According to one source, Trump has repeatedly questioned his Republican allies about efforts to remove Cheney from her leadership position and run a primary candidate against her. He has also been showing those allies a poll commissioned by his Save America PAC that purports to show that Cheney’s impeachment vote has damaged her standing in Wyoming, even urging them to talk about the poll on television.
Trump’s push comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is working to shore up his relationship with the ex-president, including meeting with Trump at his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago on Thursday. McCarthy and Trump discussed the midterm elections in 2022, according to a readout provided by Save America. The statement claimed Trump “has agreed to work with Leader McCarthy” on retaking the majority in the House for the GOP.
McCarthy confirmed Thursday that Trump “committed to helping elected Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.”
But it’s clear Trump does not want Cheney to be a part of that House majority. Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, was one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment on January 13. Trump’s allies within the GOP conference are helping to punish Cheney.
Some in the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus are circulating a petition designed to oust Cheney from her leadership position. One Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, was in Wyoming Thursday to rally against Cheney. Gaetz told the hundreds of rallygoers that he had spoken to Trump “yesterday,” and he publicly shared some of Trump’s material.
Donald Trump Jr called into the rally and referred to the poll. “Liz Cheney’s favorables there are only slightly worse than her father’s shooting skills,” said Trump Jr. A day earlier, the former president’s son tweeted his own criticisms of Cheney.
“It’s time to get this RINO out of GOP leadership!” Trump Jr. wrote.
Cheney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
McCarthy has expressed his support for Cheney and warned his members against attacking their GOP colleagues who supported impeachment, telling them this week to “cut that crap out.” But he has also said he has “concerns” about Cheney’s vote on impeachment and claimed he did not know her position “ahead of time.”
“So I support her, but I do think she has a lot of questions she has to answer to the conference,” McCarthy said in a Sunday interview with Gray TV.
The visit between Trump and McCarthy was a remarkable move for the California Republican, who on January 13 said on the House floor that Trump “bears responsibility” for the deadly storming of the US Capitol. McCarthy himself faces pressure from GOP donors and others in the party to distance himself from the former President following the January 6 attack.
One source close to him told CNN McCarthy was warned against “crawling back to Trump,” while another source said he was told that the Florida trip would make him look weak.
But in reestablishing his relationship with Trump, McCarthy is considering what will win him back the House and possibly catapult him to the speakership. Sources told CNN he is eager to realign himself with Trump after corporate donors – including American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow and Marriott – have suspended PAC donations to members of Congress who objected to certifying the election for now President Joe Biden.
Thursday’s Mar-a-Lago meeting reflects a sense among some Republicans in Washington that Trump remains a singular force within the party and that the former President is an electoral asset, even if Trump left office with the lowest approval rating of his presidency, according to a CNN poll earlier this month.
“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” read the statement from the group, which also released a photo of Trump and McCarthy smiling together at Mar-a-Lago.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, David Wright, Dana Bash and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.