Matt Gaetz targets McCarthy for defending Cheney

February 8, 2021
In The News

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a supporter and ally of former President Trump, is jabbing at House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy for his full-throated endorsement last week of Rep. Liz Cheney to keep her House GOP leadership position after voting to impeach Trump.

Gaetz, a Florida Republican, took to Twitter soon after Cheney doubled down on her criticism of the former president during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

"Kevin put it all on the line for Liz. Every House Republican knows it," Gaetz wrote as he re-tweeted a comment from @ColumbiaBugle that "Kevin McCarthy vouched for Liz Cheney. Everything she says is on him."

The Wyoming Republican was the most high profile of the 10 House Republicans who joined all 222 Democrats in the chamber to impeach Trump last month on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters. One hundred and ninety-seven GOP representatives voted against impeachment.

A group of Trump loyalists in the House, including Gaetz, pushed to strip Cheney of her No. 3 House GOP leadership position and predicted that they had the support of more than half of the House Republican Conference heading into a major closed door meeting last week.

But 145 members of the House Republican Conference ended up backing Cheney, with just 61 Trump loyalists voting to remove her from her leadership role during a secret ballot vote amid a tense four-hour closed-door meeting on Wednesday night.

During the meeting, McCarthy strongly spoke out in support of Cheney.

On Sunday, Cheney repeatedly took aim at Trump for his role in encouraging the insurrection at the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol police officer.

"The notion that the election had been stolen or that the election was rigged was a lie, and people need to understand that," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday" in her first TV interview since keeping her leadership position. "President Trump, for months leading up to January 6th, spread the notion that the election had been stolen ... and people need to understand that."

Cheney emphasized that "we need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth, and that we are being honest about what really did happen in 2020 so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024."

And she stressed that Trump, who polling indicates remains very popular with Republicans, "does not have a role as the leader of our party going forward."

Cheney’s Fox News interview came a day after the Wyoming GOP overwhelming voted to censure the three-term statewide congresswoman. She also faces at least one primary challenge in Wyoming when she’s up for reelection next year.

Two weeks ago Trump political adviser Corey Lewandowski launched a new PAC named "Fight Back Now America" to support Trump’s mission of supporting primary challengers taking on Republicans who crossed the former president. The PAC’s first target: Cheney.

The next day the former president’s political action committee, Save America, released a poll that suggested that Cheney was politically wounded among Republicans by her vote to impeach Trump. The survey was showcased hours later by Gaetz, who took aim at Cheney at a large rally on the steps of the Wyoming Capitol.

"Liz Cheney is less popular among Republicans in her own state than Muammar Gaddafi was among the Libyans," Gaetz cracked.

Donald Trump Jr. called into the rally to also attack Cheney. Pointing to her father’s infamous hunting accident, when the then-vice president wounded a friend, Trump’s eldest son argued: "It seems like Liz Cheney’s favorables there are only slightly worse than her father’s shooting skills."

A Republican source with knowledge of Trump Jr.’s political thought process told Fox News last week that "Don’s focus in 2022 will be on the Democrats, to help the GOP retake the House and Senate. It’s not Don’s wish to see an all-encompassing Republican civil war, but he views Liz Cheney to the exception to that rule."

Teasing a potential trip to Wyoming next year, Trump Jr on Sunday told Politico’s Playbook: "I hear it’s lovely during primary season."

While Trump world will be able to raise and invest big bucks to target Cheney, she will likely be able to keep competitive in fundraising. Even without any serious opposition last year, the congresswoman raised $3 million for her re-election campaign.

And Cheney is already fundraising for her 2022 reelection. Fox News confirmed that she was holding a virtual fundraiser Monday. Among those attending are former House Speaker John Boehner and former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.