Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Sunday that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and new House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik are complicit in former President Donald Trump's false smear campaign against the election he lost last fall.
"They are," Cheney told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace, who asked whether the two were "complicit." "And I'm not willing to do that. I think that there are some things that have to be bigger than party, that have to be bigger than partisanship. Our oath to the Constitution is one of those."
Cheney was voted out of House leadership last week after she continued to reject and refute Trump's false narrative. Stefanik, backed by Trump and other House GOP leaders, was voted in as her replacement to lead the House GOP messaging apparatus.
Republicans from leadership through the rank and file said they wanted to stop focusing on the past and move forward with attacking Democratic policies and politicians in the run-up to the midterms next year. McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters last week that he does not "think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election," even as Trump has released about two dozen statements claiming illegitimacy within the past two months.
This weekend alone, Trump released a series of statements promoting bogus claims, saying the election amounted to the "CRIME OF THE CENTURY."
Cheney said in her interview that she wished moving on from Trump was possible but that he "continues to be a real danger."
"What he's doing and what he's saying, his claims, his refusal to accept decisions by the courts, his claims continued as recently as yesterday that somehow this election was stolen," she said. "You know, what he's doing is he's causing people to believe that they can't count on our electoral process to actually convey the will of the people."
She said the "millions of people ... who supported the president have been misled," adding: "They've been betrayed."
Speaking on NBC News' "Meet the Press," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., echoed Cheney, saying Trump is the reason leaders can't simply move on from last fall. Kinzinger, who, like Cheney, voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said Trump is why several House members denied or waved off rioters' conduct in a hearing last week.
"You cannot on one hand say Donald Trump is a leader or the leader of the Republican Party — which I believe he is the leader of the Republican Party right now, because Kevin McCarthy gave him his leadership card — you can't say he's the leader and then say we have to move on," Kinzinger said. "I would love to move on, but when Liz Cheney, probably on a total of maybe four or five times, just simply answered questions that the election wasn't stolen and then Donald Trump dozens and dozens of times says it is — it's not Liz's fault."
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, said on "Meet the Press" that it is not an option "to excommunicate a former president" and that he refuses "to go into this sort of black-and-white thinking about it's either totally one thing or totally the other."
"These are complex relationships that involve millions of people," he said. "And I have always said I do not think Trump is the devil. And I won't say that. I don't think he's Jesus, either. You know, I'm a rational human being about this, OK? And I'm going to agree where I agree, and I'm going to disagree where I disagree. And I refuse to allow this drama to engulf us."
He said there is "no point in relitigating some of these things."
"I stand by everything I've ever said and done," he said. "And that's all I can speak for."
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he believes McCarthy would be subpoenaed by a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot. Democrats and Republicans agreed on such a commission last week, and it could be voted as soon as this week, said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Of the House members who continue to try to write off the rioters' conduct, Upton said, "It's absolutely bogus." Upton, who also voted to impeach Trump this year, said the former president "continues the big lie about the election being stolen."
"We're not going to win unless we add to our base, not subtract from our base," he said in response to Cheney's ouster from leadership, which he said had left him "very disappointed."