Politics

Rep. Liz Cheney urges Republicans to reject Trump 'cult of personality,' says 'history is watching'

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Key Points
  • Rep. Liz Cheney wrote in an op-ed that the Republican Party must "steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality."
  • The GOP "is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution," Cheney wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
  • Cheney's clarion call came as a flood of House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, say they are through with her serving as House Republican Conference chair.
Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during a news conference following a House Republican caucus meeting in Washington on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The GOP must "steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality," argued Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, in an op-ed Wednesday.

"The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution," Cheney wrote in The Washington Post.

The clarion call from Cheney came as a flood of House Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, say they are through with her serving as House Republican Conference chair.

But in the op-ed Cheney, of Wyoming, appeared to cast aside concerns about her status in the party.

"History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be," Cheney wrote.

Cheney was the only member of Republican leadership to vote for former President Donald Trump's impeachment in the wake of the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters. Trump "summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack," Cheney said at the time.

Trump was acquitted in the Senate on an article of inciting an insurrection.

Since Trump left office, Cheney has stood apart from many of her Republican colleagues through her willingness to keep speaking out against Trump, who continues to falsely insist he beat President Joe Biden and spread baseless conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud.

On Tuesday, McCarthy reportedly said of Cheney: "I've had it with her. You know, I've lost confidence." A spokeswoman for Scalise said the whip has pledged his support to Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who emerged as an ardent defender of Trump during his first impeachment.

Trump and other Republicans have also backed Stefanik.

Cheney's op-ed asserted that it's not enough to simply look the other way on Trump's unfounded election claims.

"Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this," Cheney's op-ed said.

"While embracing or ignoring Trump's statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country," she wrote.

She pointed out that McCarthy, in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, said Trump "bears responsibility" for the attack and "should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding." 

McCarthy has now "changed his story," said Cheney.

Cheney rejected Trump's persistent claims about a "rigged" election that cast doubt on U.S. institutions. "This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system," she wrote.

Republicans, Cheney said, should support the Department of Justice's ongoing investigations into the Jan. 6 invasion. More than 400 people now face charges related to the attack.

The GOP should also back a "parallel bipartisan review" of the invasion "by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts," she said.

Lastly, Republicans "need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality," Cheney said.

She invoked the memory of former President Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon, saying he "formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity, and we need to do the same now."

"But this will not happen if Republicans choose to abandon the rule of law and join Trump's crusade to undermine the foundation of our democracy and reverse the legal outcome of the last election," she said.

Read the full op-ed in The Washington Post.