol riot.
“It’s very important, especially for us as Republicans, to make clear that we aren’t the party of white supremacy. You certainly saw anti-Semitism. You saw the symbols of Holocaust denial, for example, at the Capitol that day,” she said. “You saw a Confederate flag being carried through the Rotunda. And I think we as Republicans in particular have a duty and an obligation to stand against that.”
Trump remains a powerful draw for Republicans. A plurality of GOP voters, 46 percent said they would abandon the GOP and join a Trump-led party if he were to create one, according to a USA Today/Suffolk poll conducted last week.
Senior Republicans, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, have huddled with Trump at his Florida estate and welcomed his participation in the 2022 midterms that could determine control of Congress. Trump is set to address the Conservative Political Action Conference scheduled for this weekend.
Daniel Flatley, Bloomberg News