When Rep. Liz Cheney delivered her defiant speech Tuesday on the eve of the vote to oust her from Republican leadership, she brought with her a symbolic token: a lapel pin depicting George Washington’s traditional battle flag.
The flag sets 13 stars on a blue field and is said to have flown over Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, according to Cheney’s mother, the historian and former second lady Lynne Cheney, who gave it to her daughter a few weeks ago. Lynne Cheney told CNN she has had the pin, designed by jeweler Ann Hand, since publishing her 2004 children’s book, When Washington Crossed the Delaware.
The pin – along with a poster in her Capitol Hill office created for her mother’s book with the words “Heroism. Courage. Patriotism.” across the top – reflect Liz Cheney’s inspiration as she lays the groundwork for an uphill fight against Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party, according to a person close to Cheney. She is leaning on the support from her parents, including former vice president Dick Cheney, as well as calling on the history of the country and her own party.
“The nation needs a strong Republican Party,” Cheney told reporters Wednesday morning, following her removal from the No. 3 position in House GOP leadership. “The nation needs a party that that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that.”
In her floor remarks on Tuesday, Cheney made the case that her mission to “speak the truth” about the 2020 election and Trump’s falsehoods are part of a pro-democracy tradition in America. She harked back to the legacy of Ronald Reagan and the GOP’s role in fighting authoritarianism during the Cold War.
“As the party of Reagan, Republicans championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet Communists. As we speak, America is on the cusp of another Cold War – this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed Communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure. We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed,” Cheney said on the House floor.
The speech, like her op-ed in The Washington Post last week, are a preview of how Cheney wants to influence the debate after being expelled from House leadership. While Cheney did not reach out to current House Republican members for support ahead of Wednesday’s vote, she is already enlisting the help from alumni of the Bush administration and other conservatives who have already spoken out against Trump.
Three people familiar with these conversations tell 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. One friend describes the House floor speech “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 says. Cheney intends to make clear that she is has “no intentions of abandoning the Republican Party.”
In the moments before her expulsion from House leadership on Wednesday, as she offered a prayer with her fellow Republicans, Cheney made clear she was committed to restoring the party. Her remarks were booed by some, with applause coming from others.
“I promise you this,” Cheney said, “after today, I will be leading the fight to restore our party and our nation to conservative principles, to defeating socialism, to defending our republic, to making the GOP worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.”
That question emerged during her conversations with Bush alumni: How would she contend with all of the praise from Democrats and the media? Cheney has no choice but to embrace it in the short term, but look for other conservatives and longtime Cheney friends to write supportive op-eds and interviews, injecting Republican voices from outside the House into the conversation.
“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.
CNN’s Annie Grayer and Manu Raju contributed to this story.