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Cheney: What Trump did ‘is a line that cannot be crossed’

“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 comments in Georgia followed a tweet she sent earlier today. “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” Cheney tweeted. “Anyone who claims this is the case is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their backs on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system.”

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!”

Cheney’s remarks are the latest in a series of statements and actions she has made in recent months to deflect the Republican Party away from Trump and her false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from it. In January, Cheney was among 10 members of the Republican House who voted to impeach Trump. Since then, she has found herself on one side in an internal war within the party over the role the former president should play in the future of the GOP.

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.

Her persistence in opposing Trump since Jan.6 has made her a target of the former president and his supporters, including a number of GOP officials. Trump’s political operation seeks to support a main challenger to Cheney in his district of Wyoming.

“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

Cheney’s break with Trump has led to an escalation of conflict with Republican Minority Leader California Representative Kevin McCarthy who has tried to get back on Trump’s favor. While the House Republican Conference in February voted 145 to 61 in favor of retaining Cheney in the management team, McCarthy last week declined to answer when asked if she remained a good candidate as as president of the conference.

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.

Cheney’s Republican allies in his quest to move the party beyond Trump are limited. Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee and the only Republican to vote to condemn Trump twice, slammed the former president – and got booed for doing it to her party at the convention this past weekend.

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.

Meanwhile, some of the party’s former leaders have spoken out against the party’s turn into the Trump era in recent weeks, including former House Speaker John Boehner and former President George W. Bush. In a podcast interview with the Dispatch last week, Bush said that if the GOP just means “white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then he won’t gain anything.”

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.

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