Three weeks earlier, Cheney announced that she would vote to impeach President Donald Trump for encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6 – one of only 10 Republicans in the House, and the only member of the party leadership to do so. . Because his colleagues had elected Cheney to the party’s third highest position in the House, his words were generally seen as expressing the will of the conference, and those words had been extremely clear: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution, ”she said.
The combination of his stature and unequivocal position amounted to a clear message from Cheney to House Republicans: if they side with Trump in contesting the election, they side with the Constitution and against at least one. of their elected leaders. So the tenor of the February 3 meeting was tense, impressive and deeply personal from start to finish, according to several participants who described it to me later.
When it was Cheney’s turn to speak, the 54-year-old MP from Wyoming began by describing her lifelong reverence for the House, where her father, Dick Cheney, was the Minority Whip more than a few years ago. 30 years before becoming secretary to George HW Bush. defense and vice president of George W. Bush. But, Cheney continued, she was “deeply, deeply concerned about the direction our party is taking.” Its fundamentals – limited government, low taxes, strong national defense – were overshadowed by darker forces. “We cannot become QAnon’s party,” she said. “We cannot become the Holocaust denial party. We cannot become the party of white supremacy. We all watched in horror what happened on January 6th.
Cheney, alone among House Republicans, had been mentioned by Trump in his speech that day. “The Liz Cheneys of the world, we have to get rid of them,” he told his supporters at the Ellipse shortly before they invaded the Capitol. The president had been enraged by Cheney’s public insistence that Trump’s legal challenges to state election results were unconvincing and that he should respect “the sanctity of our electoral process.” At the time of Trump’s speech, Cheney was in the House locker room awaiting the ritual state-by-state tabulation of electoral votes. Her father called her to inform him of Trump’s remark. Less than an hour later, a crowd banged on the Chamber’s bedroom doors.
At the conference meeting, Cheney said she was maintaining her vote to impeach Trump. Several members had asked her to apologize, but, she said, “I can’t do this.”
The line to the microphone was extraordinarily long. At least half of the speakers have indicated they will vote to remove Cheney. Ralph Norman of South Carolina has expressed disappointment with his vote. “But the other thing that bothers me, Liz,” he continued, “is your attitude. You have a provocative attitude. John Rutherford of Florida, a former sheriff, accused the president of not being a “team player.”
Others argued that his announcement the day before the impeachment vote gave Democrats an argument to use against the rest of the Republican conference. (“So much the better for her for having honored her oath of office,” remarked President Nancy Pelosi when she was informed of Cheney’s intentions.) Comparing the situation to a football game, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, lamented, “You look in the stands and see your girlfriend on the opposition side – that’s a hell of a hard thing to swallow.