USA TODAY International Edition

House GOP fractured over Greene, Cheney

Party warring with itself over loyalty to Trump

- Ledyard King

WASHINGTON – When House Republican­s meet Wednesday, they’ll be a odds over what to do about Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene, controvers­ial figures representi­ng the two wings of an increasing­ly fractured party.

But the closed- door gathering also could reveal a lot more about the direction of a party openly warring with itself while charting a future without Donald Trump in the White House but very much on GOP voters’ minds.

Denver Riggleman, a former Virginia GOP congressma­n who lost reelection last year to a more conservati­ve Republican, told USA TODAY Tuesday he fears the party will have a hard time shaking off Trump.

So he expects that Cheney who voted to impeach Trump could be in trouble despite her deeply conservati­ve credential­s, while Greene will get off with no more than a rap on the knuckles because of her allegiance to the president and his claims the election was stolen.

“This is all about being reelected,” said Riggleman, a former Air Force officer and National Security Agency contractor who writes about extreme belief systems in his new book “Bigfoot ... It’s complicate­d.” “So it all goes back to polling. And that polling is suggesting that ‘ Stop the Steal’ messaging is going to be effective in a lot of these Republican districts in 2022.”

Cheney, the third most powerful House Republican, faces scorching backlash from Trump loyalists. They argue she should no longer be part of leadership given her vote to impeach the then- president following the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

“We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican party, and I intend to win it,” Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, a fierce Trump loyalist, said in Cheney’s home state last week. “You can help me break a corrupt system. You can send a representa­tive who actually represents you, and you can send Liz Cheney home – back home to Washington, D. C.”

Greene, a freshman from Georgia and a strong backer of Trump, has drawn furor from establishm­ent Republican­s. Not only do they dismiss her continued claims the election was stolen but they question her fitness after recently unearthed social media posts show her “liking” calls for violence against prominent Democrats, describing school shootings as staged events, and outlining conspiraci­es such as space lasers causing deadly wildfires in California.

“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, said in a statement Monday while defending Cheney. “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/ 11, that horrifying school shootings were prestaged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’ s airplane is not living in reality.” So which wing will prevail? Riggleman said Gaetz’s decision to take on a party leader in her home state and GOP House Leader Kevin McCarthy’s trip last week to visit Trump at Mar- a- Lago both say a lot about the party’s direction. And it’s not to the benefit of establishm­ent types like Cheney.

“There’s so much consternat­ion because crazy is helping with fundraisin­g ... and disinforma­tion has become cemented into the base,” the former congressma­n said. Greene “is becoming the voice of the conspiracy resistance which gives her a leg up on fundraisin­g and that’s what’s really difficult for the conference.”

Some in Congress are defending her, saying she should explain her views. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S. C., who told reporters Tuesday he had “a very pleasant experience” during a ride with Greene to Georgia recently, said she deserves a chance to respond.

“Are these postings accurate? I want to hear from her,” he said. “Before I judge what to do about her, I want to know what the facts are. If these are not accurate postings ( or) they’ve been manipulate­d, I’d like to know that. If they are accurate, do you still hold those beliefs? So I’m going to wait for her to come forward and tell us exactly what’s real and what’s not and what she believes.”

But Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney has already made up his mind. “I think we should make it very clear that she does not represent us on any way. Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodat­e conservati­ves and kooks.”

The Senate appears poised to acquit Trump later this month when it holds an impeachmen­t trial on a charge that he incited the riot. His allies stepped up attacks against Republican House members who backed impeachmen­t – including Cheney – who could face Trump- backed challenger­s in GOP primaries next year.

Trump’s approval ratings initially fell to record lows after last month’s riot at the Capitol. But more recent surveys show him regaining support among Republican­s. A Morning Consult/ Politico poll this week said 50% of Republican voters say he should play a “major role” in the future of the party.

McCarthy seems emblematic of the whipsawing opinions within the Republican caucus. A week after the invasion, he said Trump “bears responsibi­lity” for the violence at the Capitol. Two weeks later, McCarthy retreated from the criticism, saying “I don’t believe he provoked it, if you listen to what he said at the rally” before the attack.

After his meeting with Trump last week, McCarthy’s office released an upbeat statement that Trump is “committed to helping elect Republican­s in the House and Senate in 2022.”

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who joined Cheney as one of the 10 Republican House members in voting to impeach Trump, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday that the GOP has “lost” its way.

“It’s time we just tell the truth and the truth is we have totally lost our way,” he said. “But we have a great rich history to tap into and you know what, honestly, if it costs us an election to save our soul I’m fine with that.”

 ?? SAUL LOEB/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R- Wyo., left, and U. S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R- Ga.
SAUL LOEB/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R- Wyo., left, and U. S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R- Ga.

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