with Mariana Alfaro

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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2024. She hasn’t heeded fellow Republicans’ demands she quit as the No. 3 House GOP leader. She hasn’t campaigned for a Fox News gig — they parted ways when she ran for Senate in 2013.

And, most important of all, Cheney hasn’t stopped denouncing Donald Trump, in public and in private, as a threat not just to Republicans but to the republic.

Trump’s false claim he was cheated out of a second term is “poison in the bloodstream of our democracy,” Cheney said Monday at the annual retreat for the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.

The 54-year-old lawmaker also repeated her attacks on Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which she has accused him of encouraging and described as an assault on the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power.

We can't whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump's big lie,” she said in Sea Island. “It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.

CNN first reported Cheney’s comments, which came in a behind-closed-doors interview with former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The Daily 202 confirmed the accuracy of the quotes with an ally of the embattled representative.

There’s no question Cheney’s continuing broadsides against Trump are causing consternation in her party and jeopardizing her chances of remaining atop the House GOP conference. That group seems on track to hold a meeting next week in which Cheney’s job could be on the line as she is increasingly at odds with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Names of prominent Republican women who could replace her were already being floated. Among the potential successors: A fellow George W. Bush administration alumna, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), who has cultivated close ties to Trump but been conspicuously quiet in the Cheney kerfuffle. Other names, according to Punchbowl, include Rep. Young Kim (Calif.), Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Rep. Ashley Hinson (Iowa), Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.), Rep. Jackie Walorski (Ind.), Rep. Stephanie I. Bice (Okla.), and Rep. Kat Cammack (Fla.).

But what does Cheney want?

She has expressed confidence she’ll defeat an unusually crowded Republican primary field in her next House race. She has declined to rule out a presidential run in 2024 (the actual question, and her answer, were pretty vague: The New York Post asked whether she’d ever consider running in the future and she replied: “I’m not ruling anything in or out — ever is a long time.”)

She has suggested Republican senators who challenged Biden’s victory in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot should not be contenders in 2024.

“I do think that some of our candidates who led the charge, particularly the senators who led the unconstitutional charge, not to certify the election, you know, in my view that’s disqualifying,” Cheney told the New York Post.

“What does she want? That’s a big question,” an ally of hers told me Monday night. “I don’t think she’s thinking that big right now.”

Cheney “feels an obligation to tell the truth” about Trump for several reasons, said this ally, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

First, it’s the right thing, the ally said. Second, supporting Trump invites a repeat of Jan. 6 — “someone who’s going to violently attack the Capitol and our democracy.” Third, supporting Trump invites a repeat of Nov. 3, when he lost the White House in an election that saw strong GOP showings down ballot.

“Maybe the consequences won’t be felt in 2022, because the map is pretty good for Republicans,” the ally said. “But this [Trump] is not the pathway to becoming a winning party and a governing party.”

The ally acknowledged being the House Republican conference chair — largely tasked with party messaging — is a thankless job when the GOP doesn’t have the White House, and seemed to suggest Cheney wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose it. 

“This is bigger than internal Republican leadership dynamics,” the ally said. “This is about the soul of the party and the foundations of the republic.”

Cheney has been charting her rebellious course since the aftermath of Jan. 6. She was one of just 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump in January and did not side with 139 of her House colleagues in voting to overturn President Biden’s election.

In the process, she has not only antagonized Trump and the Republicans eager to parrot his election falsehoods as long as he remains the leader of the GOP, but made it harder for the GOP to erase or rewrite the history of the Jan. 6 riot, while reminding Americans one of the reasons they voted for Biden.

A critical test of her future in the GOP, and of the party’s future, could come early next week after the House returns to work. The Republican Conference could meet as early as Wednesday, when her detractors could formally seek to unseat her.

Cheney easily survived a similar challenge in early February, keeping her job in a 145-to-61 vote by secret ballot, a format sparing them from retribution from Trump and his allies in Congress.

But that was when McCarthy vocally stood with her. McCarthy has since pared back his support, while some of his allies have reportedly been agitating to remove her.

(McCarthy said in a “Fox & Friends” interview on Tuesday House Republicans have “no concern about how she voted on impeachment,” but fret about “her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority. Remember, majorities are not given, they are earned.”)

And it was before Trump sharply escalated his campaign against her, culminating in a long-distance back-and-forth Monday between the Twitter-banned former president and Cheney about the 2020 election.

“…Trump issued a statement attempting to commandeer the term “Big Lie,” commonly used to refer to the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, by asserting that the term should now refer to President Biden’s election victory.

“Cheney quickly condemned Trump’s comment as well as anyone who supports his statements about the election.

The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney tweeted. ‘Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.’

Hours later, Trump released another statement, this time attacking Cheney by calling her a ‘big-shot warmonger’ and claiming that people in Wyoming ‘never liked her much.’”

Cheney won with 63 percent of the vote in 2018 and 68.7 percent in 2020.

What’s happening now

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who led the effort in the Senate to contest Biden’s election victory, said he does not regret raising his fist to a pro-Trump mob gathered outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 ahead of the violent insurrection, Colby Itkowitz reports. “I waved to them, gave them the thumbs up, pumped my fist to them and thanked them for being there, and they had every right to do that,” Hawley said during an interview this morning with Washington Post Live. “I don’t know which of those protesters, if any of them, those demonstrators, participated in the criminal riot,” Hawley said. “And I think it’s a slur on the thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of people who came to the Capitol that day to demonstrate peacefully to lump them in with the criminal rioters and say, ‘Oh, you’re all basically the same.’”

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida, a longtime moderate fixture of Sunshine State politics, announced his campaign for governor this morning, becoming the first in his party to take aim at Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, Michael Scherer reports. At least two other high-profile Florida Democrats are considering 2022 bids against DeSantis: State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat to win statewide office since 2012, and Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), a former Orlando police chief who was a shortlist candidate for Biden’s running mate. 

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • Facebook and Trump are at a turning point in their long, tortured relationship,” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski: “[Facebook’s] Oversight Board is evaluating the determination [to ban Trump from the platform] — which Facebook says was made during extenuating circumstances [as the Capitol Riot unfolded] — at the company’s request. Facebook says the rulings of the independent, 20-member body are binding. The company does have a hand in picking board members, which include a Nobel laureate and a former Danish prime minister, and paying them through a separate trust. ‘This is just the start of an experiment, but it can’t be where it ends.’ said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer on free speech issues at Harvard Law School. ‘In some sense, we are all playing Facebook’s game by taking the Board seriously as a legitimate institution. On the other hand, no one has a better alternative right now.’”
  • Redistricting might gain Republicans a few seats in Congress. Their real gains will be in state legislatures,” by Alex Keena, Michael Latner, Anthony McGann and Charles Anthony Smith: “We found that, after 2011, 45 state legislative maps had been drawn with extreme partisan gerrymandering. Of these, 43 favor Republicans, while only two help Democrats. Because of these gerrymandered maps, Republicans held onto power after losing the statewide popular vote in Virginia in 2017, and in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2018.”

… and beyond

  • Afghanistan’s moment of risk and opportunity,” by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Foreign Affairs: “President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September represents a turning point for the country and our neighbors. The Afghan government respects the decision and views it as a moment of both opportunity and risk for itself, for Afghans, for the Taliban, and for the region. For me, as the elected leader of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, it is another opportunity to reiterate and further my commitment to peace. ... Today, our government and our security forces are on a much stronger footing than we were seven years ago, and we are fully prepared to continue serving and defending our people after American troops depart. ... The U.S. decision surprised the Taliban and their patrons in Pakistan, and it has forced them to make a choice. Will they become credible stakeholders, or will they foster more chaos and violence?”
  • CIA briefing to lawmakers on suspected energy attacks turned contentious,” by CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Jeremy Herb: “Senators on the Intelligence Committee were baffled that they were just learning about significant developments for the first-time and they were also frustrated that they were not given more details. The classified briefing was one of the most contentious in the committee's recent memory, according to the two sources familiar with the briefing."
  • Crack case, Biden switch bring bipartisanship to Supreme Court,” by Bloomberg News’s Greg Stohr and Jordan Rubin: “The Supreme Court wades into the war on drugs Tuesday, considering a case delayed by the Biden administration’s last-minute change of position on allowing shorter sentences for potentially hundreds of people convicted of possessing small quantities of crack cocaine. ... The case, the last of the court’s nine-month term, could be the last telephone session of the Covid-19 era. The dispute tracks the evolution of the drug war -- and Biden’s position on it -- centering on the decades-old sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine.”
  • Nagasaki A-bomb survivors rally against constitutional amendment for 'war-capable' Japan,” by the Mainichi: “With assemblies for and against amending Japan's Constitution held across the country on May 3 -- Constitution Memorial Day -- a group including Nagasaki atomic bombing survivors came together in this southwest Japan city to voice their objections to moves to revise the pacifist supreme law. About 50 A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, attended the gathering in the heart of Nagasaki and held up signs with messages including: ‘No to changing the Constitution for the worse!’”

The Biden agenda

Biden will deliver remarks today on the administration’s coronavirus response and vaccination program. 
  • The speech comes at a time when vaccinations have slowed nationwide, even though every American adult is now eligible for the shots, John Wagner reports.
  • Harris, meanwhile, will head to Wisconsin to promote the jobs and infrastructure plan. She will visit clean-energy laboratories at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee before hosting a discussion on the plan.
Attorney General Merrick Garland asked lawmakers today to support the Justice Department’s request for more funding to help investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism. 
  • The plan also asks for extra funds to beef up civil rights enforcement, Matt Zapotosky reports. This is the first time that Garland is testifying on Capitol Hill as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
  • “Appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee about the Justice Department’s budget request, Garland highlighted proposals for a $45 million increase in funding for the FBI for domestic terrorism investigations, and a $40 million increase for U.S. attorneys to manage the ensuing caseloads, according to a written copy of his opening statement,” Zapotosky writes.
  • Chair Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), said the increase for civil rights enforcement “is sorely needed,” adding and that it was an “historic opportunity to address systemic barriers to full participation in society, ensure access to economic opportunities and protect the right to vote,” per CNN.
  • Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.), the panel’s top Republican signaled “that some of the budget proposals would face resistance — particularly on gun control and civil rights enforcement aimed at local police departments,” Zapotosky reports.
Harris decried corruption in the Northern Triangle during a speech committing the U.S. to do more to help address the root causes of migration.
  • “In virtual remarks to the Washington Conference on the Americas, Harris voiced sympathy for those making the journey to the United States from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, saying, ‘They leave only when they must,’” John Wagner reports. “People have lost hope,” she said. “And that’s why they leave home and come to the United States. They are suffering.”
  • “Harris delivered a stern message to governments in the region after outlining several steps the United States is taking to help, including working with nonprofit organizations. ‘No matter how much effort we put in on curbing violence, providing disaster relief, on tackling food insecurity, on any of it, we will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists,’ she said. ‘If corruption persists, history has told us it will be one step forward and two steps back.’”
Senate Democrats are preparing a Plan B to push for immigration changes unilaterally. 
  • “Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, is quietly considering trying to use a fast-track budget maneuver to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants should bipartisan talks on providing a pathway to citizenship fall apart,” the New York Times’s Luke Broadwater reports.
  • “Mr. Schumer has privately told members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in recent weeks that he is ‘actively exploring’ whether it would be possible to attach a broad revision of immigration laws to Biden’s infrastructure plan and pass it through a process known as budget reconciliation. ... The strategy is part of a backup plan Mr. Schumer has lined up in the event that talks among 15 senators in both parties fail to yield a compromise. As the negotiations drag on with little agreement in sight, proponents are growing increasingly worried that Democrats may squander a rare opportunity to legalize broad swaths of the undocumented population.”
Rising diversity might not help Democrats as much as they hope. 
  • “The Census Bureau released two important sets of data last week that have big implications for American politics — and that challenge some prevailing assumptions for both Democrats and Republicans,” the Times’s Nate Cohn writes. “The first set of data lays out long-term demographic trends widely thought to favor Democrats: Hispanics, Asian-Americans and multiracial voters grew as a share of the electorate over the last two presidential races, and white voters — who historically tend to back the G.O.P. — fell to 71 percent in 2020 from 73 percent in 2016.”
  • The other data set tells a second story. Population growth continues to accelerate in the South and the West, so much so that some Republican-leaning states in those regions are gaining more Electoral College votes... These demographic and population shifts are powerfully clarifying about electoral politics in America: The increasing racial diversity among voters isn’t doing quite as much to help Democrats as liberals hope, or to hurt Republicans as much as conservatives fear.”
  • “It is hard to find a single state where the increasing racial diversity of the electorate, even over an exceptionally long 30- or 40-year period, has been both necessary and sufficient for Democrats to flip a state from red to blue. Even in states where Democrats have needed demographic changes to win, like Georgia and Arizona, the party has also needed significant improvement among white voters to get over the top. One reason demographic change has failed to transform electoral politics is that the increased diversity of the electorate has come not mainly from Black voters but from Hispanic, Asian-American and multiracial voters.”

The pandemic

India became the second country in the world after the United States to pass the 20 million coronavirus cases mark this morning. 
  • The Indian government announced 357,000 new infections and another 3,449 deaths over the past 24 hours, Paul Schemm and Jennifer Hassan report. “While the total cases and deaths in the United States still far outstrip India’s, the daily U.S. tolls have plummeted under pressure from an aggressive vaccination campaign.”
This morning, Pfizer said its coronavirus vaccine brought in $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year.
  • “The vaccine was, far and away, Pfizer’s biggest source of revenue,” the Times’s Rebecca Robbins and Peter S. Goodman report. “The company did not disclose the profits it derived from the vaccine, but it reiterated its previous prediction that its profit margins on the vaccine would be in the high 20 percent range. That would translate into roughly $900 million in pretax vaccine profits in the first quarter.”
Broadway was left stunned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s  (D) announcement the state’s theaters can reopen May 19. 
  • Yesterday, Cuomo announced “the lifting of all of the state’s capacity restrictions starting May 19 in restaurants, concert halls, bars, museums and theaters — including Broadway,” Peter Marks reports. “The swiftness of the governor’s timetable stunned the arts community, much of which had been operating under the assumption that controls would remain in effect for several more months. Still, as far as an industry like Broadway is concerned, the May date bears no relationship to reopening reality. It will take a number of months to get productions in shape for normal running schedules.”

Quote of the day

“It just ends all concerns about being able to have a pretty normal fall for high schoolers,” said Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, about the news that Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine could be authorized by the FDA for use in teens ages 12 to 15 soon. “It’s great for them, it’s great for schools, for families who have kids in this age range.”

Hot on the left

A Pennsylvania man admitted he voted for Trump with his dead mother’s name. “[Bruce] Bartman, 70, pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of felony perjury and unlawful voting — and blamed his decision to cast the fraudulent ballot on consuming too many false claims about the election. ‘I was isolated last year in lockdown,’ Bartman said, while apologizing to the judge for his crime, the Associated Press reported. ‘I listened to too much propaganda and made a stupid mistake,’” Jaclyn Peiser reports. Bartman was sentenced to five years’ probation, leaving him unable to vote for four years. Online, some contrasted Bartman’s punishment to the consequences a Black woman in Texas faced after voting when she wasn’t eligible: 

Hot on the right

Caitlyn Jenner will sit down with Fox News host Sean Hannity, her first big TV appearance since she announced she will run in the California recall gubernatorial election. “The event is closed to the media and public, though some GOP faithfuls in California have been getting invites to the session. The event will broadcast at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, the time slot for Hannity's regular nightly show,” Politico reports. “While Jenner will likely focus on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, she must also compete with three more experienced Republican recall candidates so far, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox and former Rep. Doug Ose.” 

Jenner, who is getting campaign help from Trump's former campaign manager Brad Parscale, released an ad this morning:

Cicadas forecast, visualized

We predict cicadas will begin emerging this week. The Capital Weather Gang team analyzed soil temperatures and the weather projections and, in our first-ever cicada forecast, predicts a noticeable emergence of cicadas during this week. We answer all your buggiest questions in our Q&A.

Today in Washington

Biden will deliver remarks on his administration's work on the pandemic.

Harris is traveling to Wisconsin, where she will visit a clean-energy laboratory and participate in discussions of Biden's new jobs plan at 1 p.m. 

In closing

Seth Meyers said the Rudy Giuliani stories remind him of how “corrupt and paranoid the Republican Party and their right-wing apparatus are”:

And a new picture of the Bidens with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter has many of us asking the same questions: Are the Bidens giants? Are the Carters tiny? Or are our eyes failing us? 

Experts told our colleague Teo Armus that the explanation “lies somewhere in between variations in presidential height and unusual photography methods.”