Liz Cheney’s impromptu Trump-bashing makes House GOP presser awkward, McCarthy caught off guard

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Conference head Liz Cheney expressed opposing views during a press conference on Wednesday regarding ex-President Donald Trump’s future in the party as well as his appearance at a prominent conservative event on Sunday.

Asked if he thought Trump should speak at the Conservative Political Action Convention, McCarthy, a California Republican, said simply, “Yes, he should.”

But Cheney, a long-time critic and political opponent of Trump, who voted last month to impeach him following the Capitol riot, had a different view.

“That’s up to CPAC,” she said when she was asked her opinion on Trump’s speech, which will be his first major address after leaving the White House.

“I’ve been clear about my views of President Trump and the extent to which, following Jan. 6, I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country,” Cheney continued.

An awkward moment of silence followed Cheney’s response, prompting McCarthy to interject. “On that high note, thank you all very much,” he said to laughter.

McCarthy met with the former president late last month at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss GOP strategy moving forward. A statement from Trump’s Save America PAC noted that both men “discussed many topics, number one of which was taking back the House in 2022.”

“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” the statement continued. 

“President Trump has agreed to work with Leader McCarthy on helping the Republican Party to become a majority in the House. They worked very well together in the last election and picked up at least 15 seats when most predicted it would be the opposite. They will do so again, and the work has already started,” it added.

Meanwhile, Cheney — though she was recently re-elected as House Republican Conference chair by a wide margin — is embattled back home in Wyoming. The state GOP has rebuked and censured her over her vote to impeach Trump, and state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R) has announced he will primary Cheney next year. And in early polling, Bouchard has already taken a wide lead over Cheney.

But while some Republicans like Sen. Rick Scott of Florida have decried the ‘GOP civil war’ and called for unity, other conservative analysts disagree.

During his Wednesday evening show on streaming network “The First,” Jesse Kelly said it’s healthy for the GOP to fight over issues and the direction the party should take as he analyzed the press conference with McCarthy and Cheney.

After both responded to questions about Trump speaking at CPAC, Kelly noted that most representatives also at the presser left with McCarthy while no one left with Cheney, who headed off-stage in the opposite direction.

“It’s already happening,” he said of the GOP’s internal struggle. “You can be annoyed with Liz Cheney. That’s fine. I can be, I can’t stand her. It’s working itself out.”

He then played a clip of Cheney pushing for more international involvement by the U.S. in which she invoked “the ‘Hitler’ card.”

“When you start bringing up Hitler, you’re gonna get tuned out. She knows she’s getting tuned out. And, look, she’ll be gone soon,” Kelly added.

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Jon Dougherty

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