Report: Trump, McCarthy, Scalise all back Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney in caucus leadership

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Sounds like it’s a done deal.

A source close to Cheney summed up for WaPo why she’s not bummed about losing her leadership role: “She’s not going to be a good messenger if it requires lying.” The caucus wants someone who’ll be agnostic at best and a liar at worst about whether the election was stolen from Trump and whether the insurrection wasn’t that bad. Someone whose raw ambition will lead her to pander to any constituency as needed, however amorally. In Stefanik, they’ve found that person.

Congratulations to all on this exciting new direction. As Tim Miller said yesterday, soon the only Republican in Congress who’ll have paid a political price for the insurrection is Liz Cheney for having told the truth about it.

I appreciate this statement that Trump put out this morning, as it does two things. First, it reminds people that it’s not Cheney who keeps dragging the party back to the subject of whether the election was rigged. Trump himself insists on doing that. Cheney’s simply contradicting him. Second, it explodes the talking point some Trump allies are pushing that Cheney is being ousted because her policy views are too far out of sync with the post-Trump GOP’s. She’s an ultra-hawk, just like her dad! By doubling down on “stop the steal” talking points here and dragging Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell into it, though, Trump makes clear that no, of course this is all about Cheney refusing to go along with “rigged election” propaganda:

Warmonger Liz Cheney, who has virtually no support left in the Great State of Wyoming, continues to unknowingly and foolishly say that there was no Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election when in fact, the evidence, including no Legislative approvals as demanded by the U.S. Constitution, shows the exact opposite. Had Mike Pence referred the information on six states (only need two) back to State Legislatures, and had gutless and clueless MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell (he blew two seats in Georgia that should have never been lost) fought to expose all of the corruption that was presented at the time, with more found since, we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare! Never give up!

I laughed this morning when comparisons of Cheney’s voting record and Stefanik’s began circulating on Twitter:

If the GOP cared about policy in any way, it’d be fair to compare Cheney’s philosophy with Stefanik’s. But Trump doesn’t care. He just endorsed Marco Rubio, one of the biggest “warmongers” in Congress, for Senate in Florida. Lindsey Graham is every inch as much an interventionist as Cheney is and he’s Trump’s golf buddy. The only stance that matters between Cheney and Stefanik is that one will criticize Trump and the other will keep her mouth shut. Nothing more complicated than that. As for McCarthy, he knows that keeping an outspoken Cheney in a position of responsibility will antagonize Trump, who could make trouble for the party in the midterms. The former president doesn’t care about the GOP winning if it means letting someone wound his ego. McCarthy does care about winning so he’s willing to remove the irritant to keep the pre-midterm peace with Trump.

Although Cheney’s exit from leadership seems assured at this point, as of last night she wasn’t planning to resign. She’s going to make them vote her out: “If McCarthy’s comments are an attempt to pressure Cheney to resign voluntarily, they seem very unlikely to succeed. A source familiar with her thinking tells National Review there’s no chance Cheney will step down. If House Republicans want her out, they’re going to have to hold yet another vote — likely next week — to do it.” I think that’s wise, although I’m torn between whether she should demand a vote on the record instead of the secret ballot that was used in her caucus victory in February. If the vote is public then she’s done for sure, as few House Republicans will risk Trump’s wrath by siding with her. But a public vote will also force the vast majority of the caucus that knows she’s right about “stop the steal” and the insurrection to stab her in the front instead of the back. Let’s see how they feel about that.

On the other hand, a secret ballot will doubtless produce more votes for Cheney than a public vote would. She’ll still lose, it seems, but the final tally could be embarrassing for McCarthy and Stefanik.

There’s one other thing she could try as a measure of revenge. This is fiendishly clever:

“McCarthy is moving to push Cheney out of her leadership position for saying in May what he’d said repeatedly himself months before. McCarthy knows that Trump is lying about the election. He knows that Cheney is telling the truth. And he’s choosing Trump anyway,” wrote Steve Hayes this morning. Pelosi could float the resolution described by Sarlin if Cheney is unwilling or unable to do so. And if ousting Cheney isn’t about punishing someone for criticizing the insurrection or “stop the steal” but rather for Cheney simply refusing to shut up about them then it should be no sweat for House Republicans to vote yes on a resolution affirming McCarthy’s earlier criticism of Trump while also dumping her from leadership. They can reiterate that they agree with her message while deposing her for harping on that message to the exclusion of others.

Think they’ll do it? If not, then maybe it’s the content of Cheney’s message, not her insistence on repeating it, that’s the real problem.

And maybe there’s a reason Cheney keeps on repeating it:

The problem with the argument to leave the 2020 election and January 6 in the past, as Cheney sees it, is that this debate is a critical issue in the present and a potentially existential issue in the future.

If Trump — who, in 2024, would be the same age as Joe Biden was in 2020 — runs again, wins the nomination, and legitimately loses the general election, there would likely be yet another attempt to overturn the results, only with greater intensity.

“If we minimize what happened on Jan. 6th and if we appease it,” Cheney said in an interview with Politico last week, “then we will be in a situation where every election cycle, you could potentially have another constitutional crisis.”

Unlike in 2020, the House might be controlled by Republicans in 2024. (In fact, it probably will be.) If Trump were to run again and lose again, an attempt to get Congress to overturn the results by blocking certification of a Democratic victory might fare better next time. That’s why Cheney’s trying to drag the caucus to squarely confront and condemn the “stop the steal” effort and the insurrection: The clearer congressional Republicans are that that was unacceptable, the less likely Trump or some other candidate will be to believe they can count on party support for “stop the steal 2.0.” Instead McCarthy and Stefanik are sending the opposite message, that Cheney will be purged for insisting too adamantly on that condemnation. We’re headed for ruin.