WASHINGTON – House Republicans facing electoral uncertainty in November turned on one another in a private meeting on Tuesday, as a small group of conservative lawmakers confronted House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney over what they said was disloyalty to President Donald Trump.
The lawmakers called out Cheney for her support of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and for supporting a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., according to people familiar with the closed-door meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio noted Cheney's criticism of Trump on defense and foreign policy and accused her of not supporting the president on his coronavirus response.
Leading the criticism was Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who recounted the confrontation on his podcast, “Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz,” shortly after it happened. He also tweeted about Cheney, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and said she should step down from her post as head of the GOP conference.
“Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda,” Gaetz tweeted. “House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair. Liz Cheney should step down or be removed. #MAGA.”
Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted Gaetz's message and wrote, “We already have one Mitt Romney, we don’t need another... we also don’t need the endless wars she advocates for.” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has been one of the only Senate Republicans to regularly separate himself from Trump and voted to convict him on one article of impeachment earlier this year.
The confrontation comes as the president has struggled with a response to the coronavirus pandemic and Republicans in Congress have been somewhat split on his handling of the crisis. As Trump has pushed to quickly reopen the economy and played down the importance of coronavirus testing, some have indicated they disagree with him on those points. Others such as Gaetz and Jordan have rushed to defend him.
Cheney, R-Wyo., didn’t back down in the meeting and did not apologize for breaking with Trump, according to one of the people familiar with the exchange. At a GOP news conference later in the day, she told reporters that she “absolutely” still supports Fauci, who she said she has known for many years. She also noted that Trump Jr. is “not a member of the Republican conference.”
She said she takes her position seriously and had a “great conversation” with Massie after the conference meeting.