Top House Republicans Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy publicly clashed Wednesday on the role of former President Donald Trump in their political party.
The two were standing a few feet away from one another at the weekly GOP press conference when events took an awkward turn.
Both were asked if Trump should address CPAC this weekend – an annual gathering of conservatives that also serves as a cattle call for possible presidential candidates. Trump has not ruled out another White House run in 2024.
‘Yes he should,’ McCarthy said when asked.
But Cheney offered a different view, illustrating the party remains divided over Trump and the future of the GOP.
‘That’s up to CPAC,’ she said. ‘I’ve been clear on my views and the extent to which following January 6th I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.’
McCarthy then ended the press conference.
‘On that high note, thank you very much,’ he said to much laughter in the room.
Top House Republicans Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy publicly clashed on the role of former President Donald Trump in the GOP
Trump’s address to CPAC on Sunday will mark his return to public life following his defeat in the November presidential election, the inauguration of Joe Biden – which Trump skipped, and Trump’s acquittal in his second impeachment trial on the charge of inciting a insurrection in the Capitol on January 6th.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, said he expected Trump to outline an active role in Republican Party politics when he addresses the four-day event in Orlando, Florida.
‘I’m not sure what he’s going to say about 2024 but I’m pretty confident he’s going to make it clear that it’s a very viable possibility,’ Schlapp told Reuters.
‘Donald Trump is going to stay in the game and will be involved in primaries and he’s going to opine and he´s going to give speeches, and for establishment Republicans it puts shivers down their spine. They’re very concerned he’s going to continue to have an impact. My advice to them is to get used to it,’ Schlapp said.
Trump’s role in the GOP has been subject to much debate within the party itself.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has separated himself from the former president, saying Trump did incite the MAGA mob that stormed the Capitol but he couldn’t be impeached as he was no longer president.
Trump, in return, called McConnell a ‘dour,’ ‘sullen,’ ‘unsmiling political hack.’
McCarthy, in contrast, went to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump and kiss the proverbial ring, praising the former president as leader of the party. He’s made shifting statements on the role Trump played in the January 6th riot.
Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan, a major Trump ally on Capitol Hill, tweeted his support for the former president after McCarthy and Cheney’s public disagreement.
‘President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party,’ he wrote.
Trump has retained support among many GOP hardliners and is expected to play a major role in the party’s primaries in the 2022 election.
Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment, a move which led to a failed attempt by conservative Republicans to oust her from her leadership position.
Cheney prevailed in an overwhelming secret vote by the conference in early February after a tense meeting, with 61 Republicans voting to take away her post as the Number Three leader, and 145 voting to keep her, with one abstaining.
She has kept up her role as naysayer against Trump, beating the drum against his influence in the party. The former president has vowed vengeance on those who defied him, saying he would help their opponents in primaries.
House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney also has warned Republicans to ‘make clear that we aren’t the party of white supremacy’
Cheney, in her argument, pointed to symbols carried by the pro-Trump mob on January 6th – particularly the Confederate flag as seen by one Trump supporter walking through the Capitol on the day of the riot
Republicans remained divided on Donald Trump’s role in the future of the party
Cheney, on Tuesday called on Republicans to ‘make clear that we aren’t the party of white supremacy,’ pointing to the symbols many Trump supporters carried when they marched through the Capitol on January 6th.
‘It’s very important, especially for us as Republicans, to make clear that we aren’t the party of white supremacy,’ she said during a virtual foreign policy event hosted by the Reagan Institute.
‘You saw the symbols of Holocaust denial, for example, at the Capitol that day; you saw the Confederate flag being carried through the rotunda, and I think we as Republicans in particular, have a duty and an obligation to stand against that, to stand against insurrection.’
Republican lawmakers ‘who take our oaths and obligations seriously,’ Cheney said, ‘will steer our party and our nation into the future. We will right the unforgivable wrongs of Jan. 6.’
In contrast, Rep. Steve Scalise, a fellow member of House Republican Leadership, refused to say on Sunday the election was not stolen.
‘You’re going to ignore the fact that there were states that did not follow their own state legislatively set laws, that’s the issue at heart, that millions of people still are not happy with and don’t want to see happen again,’ he told ABC’s ‘This Week.’