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Cheney faces new calls to step down from leadership post after CPAC comments

Trump expected to speak at CPAC this weekend
Trump expected to speak at CPAC this weekend 09:59

Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming is coming under fire again after breaking ranks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Cheney said Wednesday that it's "up to CPAC" to allow former President Trump to speak, and she added "I've been clear in my views about President Trump and the extent to which following January 6, I don't believe he should be playing a role in the party."

CBS News asked both Cheney and McCarthy if Mr. Trump should speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend. 

McCarthy replied: "Yes, he should."   

Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was one of 10 Republicans who broke with the party to vote to impeach Mr. Trump on a charge of inciting the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6. Three weeks after the impeachment vote, House Republicans voted 145-61 to keep her in a leadership role. But the Wyoming Republican party censured her a few days later. 

House Republican Leaders Hold Press Conference At The Capitol
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) whispers to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) during a House Republican Leadership news conference in the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. Al Drago / Getty Images

Members of the House Freedom Caucus seized on her statement Thursday and renewed calls for the No. 3 House Republican to be removed from her leadership post. 

"I do not believe she is able to carry that out any further," said Arizona Representative Andy Biggs. "If she had any sense of shame, she would step down." 

Texas Republican Chip Roy considers Cheney "a friend" and defended her initial attempted ouster following her vote to impeach the former President but told reporters the House GOP conference should have another conversation about her role. 

"Liz forfeited her right to be Chair of the Republican caucus. She cannot stand up and make a statement that is so completely out of step with the Republican conference," Roy said. "I think it was short-sighted, but I also think it was purposeful and I think that's the problem."

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was recently removed from her committee assignments for pushing conspiracy theories, called Cheney a "fool" and said she is "disconnected with the base."

During his weekly press conference Friday, McCarthy was pressed about Cheney's role and his message to conservative members. 

"We dealt with that issue," McCarthy said. "We continue to work, there's more that unites us than divides us."

Cheney's office declined to comment.  Earlier this week during a keynote address to the Reagan Institute, she renewed her criticism of Mr. Trump for his role in inciting the insurrection on January 6. 

"The president and many around him pushed this idea that the election had been stolen. And that is a dangerous claim. It wasn't true," she said.

The awkward moment between McCarthy and Cheney exposed a widening rift in the GOP, which has been at odds over the role of the former President.

Trump adviser Jason Miller told CBS News that Mr. Trump will be "a force" in the 2022 midterms. 

"He's already committed to helping Republicans win back the House and the Senate. You're going to see a lot more activity on that front," Miller said. 

Late Thursday on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would not say whether the former President should speak at CPAC but affirmed he would "absolutely" support Mr. Trump if he is the 2024 presidential nominee. 

Mr. Trump has called McConnell a "dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack" after the Kentucky Republican suggested Mr. Trump could be subject to criminal prosecution following his acquittal in the impeachment trial.   

The former president will address the CPAC conference in Orlando on Sunday afternoon. McCarthy will speak on Saturday. Cheney and McConnell are not listed on the agenda. 

Kimberly Brown and Alan He contributed to this report.

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