Liz Cheney has refused to rule out running for US president if it would prevent Donald Trump from ever taking charge of the White House again, saying she will do “whatever it takes” to stop her fellow Republican.
Cheney, who on Wednesday was ousted as House Republican conference chair by her colleagues, in a voice vote behind closed doors, was asked three times on NBC’s Today show in an interview aired on Thursday whether she would run to stymie a comeback by the former president.
While not saying directly that she would, she declined to dismiss the suggestion each time.
Trump’s hold on the Republican party is the “most important issue that we are facing right now as a country, and we’re facing a huge array of issues, so he must not ever again be anywhere close to the Oval Office”, Cheney said.
“Right now I’m very focused on making sure that our party becomes again a party that stands for truth and stands for fundamental principles that are conservative and mostly stands for the constitution, and I won’t let a former president or anyone else unravel the democracy,” she told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie.
Cheney, the House representative from Wyoming, was deposed from her leadership role after voting in February to impeach Trump for his role in the 6 January insurrection, where a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol following a speech by him.
She has also criticized the former president over his continued lies that the 2020 election, which he lost, was rigged.
This stance has put her at odds with Republicans who refuse to distance themselves from the twice-impeached Trump, who remains a popular figure among a base of GOP voters.
Any attempt by Cheney to claim the Republican nomination for the 2024 election would appear to be an extreme long shot, given Trump’s enduring appeal to the conservative base. But it would probably achieve a level of disruption that could hinder Trump if the one-term president chooses to run for the GOP nomination again.
“For reasons I don’t understand leaders in my party have embraced the president who launched that attack,” Cheney told NBC. “I think you’ve watched over the course of the last several months, the former president get more aggressive, more vocal, pushing the lie.”
She added: “This isn’t about looking backwards, this is about the real-time current potential damage that he’s doing, that he continues to do. It’s an ongoing threat, silence is not an option.”
Cheney said that Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, is “not leading with principle right now”, calling his actions to push her out of her No. 3 position “sad and dangerous”.
Cheney said that McCarthy’s trip to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to see for outgoing president following the Capitol riot was “stunning. I can’t understand why you’d want to go and rehabilitate him.”
Cheney said her ousting was not a surprise but said she would not leave the party and speculated that several of her colleagues were worried what a commission into the 6 January riot would uncover.
In defending their removal of Cheney, several Republicans have said that her attacks on Trump had become a distraction to opposing Joe Biden. Trump, for his part, has called Cheney is a “bitter, horrible human being”.