The Morning Dispatch: Cheney in Trouble

Plus: Arizona Republicans go hunting for election fraud yet again.

Happy Wednesday! First, this crucial news bulletin: Here’s why that picture of the Bidens and the Carters looked so strange. Now, on to the rest of the news.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a new government prior to his mandate expiring last night. President Reuven Rivlin will now grant the mandate to one of Netanyahu’s political rivals, who may be able to form a government without him.

  • The legal team for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin filed a motion yesterday asking for a new trial, alleging the state “committed pervasive, prejudicial prosecutorial misconduct, which deprived [Chauvin] of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.”

  • Rep. Charlie Crist on Tuesday became the first Democrat to formally launch a bid to unseat Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Rep. Val Demings are also expected to jump in the race.

  • The United States confirmed 40,927 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday per the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, with 3.5 percent of the 1,180,193 tests reported coming back positive. An additional 929 deaths were attributed to the virus on Tuesday, bringing the pandemic’s American death toll to 578,421. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34,827 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Meanwhile, 988,846 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered yesterday, with 147,894,671 Americans having now received at least one dose.

Cheney Back in the Crosshairs

After House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in February to keep Rep. Liz Cheney in her leadership position as the third-ranking Republican in the House despite her support for impeaching former President Donald Trump in the aftermath of January 6, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted about the results. “This Republican Party’s a very big tent,” he told reporters. “Everyone’s invited in.”

It turns out the tent is smaller than he suggested. 

Now, three months after the vote, members are gearing up to push her out of the role, this time at the urging of top leaders.

McCarthy has grown increasingly frustrated with Cheney in recent weeks. On Fox News yesterday, he insisted the source of this frustration isn’t the Wyoming Republican’s impeachment vote, but her actions and statements in the months since. “That decision has been made,” he said, in reference to impeachment. “I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message. We all need to be working as one if we’re able to win the majority.”

McCarthy’s comments were the clearest indication yet that he no longer sees Cheney as the right fit for his leadership team. And if those comments didn’t get his point across, others he made off-air certainly did. “I think she’s got real problems,” McCarthy said in a conversation with Steve Doocy first leaked to Axios. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence.”

McCarthy has not appeared publicly with Cheney since March, a departure from the press conferences they used to hold with the GOP leadership team on a regular basis. During last week’s House Republican conference retreat in Orlando, he dodged questions about Cheney’s role in leadership and said she was distracting from the party’s priorities. 

It’s quite a heel turn from the top House Republican. McCarthy came to Cheney’s defense earlier this year during the private GOP conference meeting where members debated her role in the party. Why are things different now? Cheney didn’t stop talking.

McCarthy seems to have been under the impression that, following February’s meeting, Cheney would avoid answering honestly when asked about Trump, or focus her efforts solely on criticizing President Joe Biden and campaigning for Republicans in their effort to take back the House. But Cheney called her vote to impeach Trump a vote of principle and said of Trump’s role in instigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Even as GOP frustration mounts, it’s evident Cheney is simply not willing to be silent about something she thinks is of paramount importance just to keep her position in leadership.

“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan 6,” Jeremy Adler, Cheney’s spokesman, said Tuesday. “Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”

When Trump issued yet another false statement Monday claiming the election was fraudulent, Cheney herself shot back on Twitter. “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” she said. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Cheney made a slew of headlines last week as well, much to the chagrin of her colleagues. She endorsed a narrower investigative scope for a potential commission probe into the attack on the Capitol, dissenting from Republicans (like McCarthy) who have said the commission should also look into largely unrelated violence around the country following the murder of George Floyd last year. She also argued that prominent lawmakers who amplified Trump’s election conspiracy theories should be disqualified from the 2024 presidential race.

“I do think that some of our candidates who led the charge—particularly the senators who led the unconstitutional charge, not to certify the election—you know, in my view, that’s disqualifying,” she told the New York Post last week. The comment was primarily seen as a shot at Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but it also applied to the nearly two-thirds of her own conference who voted to reject Electoral College results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

As conference chair, Cheney’s role is to lead House GOP messaging. Even if her statements about the election are true (they are) and even if her case to move on from Trumpism after January 6 has merit (it does), the cold reality is that many of her colleagues—including the 147 who voted against certifying the election results—want Trump at the center of their party.

Texas Republican Lance Gooden, an outspoken critic of Cheney, said Tuesday that she is “totally unaligned with the majority of our party.”

“We cannot fight for the America First agenda with her in a leadership position,” he said. Gooden predicted over the weekend that Cheney will be out of the conference chair role by the end of the month. 

The public criticism of Cheney, led and encouraged by McCarthy, was widely seen as an attempt to pressure Cheney into resigning. Sources familiar with Cheney’s thinking say there’s no chance she’ll do that.

House Republicans are next scheduled to meet on Wednesday, May 12. It’s likely the party will consider another motion to push Cheney out of leadership at that point. This time, if McCarthy’s public remarks are any indication, Cheney’s opponents will have support from the top of the conference. The vote will likely be conducted via secret ballot once again; Cheney prevailed 145-61 last time, but virtually no one thinks she’ll survive this vote.

Republicans are already coalescing around Cheney’s potential successor, with New York Rep. Elise Stefanik campaigning for the role behind the scenes. According to House Republicans familiar with the discussions, she previously spoke to colleagues about challenging Cheney before the first attempt to oust her, but opted against mounting the effort.

Stefanik, first elected in 2014, actually broke from Trump on policy far more than Cheney ever did; her career FiveThirtyEight Trump score is just 77.7 percent, compared to Cheney’s 92.9 percent. But Stefanik aligned herself with the former president where it mattered most: Objecting to the 2020 election results in multiple states, and fiercely defending Trump during both impeachment trials.

As such, Stefanik is well-liked by MAGA world, and has an impressive fundraising record: Her E-PAC has played a significant role in boosting the number of GOP women in Congress to record highs. Brendan Buck, previously a senior adviser to former House speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, said Tuesday that if she wants the job, it’s hers to take.

But a lot can happen in a week. Other names have popped up in the discussions, including Reps. Ann Wagner of Missouri and Jackie Walorski of Indiana.

One thing is certain—whoever ascends to the job if Cheney is kicked out will have to be willing to maintain strategic silence about something that shouldn’t be controversial, but is for House Republicans: The election wasn’t stolen.

What’s Going on in Maricopa County?

Depending on where you get your political news, you’ve likely heard either a lot about Arizona’s Maricopa County in recent weeks, or nothing at all. Despite President Biden recently surpassing his 100th day in office, Republicans in the Arizona State Senate are charging full steam ahead on yet another audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa—the county that contains Phoenix—after a judge ruled the recount could proceed.

In an explainer on the site, Ryan lays out all you need to know about the audit: Why it’s happening, what its proponents are hoping to find, and the potential repercussions.

In late February, the GOP-controlled Arizona State Senate issued subpoenas to get access to and review 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots and 400 voting machines. The Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors pushed back against this demand, saying it was a breach of Arizona voters’ privacy rights, and voted 4-1 to file a court complaint to seek clarification on whether or not they had to follow the subpoena from the Senate. 

The audit officially started on April 23, after a judge ruled that the Senate had a right to the ballots and machines, and the county board said it would cooperate with the audit. There is no deadline for when it will wrap, according to Ken Bennett, the Senate liaison to the audit and former Arizona secretary of state.

Worth Your Time

  • After more than a year of doom and gloom, there really is a lot to be optimistic about on the pandemic front—even if some people aren’t ready to come to terms with that yet. In a piece for The Atlantic, Emma Green takes a look at the Americans—mostly progressives—who have subsumed COVID-19 caution into their political identity, and are now struggling to let go. “Last year, when the pandemic was raging and scientists and public-health officials were still trying to understand how the virus spread, extreme care was warranted,” she writes. “People all over the country made enormous sacrifices—rescheduling weddings, missing funerals, canceling graduations, avoiding the family members they love—to protect others. Some conservatives refused to wear masks or stay home, because of skepticism about the severity of the disease or a refusal to give up their freedoms. But this is a different story, about progressives who stressed the scientific evidence, and then veered away from it.”

  • There are too many amazing nuggets in this Elaina Plott New York Times Magazine piece about the Texas GOP for us to pick just one, so here’s a teaser: “The Republican Party trounced the Democrats at every level in Texas in November, only to see its politicians turn on one another over the pandemic and voter-fraud conspiracy theories.”

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Toeing the Company Line

  • In yesterday’s edition of The Sweep, Sarah breaks down the TX-06 special election results from over the weekend and points out some ways in which the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold) ruined our politics. Plus, Chris Stirewalt explores Mike Pence’s 2024 maneuvering.

  • David’s Tuesday French Press (🔒) argues that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Democrats’ “demography is destiny” wishcasting is the party’s deep divide on religion. “There exists a giant demographic ‘God gap’ in Democratic politics,” he writes. “The present Democratic coalition … contains disproportionately large numbers of one of the most religious communities (black Americans) and one of the least religious (white progressives) in our nation.”

  • Jonah’s flying solo on the first Remnant of the week. He tackles the strawman and frequent leftist punching bag called social Darwinism, and whether or not such an ideology ever even existed in the first place. Do any conservatives actually believe this stuff?

  • If you haven’t yet had your fill of House GOP leadership news, Steve has a piece up on the site today digging into Kevin McCarthy’s actions the past few months. “McCarthy is moving to push Cheney out of her leadership position for saying in May what he’d said repeatedly earlier this year,” Steve writes. “McCarthy knows that Trump is lying about the election. He knows that Cheney is telling the truth. And he’s choosing Trump anyway.”

Let Us Know

Is Liz Cheney right that, in order to move forward, the GOP needs to confront the lies about the 2020 election that led to January 6? Is Kevin McCarthy right that Republicans need to be united and “working as one” in order to win back the House in 2022? Is it possible they’re both right?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Haley Byrd Wilt (@byrdinator), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).