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Clash Between Cheney and Stefanik Highlights Huge Rift in GOP Over Jan. 6

A heated and acrimonious dispute unfolded over the handling of the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, pitting two prominent Republicans against each other.

Liz Cheney accused Rep. Elise Stefanik of concealing her past criticism of the Jan. 6 attack, labeling Stefanik as a “total crackpot” in a bitter exchange that exposed the lingering divisions within the Republican Party.

Mental Breakdown

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Stefanik, known as one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, swiftly countered Cheney’s allegations, suggesting that Cheney was undergoing a “mental breakdown” and confidently predicting that Cheney would never hold elected office again. Jan. 6 Continues to Divide Republicans

Ongoing Turmoil

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The clash between Cheney and Stefanik exemplifies the ongoing turmoil within the GOP surrounding the consequences of the January 6 attack.

Few lawmakers personify the political repercussions of that fateful day as much as Liz Cheney, who lost her leadership position in the House after voting to impeach Trump.

Elise Gained Prominence at Cheney’s Expense

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Conversely, Elise Stefanik ascended to Cheney’s former role and gained prominence as a staunch defender of Trump.

Paths Diverged

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Cheney and Stefanik were once considered next-generation leaders of the Republican establishment, but their paths diverged regarding their stance on Trump.

Cheney’s Anti-Trump Stance

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Cheney, in particular, has recently pledged to do everything she can to prevent Trump’s return to the White House.

At the same time, Stefanik is widely viewed as positioning herself to become Trump’s running mate should he run for president again.

Cheney’s Accusations on Twitter

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On Tuesday, Liz Cheney took to Twitter to address Elise Stefanik directly, sharing a link to Stefanik’s 2021 press release regarding the Jan. 6 attack.

Cheney emphasized, “This is what @EliseStefanik said, in a rare moment of honesty, about the January 6 attack on our Capitol. One day she will have to explain how and why she morphed into a total crackpot. History, and our children, deserve to know”

Stefanik’s Earlier Condemnation of Jan. 6

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Stefanik’s 2021 press release strongly condemned the “violence and destruction” associated with the January 6 attack and advocated for the prosecution of those responsible for the events.

However, as the feud escalated, Cheney highlighted that this statement was no longer available on Stefanik’s official House website.

Dispute Over Missing Press Releases

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Cheney’s team asserted that the press releases were accessible at the beginning of the week but were conspicuously absent from Stefanik’s official website by Saturday morning.

In response, a spokesperson for Stefanik pointed out that her prior statements could still be found on various social media platforms.

Preview of Potential General Election Debate

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The heated exchange on Saturday offered a glimpse of what a general election debate centered on the January 6 attack might look like if Elise Stefanik secures a place on the Republican ticket, with Liz Cheney campaigning against it.

Republican Pollster’s Perspective

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Republican pollster Christine Matthews characterized the ongoing feud as “the story of two women: one who prioritized principles over ambition and another who prioritized ambition over principles.”

Alignment With Trump

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Matthews also highlighted how the Republican Party has shifted, now valuing alignment with Trump’s style and message as a defining factor for belonging to the party.

“It is also the story of the evolution of the Republican Party, which once used issues as a litmus test for who was inside and who was outside the norm.

Now it uses pitch — whoever matches their pitch to Trump most closely is the person who belongs inside the party,” Matthews said.

Cheney’s Role in Jan. 6 Investigation

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Liz Cheney previously served as the vice chair of the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack, an entity that Elise Stefanik has criticized as “illegitimate and unconstitutional.”

Cheney’s commitment to the committee’s work and her vote to impeach Trump drew the former president’s ire and ultimately led to her primary loss for her Wyoming House seat in 2022.

Stefanik’s Minimization of Jan. 6

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In contrast, Elise Stefanik has frequently downplayed the significance of the Capitol attack and cast doubt on the legitimacy of legal actions against those involved.

Stefanik’s Reference to “Hostages”

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On January 7 of this year, Stefanik referred to individuals imprisoned on charges related to January 6 as “hostages” during an appearance on “Meet The Press,” expressing concerns about their treatment.

Cheney’s Critique on “Face the Nation”

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Cheney seized the opportunity to criticize Stefanik on “Face the Nation” later that morning, emphasizing that elected Republicans could not be relied upon to defend the Constitution.

She argued that their actions demonstrated this point.

Stefanik’s Growing Influence and VP Aspirations

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Since that exchange, Elise Stefanik has urged GOP candidates to withdraw from the race following Trump’s victory in Iowa and has joined the former president on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

These actions have further solidified her credentials as a potential vice-presidential pick in Trump’s future endeavors.

Stefanik’s Vision for Trump’s Administration

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While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Stefanik expressed her willingness to serve in the Trump administration, asserting that Trump would “restore the rule of law” and “reestablish respect for the Constitution in this nation.”

Republican Base’s Stance on Jan. 6

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Elise Stefanik’s views regarding the January 6 attack closely align with the sentiments of the Republican base, which has become progressively more accepting of the events at the Capitol over time.

However, the riot and its aftermath remain contentious for the Trump campaign as they navigate the general election, even as they work to secure the Republican primary.

GOP Remains Divided Over Jan. 6

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The ongoing dispute between Liz Cheney and Elise Stefanik underscores the persistent divide within the Republican Party regarding the January 6 attack.

As the feud continues, it reflects the GOP’s broader challenges and highlights the complexities of navigating the aftermath of that pivotal day in American politics.

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