McCarthy, who believes accusations are bad for the country and will create further divisions, has taken an behind-the-scenes approach to the Capitol attack, in private speech with GOP members and the president.
Meanwhile, Cheney has gone a different route, delivering a public and direct response to the Capitol riots, which could be a crucial moment in any future race for speaker or minority leader.
But Cheney has made it clear that her decision to prosecute was not political. And in fact, it could hurt her if the GOP does not fully oust Trump from his party; the president still maintains fierce support among the conservative grassroots. She is already facing several calls in the House GOP to step down from her leadership position.
Still, Cheney has privately told colleagues that, according to sources, she wanted to be on the right side of the story and has framed it as a “voice of conscience.”
On the eve of the House referendum vote, Cheney became the highest-ranking Republican who publicly supported removing Trump from office for inciting a violent mob to attack the Capitol. Three other Republicans, rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois, Fred Upton from Michigan and John Katko from New York have so far also thrown their weight behind the accusation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also told staff he believes Trump committed non-transferable offenses, POLITICO has confirmed.
In a three-paragraph statement, Cheney did not hold back: “There has never been a major betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Cheney also blamed the attack on the Capitol entirely on Trump, saying he “called” the mob and “lit the flame in this attack” – and without him, the bloody uprising would never have happened.
“Everything that followed was his do,” Cheney continued. “The president could have immediately and by force intervened to stop the violence. He did not. “
But while Cheney’s accusations may earn greetings in some corners of the conference, not everyone was happy: House Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), One of the leaders of the challenge to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, called on Cheney to resign his leading position.
“She should not hold this conference,” Biggs told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday. “That is it.” Freedom Caucus once cost McCarthy a shot at the speaker, and the Conservative hardliners are still holding on to the House GOP.
Signs of Cheney’s likely vote of accusation surfaced in the days leading up to her announcement. In the immediate aftermath of the siege of the Capitol, she placed the blame on Trump’s shoulders: “There is no doubt that the president formed the mob, the president encouraged the mob, the president addressed the mob. He lit the flame, ”she said.
According to several lawmakers, Cheney also had discussions with Democrats while being chopped down in a safe room in the middle of the uprising. And other sources said she had weighed heavily in recent days.
Then, in a GOP conference call Monday, the first conference-wide meeting since the riots took place, Cheney did not turn to her about how she intended to vote, but she urged her colleagues to “vote your conscience” and stressed that this was not a political vote.
It is unclear how many Republicans are following Cheney’s path, but more are expected to follow suit in a potential sign of her growing influence in the party. Her stance also gives cautious Republicans greater political coverage.
“Good for her for honoring her office,” Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday.
McCarthy, meanwhile, has struggled with his response to the attack. While continuing to oppose admission, an aide to POLITICO confirmed that McCarthy is open to the less serious possibility of mistrust. The idea has gained traction within the GOP conference, but Democrats claim it does not go far enough to condemn Trump for his role in Wednesday’s deadly events, and that it will not get a vote on the floor.
In another sign that McCarthy is still trying to figure out his next steps, he has also asked Republicans if he should ask Trump to resign, according to a GOP member. This detail was first reported by The New York Times.
In particular, sources say McCarthy has not whipped members about how they will vote on persecution; to do so would certainly backfire when Republicans struggle with how to respond to the crisis.
But the California Republican has become more critical of Trump, especially as rage and frustration swell in the House’s GOP ranks. McCarthy and his top deputy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Have been subjected to insults from within the conference over how they handled the siege and to continue to oppose the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory, even deadly riots. Scalise is also against concession.
While McCarthy was quick to condemn the violence and asked Trump to issue a stronger statement urging the rebels to stand down, the GOP leader waited days before privately accusing Trump in a conference call and saying the president bears some of the responsibility to incite riots. which endangers the lives of legislators.
McCarthy also told colleagues Monday night that he has asked Trump to offer Biden congratulations, the first time he encourages the outgoing president, to expand an olive branch to the next government.
McCarthy had previously made the calculated call to go all-in on Trump, with some Republicans saying he took the 2020 win in House seats as a sign that keeping the party attached to Trump was their way of winning. the house back in 2022.
But as some Republicans have noted, this approach meant the House GOP was inextricably linked to Trump – even when he throws the country into chaos.
By adding to McCarthy’s misery, a growing number of corporate donors and business groups are pairing their political donations with members who voted against certification, jeopardizing one of McCarthy’s other strengths – fundraising.
Meanwhile, Cheney has repeatedly challenged Trump. She has distinguished herself from other GOP leaders who have often remained silent with their criticisms and sometimes publicly pushed back on the president’s behavior.
At one point last year, it looked like Cheney’s political potential was being burned after a group of House Freedom Caucus members piled on her in July for her criticism of the president, her support for Anthony Fauci and her backing from a primary opponent challenged Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
Some conservatives even discussed recruiting someone to challenge her for the conference chair, but it never came to fruition; Cheney was unanimously elected to serve another leadership term.
McCarthy’s stance has also put him directly at odds with McConnell, his GOP counterpart in the Capitol.
McConnell has privately forwarded that he is happy that Democrats are moving forward with plans to remove the unpredictable president from office because the Senate leader believes this will help clear Trump’s GOP.
McCarthy and McConnell have also handled the election objections quite differently. While McConnell actively urged Republicans in the Senate not to challenge the certification of Biden’s 2020 victory, McCarthy remained largely silent before joining the majority of House Republicans in opposition to the election. In fact, POLITICO also reported that even before the vote on Wednesday, McCarthy had advised GOP beginners on what election challenges to support.
Unlike McConnell, who described his vote to certify as “the most important vote” he has ever cast, McCarthy chose to proceed with his objection hours after the violence that was lifted around the Capitol complex, burning up many of his Republican colleges.
When Trump’s second indictment begins, the Senate will have the opportunity to prevent Trump from ever holding public office again. Some Republicans may see an opportunity.
“Mitch McConnell looked at the party in the long run. And [he and Cheney] answered the call, ”said a GOP legislator. “And I think a lot of members are worried that both McCarthy and Scalise didn’t.”