GOP fealty to ‘dear leader’ Trump testing party unity, Republican governor says

·3 min read
 (AP)
(AP)

Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan critisised the “circular firing squad where we’re just attacking our own party” as congressional Republicans mull whether to oust third-ranking GOP Rep Liz Cheney from her leadership spot for voting to impeach Donald Trump after his “stolen” election lies fuelled the Capitol insurrection.

“It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the ‘dear leader’ or you get kicked out of the party,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

His comments follow remarks from South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who admitted to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday that it’s unlikely the party can “move forward” without the former president.

“I would just say to my Republican colleagues, can we move forward without President Trump?” he said. “The answer is no.”

Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, among seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict the former president during his second impeachment trial, told the network that “for us to win in 2022 and 2024, we need everybody”.

“If you look at polls, there is a whole group of folks that agree with Liz Cheney,” he said. “We need those who feel as Liz. We need those who feel as Lindsey.”

The fractured GOP – which has endorsed dozens of pieces of legislation embracing the persistent myth of widespread voter fraud while courting the nationalist base that supported Mr Trump – has reportedly turned to US Rep Elise Stefanik as Ms Cheney’s replacement.

Ms Stefanik voted against Mr Trump’s sweeping tax cuts in 2017 and was critical of the previous administration’s anti-immigration agenda, including the Muslim ban and construction of a US-Mexico border wall, but she has emerged as a rising figure among GOP lawmakers in a party dominated by an “America First” caucus relitigating election results and mired in culture war grievances against a Democratic majority in Congress and in the White House.

She has secured the “complete and total endorsement” of Mr Trump for the GOP conference chair, following her emphatic support for the former president’s spurious legal challenges and false claims of mail-in ballot “irregularities” that allegedly tainted the results of the 2020 presidential election.

She sought to make her case as an ally to Mr Trump and urge the party’s support for the former president during an appearance on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast on Thursday.

“I fully support the audit in Arizona,” she said, referring to the partisan audit underway in a state that Joe Biden won by more than 45,000 votes, confirmed by three other recounts. “We want transparency and answers for the American people. What are the Democrats so afraid of?”

In an op-ed for The Washington Post this week, Ms Cheney criticised House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – who was caught on a hot mic telling Fox & Friends that he “lost confidence” with Ms Cheney and has “had it with her” – for reversing his position on Mr Trump in the wake of the Capitol assault on 6 January.

She warned Republicans that “while embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country”.

The GOP must form a “broad coalition” across the political right, she said, or risk losing future elections if her colleagues “abandon the rule of law and join Trump’s crusade to undermine the foundation of our democracy and reverse the legal outcome of the last election”.

“We’ve got to get back to winning elections again and we have to be able to have a Republican Party that appeals to a broader group of people,” Mr Hogan said on Sunday.

“I think what most people want, really, is truth,” he said. “I don’t happen to support conspiracy theories.”

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