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Liz Cheney Loses Leadership Post Upon House Vote

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ailsa Chang in Los Angeles.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly in Washington, where House Republicans voted today to expel Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from their party's leadership. Cheney was forced out over her consistent criticism of former President Trump, her refusal to accept his false claims about the 2020 election and her vote to impeach him following the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Following the vote, Cheney was unapologetic. She told reporters she will not be silenced.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.

KELLY: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been following the vote and the fallout for the GOP.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: What else did Liz Cheney have to say today?

SNELL: Well, as you heard there, she really was very strong in saying that she's - you know, that she feels like she did the right thing. She's been defiant, and she says she's still running for reelection in her congressional seat, even if she isn't running from a position of, you know, official power in Republican leadership.

A source familiar with the meeting told us that Cheney made a short speech before the vote, where she told the people in the room that she shouldn't - that they shouldn't let Trump make them complicit in efforts to unravel democracy. We're told she also said that the path will lead the Republicans to destruction and possibly the destruction of the country, which are pretty - some very strong words there. And she was asked if she felt betrayed by the vote afterwards, and she said she doesn't. But, she says, what happened today is indicative of where the party is right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHENEY: We've got to get back to a position where we are a party that can fight for conservative principles, that can fight for substance. We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.

SNELL: And she says that Trump is still dangerous. And she says she's committed to being part of moving the party forward on the basis of truth. You know, that's not an easy task for someone who has no official microphone, though this really elevates her national profile above and beyond what people may already know about her family name.

KELLY: In the end, though, how many Republicans supported her?

SNELL: You know, we don't really know because this was a voice vote, and we just know that she had very little support heading into today. One of her few public allies has been Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He told reporters that Cheney's only sin was being consistent and telling the truth. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told members that they needed to unify, and the choice to remove Cheney was on a voice vote because it was about moving towards unity. But Kinzinger said he couldn't accept that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM KINZINGER: I'm all for unity and truth, you know? Truth cannot coexist with lies. Truth cannot coexist with falsehoods. You cannot unify with that.

KELLY: But, Kelsey, what does the fact that Kinzinger is one of the only ones who would speak up publicly like that - what does that tell us about the extent to which Donald Trump still dominates the GOP?

SNELL: Well, it certainly sends a message to voters about what the party values - right? - and that support for Trump among House Republicans in particular is, in this case, more important than a vast majority of the ideological principles that they might share. Democrats have completely seized on that message, which I think is something that we're going to watch happen over and over again. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries summed up what I think will be kind of a drumbeat message for Democrats between now and next November when there's another election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HAKEEM JEFFRIES: House Democrats believe in the rule of law. House Republicans believe in the big lie. House Democrats believe in democracy. House Republicans apparently support autocracy.

SNELL: That kind of parallel comparison there that Jeffries did is something that we're hearing Democrats start to pick up already. It's something they're talking about on television and interviews. You know, this is the way that they want to frame themselves. And Democrats plan to force every Republican in a competitive district to answer for their party's vote on this.

KELLY: And meanwhile, for House Republicans, when and how will they figure out who succeeds Liz Cheney?

SNELL: Well, they need to figure that out pretty quickly here. New York Congressman Elise Stefanik is the only person who's formally announced. She has some opposition from very conservative members who say she isn't conservative enough. But she has Trump's support and has an influential team of people working to help her win the votes to replace Cheney. That could happen as early as this week. But that doesn't resolve bigger problems for the party. Republican leaders are claiming that nobody is denying the President Biden won the election, and that simply isn't true, which means this fight isn't going to disappear.

KELLY: Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: NPR's Kelsey Snell. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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