“We cannot accept the idea that elections are stolen. It is poison in the blood of our democracy,” Cheney said, speaking behind closed doors at a conference in Sea Island, Georgia. “We cannot whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed. “
Cheney made his comments, confirmed to CNN by two people in the room, in an informal interview with former House Speaker Paul Ryan in front of a crowd of donors and academics at the annual retreat of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. .
Cheney also called the Constitution “our shield” and said a “peaceful transfer of power must be defended”.
The tweet was in response to Trump, who continued on Monday to perpetuate the lie that the election was stolen. “The fraudulent presidential election of 2020 will, from this day forward, be known as THE BIG LIE!”
In February, Cheney publicly stated that Trump “has no role as leader of our party in the future” and said last week that he “disqualifies” any official who opposes certification of election results to run for the White House in the future.
“She’s so weak that her only chance would be if a large number of people came forward against her, which hopefully won’t happen,” Trump said in a written statement released Monday afternoon. “They never liked her very much, but I’m saying she’ll never run for Wyoming again!”
McCarthy ‘furious’ at Cheney
As the top House Republican, McCarthy has the power to call for a quick vote that would effectively call for Cheney’s removal from his leadership team and could do so as early as next week. But it’s not clear if he will, according to several House GOP sources.
Nonetheless, several Republican lawmakers and aides tell CNN that Cheney is on very volatile ground internally.
A House GOP lawmaker, who voted to keep Cheney in office in February, said after speaking with many of her colleagues it is clear that Cheney has “less (support) than she does.” think “within the GOP House conference. Cheney’s outspoken criticism of Trump has led some House Republicans to accuse him of dividing the conference and distracting from party goals.
When Cheney easily survived the February vote, McCarthy came to her defense and called on the House GOP conference to keep her in place in a closed-door speech. This time, however, could be different. A Home GOP source who has been in contact with McCarthy said the GOP leader was “furious” with her for weeks amid her comments about Trump.
Cheney’s uphill battle
While Trump has remained popular among Republican voters and in the House GOP conference, Cheney has not softened his criticism of him. In a statement announcing her impeachment vote in January, she said the then president had “called this crowd, gathered the crowd and kindled the flame of this attack.”
“All that followed was his work,” she said.
Since then, Cheney has continued to say that Trump should not have a future in the GOP. At a Feb. 24 press conference with McCarthy, the two leaders were asked about the former president’s upcoming speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. While McCarthy said he should speak there, Cheney disagreed.
“It depends on CPAC,” Cheney said. “I don’t think he should play a role in the future of the party or the country.”
It was the last time McCarthy and Cheney appeared in public together. The two continued to disagree on issues surrounding Trump and Jan.6. A day after McCarthy told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that a Congressional commission of inquiry should be expanded to Jan.6 to examine other examples of political violence around the Capitol, Cheney was not agreement. .
“I think it’s very important that the Jan. 6 commission focus on what happened on Jan. 6 and what led to this attack,” Cheney told reporters on April 26 during the retreat of House Republicans in Orlando.
At the same press conference, Cheney declined to say that Trump was the leader of the Republican Party, instead appointing Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, and McCarthy.
And another of the impeachment of House 10, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, is trying to organize support for Republican candidates who oppose Trump’s influence on the party with a new super PAC.
And Ryan’s participation in the interview with Cheney on Monday suggests that the former Wisconsin Republican is also looking to play a role in trying to shape the party’s future. Ryan’s longtime political assistant Kevin Seifert has worked for Cheney’s political team since the start of the year.
CNN’s Manu Raju and Alex Rogers contributed to this report.