June 16. 2021. 9:14

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Cheney ousted as Trump’s influence lingers in Republican party

Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been an outspoken critic of the former president and strongly criticised his erroneous claims that November’s presidential election was stolen. File photograph: Amr Alfiky/New York Times

Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney has been ousted as leader of the House Republican Conference, the latest sign of the continuing influence of former president Donald Trump on the Republican party.

Ms Cheney – an outspoken critic of the former president who had strongly criticised his erroneous claims that November’s presidential election was stolen – lost a vote of no-confidence on Wednesday morning and was removed as head of the House Republican Conference – the main organisational body for the GOP in the chamber.

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx moved a motion to remove Ms Cheney at the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill. The ballot was taken as a voice vote, but was conducted in private.

Speaking after the vote, Ms Cheney said that the Republican party “must go forward based on truth”.

“We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the constitution,” she said, referring to Mr Trump’s claims of election fraud. “Going forward, the nation needs a strong Republican party, the nation needs a party that is based on fundamental principles of conservatism.”

She said she would do “everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office”.

“It’s very important to make sure that, whoever we elect, is someone who remains faithful to the constitution,” she said, referring to future Republican candidates for president.

On Tuesday evening she delivered a speech on the House floor declaring that she would “not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy”.

‘Speak the truth’

“We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed,” she said in the speech.

Ms Cheney, had survived a vote on her leadership in February. But her Republican colleagues have become increasingly frustrated with what they view as her inappropriate comments on former president Trump.

Ms Cheney’s fate appeared to be sealed over the weekend when House minority leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed that he had lost support for her as leader of the House Republican Conference.

“We want to be united in looking, moving forward,” Mr McCarthy, the de facto leader of the party, told Fox News.

Ms Cheney’s replacement will be voted on later in the week. Elise Stefanik, a fourth-term congresswoman from New York, has announced her candidacy for the role and has picked up several important endorsements, including from Mr Trump.

Describing Ms Cheney as a “warmongering fool who has no business in Republican party leadership,” the former president endorsed Ms Stefanik last week. “She has my complete and total endorsement for GOP conference chair,” he said in a statement. “Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”

The 36-year-old congresswoman was elected in 2016, initially on a relatively moderate platform. But throughout her time in Washington she has moved further to the right, becoming a strong defender of Mr Trump during his first impeachment.

Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, an ally of Ms Cheney, speaking after the vote said it was a “sad day”. As leader “your job is to tell people the truth,” he said.