Republicans have offered a pretty curious rationale for excommunicating Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her No. 3 leadership role. Amid her continued criticisms of former president Donald Trump, they’ve argued not that her claims are wrong (because they aren’t), but rather that her commentary is unhelpful to the party’s efforts to win back the majority and that they’d rather focus on the future. To perhaps oversimplify things a bit: They’d just rather not talk about it.
The argument is particularly strange given how much the man they assure remains their party’s leader — Trump — is very much fixated on the past, still spouting election conspiracy theories six months after he lost.
But it’s also strange given that the emerging choice to replace Cheney offered some of the same conspiratorial claims. That will only reinforce how much Trump’s “big lie” has infected his party.
The Washington Post’s Paul Kane on Wednesday profiled Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who appears to be the prohibitive favorite to succeed Cheney. Stefanik’s story is one of the most significant metamorphoses of the Trump era. At just 36, she was a former GOP aide and entered Congress as an acolyte of former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but has since become a Trumpian firebrand.
That includes spouting his baseless and false fraud claims in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. She did so significantly more than many in her party and certainly more than the leaders whose ranks she could soon join. (They would often merely cite states allegedly not following their election laws, rather than massive fraud.)
Stefanik’s most extreme claim came in a statement published shortly before the Capitol riot, in which she explained why she would object to counting certain state’s electors.
She cited the same things as other prominent Republicans about state election laws supposedly not being followed. But she also made a particularly remarkable claim about Georgia: that “more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone.”
There is zero evidence for this. As CNN’s Daniel Dale notes, similar claims were fact-checked and debunked in the previous weeks. What’s more, there were only about 524,000 total voters in Atlanta-based Fulton County in the 2020 election. Stefanik was therefore claiming more than 1 in 4 votes in a single county were fraudulent — a ridiculous number given that Fulton County’s relative turnout was in line with history. It’s even more ridiculous given that all the court cases and months of review have produced no evidence of anything like it.