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House conservatives target Liz Cheney in contentious meeting

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Washington — Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the chairwoman of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives, is facing dissent within her ranks as some GOP members slammed her for breaking with President Trump.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, a party firebrand and ally of the president, called on Cheney to step down from her role as the No. 3 member of GOP leadership in a tweet on Tuesday, following a conference meeting that reportedly became contentious.

"Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda. House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair. Liz Cheney should step down or be removed. #MAGA," Gaetz wrote, referring to Mr. Trump's campaign promise to "Make America Great Again."

Donald Trump Jr. quoted Gaetz's tweet, saying, "We already have one Mitt Romney, we don't need another." Romney was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Mr. Trump on an article of impeachment in February.

"Donald Trump Jr. is not a member of the House Republican conference," Cheney retorted in a press conference Tuesday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy added at the conference that the party was "honored to have her as conference chair."

Politico reported that several members criticized Cheney in the GOP conference meeting on Tuesday, including for her support of a primary opponent to GOP Congressman Thomas Massie. Cheney's PAC donated to Massie's challenger, Todd McMurtry, after Massie forced all members of the House to return to vote on a coronavirus relief bill. However, she requested a return of the donations after racist comments by McMurtry surfaced. Cheney told reporters that she had spoken to Massie after the conference meeting.

Others in the party have criticized Cheney for her support for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert. Mr. Trump has broken with Fauci on the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Dr. Fauci is one of the finest public servants we have ever had. He is not a partisan. His only interest is saving lives. We need his expertise and his judgment to defeat this virus. All Americans should be thanking him. Every day," Cheney said in a May tweet.

Cheney told reporters after the conference meeting that she had not been criticized by her colleagues.

"We had an exchange of views. I think it's all clear we're unified in terms of recognizing the danger would face if Joe Biden were elected President. We talked at length about Vice President Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and the kind of America we'd be living in if they prevail. That was really the focus of it. We had a healthy exchange of views," Cheney said.

Cheney replaced Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who left leadership in a shakeup in 2018. Cheney recently passed up the chance to run for Senate to replace retiring Senator Mike Enzi. Her decision to stay in the House indicates she may want to advance even further in the leadership there, perhaps even becoming the first Republican woman to be speaker if the GOP regains control of the chamber.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report.

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