President Donald Trump joined the fray of an internecine war within the Republican conference Thursday, attacking party leader Rep. Liz Cheney by claiming she backs ‘Endless Wars’ overseas.
Trump jumped in publicly on Twitter after news of an angry clash inside a closed GOP conference meeting emerged this week. At the meeting, Trump ultra-loyalist Rep. Matt Gaetz and others pounded Cheney for having backed the challenger to a GOP incumbent – even though Trump had called for the lawmaker to be kicked out of the party.
Gaetz would then publicly call for her to lose her leadership and accused her of having ‘worked against’ Trump.
‘Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars. I am also making our so-called allies pay tens of billions of dollars in delinquent military costs. They must, at least, treat us fairly!!!’ Trump tweeted.
President Donald Trump jumped into a House GOP civil war and jabbed at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), accusing her of backing ‘endless wars’
Although Cheney has not called for endless wars, her father is identified with neoconservatives who pushed second U.S. intervention in Iraq, a war that Trump regularly calls a disaster that cost trillions from the treasury and upended the Middle East.
The multi-pronged attack featured cultural and political touchtones that are dividing Republicans months before an election that could upend GOP rule: mask-wearing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Iraq War, Trumpism, race, and political correctness.
Cheney defended herself in the closed-door meeting Tuesday, then took to Fox News to try to calm the waters publicly. She said she votes with Trump ‘something like 97 percent of the time’ but noted ‘there are areas — they tend to be on national security — where we don’t always agree.’
Although she is a reliably conservative vote inside the conference, Cheney has taken some notable public stands that distinguished herself from members of the House GOP, which has become identified with near-total loyalty to Trump on impeachment, investigations, policy, and appointments.
On May 12, Cheney tweeted her support for top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was becoming an irritant to the White House. In recent weeks, White House officials have gone after Fauci both anonymously and publicly, and Trump has called him a little bit of an ‘alarmist.’
‘Dr. Fauci is one of the finest public servants we have ever had. He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day,’ she wrote.
She also defended her campaign contribution to Todd McMurtry, who was challenging GOP Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky). Trump had called Massie a ‘third rate grandstander’ after he demanded a record-vote on $2.2 trillion coronavirus legislation, requiring members to vote in person during the pandemic.
Massie won anyway, and Cheney asked for her contribution backed after McMurtry’s past racist posts were revealed.
House Republicans facing electoral uncertainty in November turned on one another in the private meeting on Tuesday, as a small group of conservative lawmakers confronted House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney over what they said was disloyalty to President Donald Trump.
The lawmakers called out Cheney for her support of Fauci, the nation´s top infectious-disease expert, and for supporting a primary challenger to Massie, R-Ky., according to people familiar with the closed-door meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio noted Cheney’s criticism of Trump on defense and foreign policy and accused her of not supporting the president on his coronavirus response.
Leading the criticism was Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who recounted the confrontation on his podcast, ‘Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,’ shortly after it happened. He also tweeted about Cheney, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and said she should step down from her post as head of the GOP conference.
‘Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda,’ Gaetz tweeted. ‘House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair. Liz Cheney should step down or be removed. #MAGA.’
Trump´s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Gaetz’s message and wrote, ‘We already have one Mitt Romney, we don´t need another… we also don´t need the endless wars she advocates for.’ Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has been one of the only Senate Republicans to regularly separate himself from Trump and voted to convict him on one article of impeachment earlier this year.
The confrontation comes as the president has struggled with a response to the coronavirus pandemic and Republicans in Congress have been somewhat split on his handling of the crisis. As Trump has pushed to quickly reopen the economy and played down the importance of coronavirus testing, some have indicated they disagree with him on those points. Others such as Gaetz and Jordan have rushed to defend him.
Cheney didn´t back down in the meeting and did not apologize for breaking with Trump, according to one of the people familiar with the exchange. At a GOP news conference later in the day, she told reporters that she ‘absolutely’ still supports Fauci, who she said she has known for many years. She also noted that Trump Jr. is ‘not a member of the Republican conference.’
She said she takes her position seriously and had a ‘great conversation’ with Massie after the conference meeting.
‘I think the beauty of our system, and frankly the magnificence of this country and one of the things that the founders fought for, and that so many throughout history have died for, is our freedom of speech and the right for all of us to have this kind of healthy exchange and debate,’ Cheney said.
Cheney has shot up to the No. 3 GOP leadership spot since she was elected in 2016. While she has voted mostly in step with the president, she has sometimes differed with him on foreign policy as he and his allies have argued against ‘endless wars.’ She has rarely criticized Trump by name but has separated from him on that issue and others, including the pandemic.
In her June tweet, for example, Cheney alluded to Trump´s frequent refusal to wear a mask by featuring a photo of her masked father. ‘Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK. #realmenwearmasks,’ she wrote.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy stood alongside Cheney at the afternoon news conference and said he was honored to have her as conference chair. ‘She does an amazing job,’ he said.
In addition to Gaetz and Jordan, Cheney´s critics at the meeting included Texas Reps. Chip Roy and Louie Gohmert, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs and Massie himself. Cheney had donated money to Massie´s primary opponent, Todd McMurtry. Massie won that primary in June.
Roy specifically criticized Cheney for her support of Fauci and asked her ‘to consider the full breadth of research out there on the coronavirus,’ according to a person close to Roy. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
All the members who criticized Cheney are members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus that often clashed with leadership when Republicans were in the majority.