WASHINGTON (AP) – Donald Trump and his supporters are stepping up efforts to embarrass – and potentially remove – members of their party who consider themselves disloyal to the former president and his false allegations that last year’s election was stolen from him.
On Capitol Hill, Wyoming’s Liz Cheney, Republican No. 3 in the House, risks losing her leadership position amid a growing public debate with Trump. In Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney, a rare enemy of Trump in the Republican Party, faced humiliation over the weekend to remind the crowd that he had once been their presidential flag bearer. And in Texas, the only openly anti-Trump Republican in the crowded congressional special election ended in a low 9th place.
Trump left office nearly four months ago with his reputation badly damaged after a mob of his supporters staged a deadly riot in the US Capitol to prevent the election results from being verified. But recent events suggest a revival of his political destiny, in which those who refuse to accept his lies find themselves in defense.
Trump’s grip on the party can only be tightened in the coming days.
In addition to his excitement from press releases, his powerful Facebook account could be restored this week if a quasi-independent supervisory board rules in his favor. Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia will decide whether to nominate a vocal supporter of Trump as governor in one of the few tent elections on the calendar this year.
An important signal of the party’s direction may come to Capitol Hill, where Cheney’s future is in question.
The Wyoming congresswoman, the oldest Republican who called for Trump’s impeachment, insisted that the party must reject the former president’s lie that the election was somehow stolen. There is no evidence to support Trump’s allegations of mass voter fraud and numerous audits, Republican election officials and Trump’s own prosecutor said the election was fair.
But Trump is sticking to his story and issuing a “proclamation” on Monday, trying to choose the language his enemies use to mark his lies.
“From this day on, the fraudulent presidential election in 2020 will be known as the BIG LIE!” He wrote.
Cheney, who herself did not rule out an escape in 2024, shot.
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. “Anyone who claims to have been is spreading the BIG LIE, turning his back on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system,” she tweeted.
Apparently, she does not intend to reduce her criticism, although she faces the possibility of losing her leadership position.
Cheney survived an earlier attempt to remove her from the lead, but this time it may be different. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stood by her earlier this year, but he refused to protect her from the latest round of attacks as he clashed with conservatives unhappy with her removal. This is a sign of McCarthy’s own calculations as he works to stay close to Trump while trying to expand a wider tent to help his party win a general election.
As long as Republican votes in support of Trump on Capitol Hill far outnumber his party critics, detractors should not be dismissed.
A total of 10 Republicans in the House voted to impeach Trump to inspire the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and seven Republicans in the Senate voted to condemn him. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to justify Trump, but publicly punished the former president and privately encouraged the party to move forward.
This is a different calculation for ordinary members of Congress, especially for those who represent strongly Republican areas, where about 8 out of 10 supporters of the party usually approve of Trump. It is believed that this number is much higher among party activists and voters.
It is still too early to draw definite conclusions about Trump’s success so far this year. Some Republican strategists have privately suggested that there are real signs that the former president’s power with ordinary voters and elected officials has begun to wane.
“With each passing day, it becomes less relevant, but among those who still listen to it, it is more relevant than ever,” said veteran Republican sociologist Frank Lunz. “It still matters. It will matter for months and even years, but over time it will matter less and less. ”
For now, the former reality TV celebrity seems to be enjoying the trip.
“It’s so nice to see RINO Mitt Romney shout from the stage of the Republican Convention in Utah,” Trump said in a series of holiday statements Monday praising Texas results and criticizing Cheney and Romney. “RINO” means “Republican by name only.”
In Utah over the weekend, a number of Republicans had poured a Romney boom before unsuccessfully trying to convict him of supporting Trump’s impeachment.
“Show respect,” the crowd was rebuked by the state party chairman. Romney reminded them that he had been a Conservative all his life and nominated for president in 2012 – and told them that Republicans would only hurt by attacking each other.
“If we split our party, we will be a losing party,” he said.
In Texas, losing congressional candidate Wood, a 34-year-old former Marine and two-time Purple Heart recipient, has pondered a handful of prominent anti-Trump Republicans, including Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, former Arizona St. Jeff Flake of Ohio John Kasic and Cheney, who donated to Wood’s campaign and offered moral support.
He said Monday that there is a real urgency for Republicans against Trump to unite against him.
“It’s not just about repelling people. We need to get organized and show the public that you can be a good Republican and not buy all these BSs, ”Wood said. “This battle will not be won with podcasts and articles.”
Mike Duheim, the Republican’s best strategist, said the party was still struggling with its identity after Trump, but said it would be better positioned if it included conservatives like Cheney and Romney.
“There are people who play on the basis of the electorate, which is very passionate and believes the big lie about the election. And that’s enough to win a primary election for Congress, Senate, governor or even president, it seems. But he warned: “If we stay focused on just that, it will not be successful enough in the general election to win the majority.”
“At some point, we have to put that behind us if we want to succeed in a general election.”
People reported from New York. Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.