Liz Cheney, the third-most-powerful House Republican, has warned that her party is “at a turning point” as it prepares to try to remove her from leadership for rejecting Donald Trump’s false claims about the election.
Writing in a defiant op-ed, published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, the Wyoming Republican told her party that standing with Trump meant undermining the rule of law and risking continued violence.
“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 said in the article.
“The Republican party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the constitution.”
“History is watching us,” she warned.
Her column comes as top members of her party, including Trump and the No 2 House Republican, Steve Scalise, publicly endorsed Representative Elise Stefanik for Cheney’s job as chair of the party’s conference. A vote could come as early as next Wednesday.
Trump flexed his muscles anew this week, releasing seven public statements in three days reiterating his false claims that Joe Biden’s 7m-vote margin of victory was the result of fraud, and attacking Republicans including Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney who rejected him.
Cheney referenced the president’s behavior in her column, saying that his message was clear. “Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on 6 January.
“The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval,” Cheney wrote.
She continued: “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.”
Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud have been widely debunked. But Republican-controlled state legislatures are using those claims to justify legislation imposing new restrictions on voting.
The Republican representative Adam Kinzinger earlier on Wednesday praised Cheney for standing by her criticism of Trump. “They are trying to remove Liz for telling you the truth, consistently,” said Kinzinger, who like Cheney voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot.
The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page also urged Republicans not to oust her.
“Purging Liz Cheney for honesty would diminish the party,” it said in a Wednesday opinion piece.
In a recent call, the Republican House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, told Donald Trump that Cheney would soon be forced out of her Republican leadership position, the Daily Beast reports.
Cheney herself has told other Republicans that it’s not worth holding on to her leadership role as conference chair “if lying is going to be a requirement”, one source told the Daily Beast.
Biden said on Wednesday that a “mini-revolution” over identity appeared to be under way in the Republican party.
“Republicans are further away from trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for than I thought they would be at this point,” he told reporters at the White House.