Rep. Liz Cheney vowed Tuesday evening not to remain silent as former President Donald Trump continues to spread lies that the election was stolen from him, striking a defiant tone ahead of an expected vote to remove her from House Republican leadership on Wednesday.
The Wyoming Republican, who is all but certain to be removed as GOP conference chair after her continued criticisms of Trump, declared that she would not join with other leaders who ignore Trump’s lies, emboldening him and threatening democracy.
“We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed,” Cheney said.
“Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney said. “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
The House Republican conference is expected to vote to remove Cheney from her leadership role on Wednesday. The vote comes after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy soured on Cheney in recent weeks while she was vocal in her criticisms of Trump for continuing to lie about the election.
The California Republican has backed Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to replace Cheney as conference chairwoman, and Stefanik currently faces no opposition for the position.
“It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about the focus of our conference, and focusing on pushing back on the agenda that’s being pushed by the Biden administration,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, said Tuesday.
Cheney argued on the floor that Trump’s lies about the election have misled millions of Americas, undermining the democratic process and threatening more violence beyond the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before,” Cheney said. “A former President, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.”
Cheney argued in the speech that she is a conservative, in a swipe at Trump’s congressional allies who have been pushing for her ouster since her January vote to impeach Trump. Cheney spoke Tuesday evening after members from the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that’s led the charge for her removal, gave a series of speeches on the House floor railing against cancel culture. As Cheney spoke, the Republican lawmakers mostly cleared out of the chamber, with Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado the sole member who stayed on the floor.
“I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law,” she said. “The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was one of 10 Republicans, including Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump earlier this year, blasted his party’s leadership following Cheney’s remarks.
“Kevin McCarthy (an employee of Donald Trump) may win tomorrow, but history won’t be kind. Never has our party gone after it’s own leadership like this, but Kevin and Steve Scalise made history, because Trump has thin skin. I’d be embarrassed if I was them,” Kinzinger tweeted.
Even before Wednesday’s vote, Cheney had been looking beyond her expulsion from House GOP leadership to the next steps of her plan to fight for the future of the Republican Party, enlisting help from alumni of the Bush administration and other conservatives who have already spoken out against Donald Trump.
Three people familiar with these conversations told CNN that Cheney has become more actively engaged with Republicans outside of the House conference in recent days, talking and strategizing with these allies about her path forward. The first piece of the plan came in her pointed speech on the House floor Tuesday night, which one friend described “as a model for her path forward.”
In the coming days, the next steps of the plan will become clear, including an effort to “rally the voices of Republicans who share her view,” another GOP confidante said. Cheney intends to make clear that she has “no intentions of abandoning the Republican Party.”
“Liz’s full focus is outside the Capitol,” one Bush alumnus and longtime friend of Cheney’s tells CNN. “That’s where she will make her case about the future of the republic and the Republican Party.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.