I mentioned this in the last post but it deserves its own thread. This is the smart play, and really the only play, for someone in Cheney’s position. If you cast a vote which might end your career because you believed strongly that it was the right thing to do, own your courage afterwards. That’s what Adam Kinzinger has done, that’s what Cheney’s doing now, reportedly. Don’t keep your head down afterward or beg for forgiveness; if you did the right thing, there’s nothing to apologize for — and anyone in a position to grant you absolution would, by definition, be on the side of wrong. The best thing she has working for her is the respect she’s earned, however grudging it may be, for having had the stones to cross Trump when so many of her weakling colleagues didn’t dare. Refusing to apologize is part of that.

And really: Liz Cheney is supposed to say sorry to Matt Gaetz for offending his cult leader after the cult was brainwashed into attacking Congress and ended up murdering a cop? What?

The question should be, when does Gaetz apologize to Cheney?

The procedures by which the caucus can oust her from her leadership position are arcane, but my understanding is that it would require two-thirds approval to force a vote. That’s Cheney’s ace in the hole, in theory: If the MAGA members of the caucus can’t get two-thirds, which is a heavy lift, it would fall to some sort of panel to decide whether to hold a vote or not. And that would work in Cheney’s favor since McCarthy and the leadership could stack that panel with allies. But here’s another ballsy move from this afternoon’s meeting:

Cheney delivered an eight-minute speech near the beginning of the Wednesday meeting, two people in the room said, offering what was described as a calm yet firm defense of the Constitution. She did not apologize during her remarks.

Cheney also told members that she wanted a vote to be called on her leadership status, which was interpreted by some in the room as an act of confidence in her standing with a broader cross-section of Republicans, the majority of which did not air their grievances toward her.

Cheney also fielded several contentious questions and comments from Trump loyalists, a person in the room said, including Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who bluntly said she “aided and comforted the enemy.” Rep. Darryl Issa of California asked Cheney if they kept her in leadership, whether she would do it again. Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana engaged in a fiery exchange with her, a person in the room said, speaking loudly and angrily at Cheney.

It’s risky to invite a vote that could otherwise be avoided but I think that’s the smart play too. If they don’t hold a vote and some panel ends up protecting her from the caucus, she’ll look weak. They’ll probably oust her in the next leadership election in 2023, assuming she figures out a way to win reelection. The only way to beat back the MAGA rebels is to take them on in a caucus vote and win, reminding them that she’s more popular than they are. If she loses the vote, so be it. At least she didn’t go out like a cuck, and she wouldn’t want to be a nominal leader in a Trump-cult caucus anyway. If she wins the vote then she’ll have proved that she has more support than the Gaetz-style loudmouths would have the public believe. Her stature in leadership will be strengthened. If she had enough guts to risk a primary by voting to impeach, it stands to reason that she has enough guts to make the caucus decide whether to keep her or not.

McCarthy’s on her side, by the way:

During a tense, closed-door meeting with the entire GOP conference — which has been billed as a “family discussion” focused on Cheney’s fate — McCarthy said Republicans need to be united in order to win back the House in 2022 and pleaded with his party to move on.

And while the California Republican said he didn’t agree with Cheney’s vote to impeach Donald Trump, he said members need to trust their leadership and can’t question every single decision they make.

“I want this leadership team to stay together,” he told members, according to a source inside the room.

Between this and his refusal to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, you can see that McCarthy’s trying to heal the rift in the caucus by aligning himself with both sides. He’s not going to punish the MAGA rep and he’s not going to punish the anti-MAGA one either. He’s trying to forge some unity by throwing each faction a bone. And by declining to take action against Greene before the caucus issues a verdict on Cheney, he’s put the MAGA reps in a bad spot: If Greene gets off scot-free from Republicans while Cheney is ousted, even the Trumpers in the caucus know it’ll look to all the world as if the party’s gone all-in on its cranks. Not a great look for the midterms.

It’d be nice if we got a verdict on Cheney tonight at a reasonable hour but no one knows how long this meeting might go:

There could be a vote after that. Before we go to sleep, Cheney might have survived her leadership challenge and emerged as the most powerful anti-Trump figure in the party or she might have been ignominiously ousted, affirming the GOP’s new identity as an all-out Trump cult. For McCarthy’s sake, he’d better hope Cheney wins. If the caucus defies him after he’s asked them to lay off of her, he might as well resign as leader as well. No one will ever take him seriously again.

I’ll leave you with this … interesting data point from the conservative polling firm Echelon Insights. I hope the Gaetzes, Perrys, and Rosendales in the caucus are right about America wanting all Trumpism, all the time. I’m not as convinced.

Update: A perfect little vignette of the state of the party and its divisions.

Update: Oh wow. What a humiliation for Gaetz and the MAGAites:

Remember a few weeks ago when the Cheney critics claimed they had ~120 signatures on a petition to force a vote to oust her? In the end, not even a third of the conference was willing. A huge win for Cheney (and McCarthy) and an embarrassing rebuke to Trump.

We’re left to wonder: What would this vote have looked like if it hadn’t been secret ballot? Alternately, what would the impeachment vote have looked like if it *had* been? Maybe that’s one way to think of tonight’s result, as a sort of make-up call for the impeachment fiasco. A lot of House Republicans doubtless would have voted to boot Trump if they hadn’t feared a primary for doing so. Tonight they had a chance to register their true feelings via secret ballot by backing Cheney. And here we are.