The Republican Party’s national governing body has voted to censure two leading critics of Donald Trump in a move that signals the strength of the former president’s continuing hold on the party and outsized influence on politics in the United States.
Members of the Republican National Committee (RNC), meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, adopted a resolution on Friday formally censuring Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Both had voted to impeach Trump for inciting the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.
The RNC resolution accuses Cheney and Kinzinger, members of the US House of Representatives, of “destructive” conduct and of “advancing a political agenda” favourable to Democrats.
On the same day, after thousands of rioters called for legislators to be lynched and stormed the halls of Congress halting the certification of 2020 election results, the RNC publicly condemned the violence calling it “an attack on our country and its founding principles” in a statement.
Cheney and Kinzinger are the only two Republicans serving on a select US House committee investigating the January 6 riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol. The formal probe is focusing on Trump’s campaign to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election won by Joe Biden. Republicans have largely boycotted the inquiry.
“We want to send a message that we’re disapproving of their conduct,” Republican National Committee member Harmeet Dhillon told media outlets. “This is not about being anti-Trump. There are many anti-Trump Republicans that are not included in this resolution. These two took a specific action to defy party leadership.”
The RNC resolution accuses Kinzinger and Cheney of “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” and of “utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes”.
The RNC will “immediately cease any and all support” of Kinzinger and Cheney as members of the party and denounces “those who deliberately jeopardize victory in November”, the resolution said.
In a statement before the vote, Cheney slammed Republicans for abandoning US democratic principles in favour of Trump.
“The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon January 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” said Cheney.
“I’m a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what,” Cheney said.
Kinzinger also pushed back against the RNC action, pledging to continue his work on the January 6 committee. From Illinois, he has announced he will not seek re-election in November.
My statement on the RNC censure. I am now even more committed to fighting conspiracies and lies: pic.twitter.com/NzKK2s2kkC
— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) February 4, 2022
Cheney and Kinzinger were among a group of 10 Republicans who voted in the House to impeach Trump for insurrection following the January 6, 2021 riot.
Importantly, the RNC resolution paves the way for the national party to provide financial support to Harriet Hageman, a lawyer endorsed by Trump who is challenging Cheney for the Republican nomination in Wyoming’s only congressional district in August.
Cheney ended December with more than $4.7m in campaign funds, while Hageman had $381,000 at the end of December, according to Federal Election Commission disclosure forms.
But the activist base of Cheney’s state party has moved against her. In a straw poll conducted by the Wyoming Republican State Central Committee in late January, Cheney won only six votes while Hageman garnered 59.
“Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” said Senator Mitt Romney in a tweet as the RNC acted against Cheney and Kinzinger.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy also tweeted criticism of the RNC action.
The GOP I believe in is the party of freedom and truth.
It’s a sad day for my party—and the country—when you’re punished just for expressing your beliefs, standing on principle, and refusing to tell blatant lies.
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) February 4, 2022
Romney is among a group of Republican critics of Trump who are lining up to raise money for Cheney in her re-election bid.