The three words about the US Capitol attack that have sparked a firestorm inside the Republican Party – “legitimate political discourse” – were not included in early drafts of the resolution to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, a person involved in the process tells CNN, but were added as the document was edited late last week at a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Salt Lake City.
The final resolution approved Friday by RNC members, which denounced the two lawmakers for taking part in a House select committee investigation into the January 6, 2021, attack, described the inquiry as “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
But an early draft had referred to the investigation as “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in nonviolent and legal political discourse.”
In the course of editing the language, a person involved in the process said, the words “nonviolent and legal” were ultimately replaced by “legitimate” throughout various drafts.
The RNC was originally trying to expel Cheney, of Wyoming, and Kinzinger, of Illinois, from the Republican Party, but that effort was watered down amid objections from some members of the committee and congressional GOP leaders.
The final resolution was sent to members in a pre-dawn email on Friday that included minutes from the previous committee deliberations at the winter meeting and four other resolutions that were voted on during the general session. The email arrived in members’ inboxes around 1:40 a.m.
Two RNC members told CNN it went directly to their spam/junk folders because it was a computer-generated RNC email as opposed to an email directly from Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
An original draft of the resolution was never circulated to all 168 voting members, only the final draft that was emailed out Friday morning.
In the past, the committee has printed out copies of the resolutions and had them at members’ seats when they arrive for the general session. This was not the case at the meeting in Salt Lake City, and several members were alerted to the language surrounding January 6 by members of the press while the actual session was taking place.
The fierce criticism took McDaniel and other members by surprise – and they are still working to clean it up. They have sought to blame the media for seizing upon those three words rather than addressing the unusually blunt blowback from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and many others.
Not all top Republicans, however, were displeased.
Former President Donald Trump called McDaniel last weekend to praise the punishment of Cheney and Kinzinger, a person familiar with the matter said, a position that was echoed this week by House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and others.