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GOP Rep. Liz Cheney says Trump ‘does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward’

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) speaks to reporters on Dec. 17 at the U.S. Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Sunday forcefully defended her decision to have voted to impeach former president Donald Trump and called on her Republican colleagues to confront “what really did happen in 2020” so they had a chance at winning future elections.

“We have to make sure that we are able to convey to the American voters … that we actually can be trusted to handle the challenges this nation faces, like covid, and that’s going to require us to focus on substance and policy and issues going forward, but we should not be embracing the former president,” Cheney told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.

Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was one of only 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection after a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a violent siege that resulted in the deaths of a police officer and four rioters. At the time, Cheney criticized Trump’s rhetoric leading up to the riot and said in a statement, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

“Somebody who has provoked an attack on the United States Capitol to prevent the counting of electoral votes, which resulted in five people dying, who refused to stand up immediately when he was asked and stop the violence — that is a person who does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward,” she said Sunday.

Cheney has faced fierce blowback from the pro-Trump wing of the GOP for her impeachment vote. The Wyoming Republican Party on Saturday formally censured her, making the congresswoman the latest high-profile Republican punished by their state or local party apparatuses for daring to criticize the former president.

On Sunday, Cheney waved off the language of the censure as an indication, she said, that her party leaders were “mistaken.”

“They believe that [Black Lives Matter] and antifa were behind what happened here at the Capitol. That’s just simply not the case, it’s not true, and we are going to have a lot of work we have to do,” Cheney told Wallace. “People have been lied to. The extent to which … President Trump for months leading up to Jan. 6 spread the notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie, and people need to understand that.”

“We need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth and that we are being honest about what really did happen in 2020 so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024,” she added.

On Saturday, Cheney was rebuked by her state GOP’s central committee “by a resounding margin,” with fewer than 10 members voting against the censure in a voice vote, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. In a statement, Cheney defended her vote to impeach Trump as one “compelled by the oath I swore to the Constitution.”

Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump prompts a voter rebellion in her home state

“Wyoming citizens know that this oath does not bend or yield to politics or partisanship,” Cheney said. “I will always fight for Wyoming values and stand up for our Western way of life. We have great challenges ahead of us as we move forward and combat the disastrous policies of the Biden Administration. I look forward to continuing to work with officials and citizens across Wyoming to be the most effective voice and advocate in defense of our families, industries and communities.”

The former president’s impeachment trial in the Senate is slated to start Tuesday.

Cheney last week survived an attempt by pro-Trump factions in the House to oust her from House leadership, reflecting a wider battle for control of the party.

Other GOP lawmakers who voted to impeach Trump or otherwise criticized him have faced similar repercussions. The Arizona Republican Party last month censured Gov. Doug Ducey, former senator Jeff Flake and lifelong Republican Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Sen. John McCain. Cindy McCain declared the censure a “badge of honor,” while Flake tweeted a picture of the three of them at President Biden’s inauguration, saying he was in “good company.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Feb. 4 criticized the Nebraska Republican Party for their plans to censure him for his criticism of former president Donald Trump. (Video: Ben Sasse)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who recently started the Country First PAC to challenge the Republican Party’s embrace of Trump, was censured last week by his county GOP. The Scotts Bluff County Republican Party censured Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Thursday.

Sasse also faces a likely censure by the Nebraska Republican Party — one that would be his second by the state party — for being one of the few Republican senators in support of proceeding with an impeachment trial against Trump. On Thursday, Sasse released a video preemptively firing back at the Nebraska GOP.

“Now, many of you are hacked off that I condemned his lies that led to a riot,” Sasse said in the video. “Let’s be clear: The anger in this state party has never been about me violating principle or abandoning conservative policy. I’m one of the most conservative voters in the Senate. The anger’s always been simply about me not bending the knee to … one guy.”