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Republican criticism of RNC resolution to censure Cheney, Kinzinger grows

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the censure was "absolutely wrong."
Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as Chairperson Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., speaks before a vote on a report recommending the House cite Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress on Oct. 19, 2021.
Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, speaks before a vote on a report recommending that the House cite Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress on Oct. 19.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — Some Republicans are pushing back against the Republican National Committee's vote to formally censure two of their own party members — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — over their work investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial for allegedly inciting the deadly Capitol riot, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that the censure was "absolutely wrong."

"'I'm not here to be a representative of the Republican Party. I'm here to be the representative of Alaska people. And I take that job very seriously," she said. "When the party is taking an approach or saying things that I think are just absolutely wrong, I think it is my responsibility as an Alaskan senator speaking out for Alaskans to just speak the truth."

The measure was adopted Friday by a voice vote at the RNC’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City, which brought together the committee’s 168 members for their general session. The measure described Cheney and Kinzinger as "participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse" in their roles on the committee.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Sunday that he doesn't agree with the characterization of Jan. 6, 2021, in the RNC resolution if it "applies to those who committed criminal offenses and violence."

"I think part of the problem with my party is they view that as a weaponization, that Pelosi's weaponizing January 6th, politicizing it to her advantage," he said on ABC's "This Week," referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "But at the end of the day, I think that the truth needs to come out."

Murkowski spoke out a day after she tweeted, "We cannot deny the truth—to suggest it was 'legitimate political disclosure' is just wrong."

"What happened on January 6, 2021 was an effort to overturn a lawful election resulting in violence and destruction at the Capitol," she tweeted Saturday. "We must not legitimize those actions which resulted in loss of life and we must learn from that horrible event so history does not repeat itself."

"As Americans we must acknowledge those tragic events, and we cannot allow a false narrative to be created," she added.

Marc Short, who was chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence and recently testified before the Jan. 6 panel, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press": "From my front row seat I did not see a lot of legitimate political discourse."

He said, however, that "in talking to some members of the RNC, I think there is concern that there are people who were there peacefully protesting who have been pulled into this."

Cheney and Kinzinger, the lone Republicans on the Jan. 6 panel, previously faced backlash in their party for voting to convict Trump at his impeachment trial. Despite significant GOP support for a conviction, the Senate acquitted Trump last February.

Kinzinger is not running for re-election, while Cheney faces a primary challenge. Cheney has outraised her primary opponent by millions.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, another Republican who voted with all 50 Democratic-voting senators to convict Trump, also denounced the RNC's resolution, calling it shameful.

"Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol," Romney tweeted Friday. "Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost."

After the vote to censure, Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted: "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."

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R- La., questioned the censure, tweeting, "The RNC is censuring Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger because they are trying to find out what happened on January 6th — HUH?"