WASHINGTON – Donald Trump and his supporters are intensifying efforts to shame — and potentially remove — members of their party who are seen as disloyal to the former president and his false claims that last year's election was stolen from him.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, risks losing her leadership post amid her increasingly public dispute with Trump. In Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney, a rare Trump foe in the GOP, faced the indignity over the weekend of reminding a booing crowd that he was once their presidential standard-bearer. And in Texas, the only openly anti-Trump Republican in a crowded special election for a congressional seat finished a lowly 9th.
Trump left office nearly four months ago with his reputation badly damaged after a mob of his supporters waged a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of election results. But the recent developments suggest a revival of his political fortunes in which those who refuse to go along with his falsehoods find themselves on the defensive.
“It’s scary,” said Michael Wood, the Texas Republican congressional candidate who based his campaign on a vow to push the GOP past the “cult of personality” that is Trump. In the end, he garnered just 3% of the vote in Saturday’s special election, while two Trump supporters, including one he endorsed, will advance to a runoff.
Trump's grip on the party may only tighten in coming days.
Adding to his flurries of press releases, his powerful Facebook account could be reinstated this week if a quasi-independent oversight board rules in his favor. Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia will decide whether to nominate a vocal Trump supporter for governor in one of the few marquee elections on the calendar this year.
An important signal of the party's direction may come on Capitol Hill, where Cheney's future is in question.
The Wyoming congresswoman, the most senior Republican to call for Trump's impeachment, has insisted that the party must reject the former president's lie that the election was somehow stolen. There is no evidence to support Trump's allegations of mass voter fraud, and numerous audits, Republican state election officials and Trump's own attorney general have said the election was fair.