House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is likely to face a second referendum on her role in GOP leadership next week as she continues to undermine her colleagues in the lower chamber.
Three months after surviving the first recall on her role as number three in GOP leadership, Republican colleagues have pushed for a second. This time, however, Cheney doesn’t have the support that emboldened her after the first, and new reporting since then has peeled back the curtain of the threat Cheney’s persistent efforts pose to the party.
Last month, a senior official in the Biden administration revealed there was no truth to the campaign-year blockbuster reporting of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan under the watch of an apathetic American president, apparently complicit in the scheme while adamant of U.S. withdrawal. The story possessed all the earmarks of a routine hit piece, including explosive claims, uncorroborated accounts, and anonymous sources, all published in a legacy outlet such as the New York Times.
Cheney capitalized on the story, treating it as a scandal, and became a primary culprit of its spread to undermine her own party. She touted it as a reason to prolong the U.S. military presence in the region as the administration took steps to pull out. Cheney openly questioned whether Trump was aware of the intelligence reports now known to have not held any credibility, and amplified concerns of Russian activity in Afghanistan without specifics.
If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain:
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB?
2. Who did know and when?
3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020
With Cheney’s help from the high totem poll of House leadership, the story hampered the administration’s progress to pursue a troop draw-down in the region. In June, she sponsored an amendment with Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., to block the White House from reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to below 8,000. The legislation didn’t pass.
The story also offered an avenue of attack for Democrat challengers on the ballot. Among those who took the most heat was none other than Rep. Elise Stefanik, now vying for Cheney’s chairmanship.
Stefanik’s November opponent ran three ads branding the New York incumbent a treasonous “coward” for the lawmaker’s refusal to buy the narrative at face value as did Cheney, despite Stefanik’s own interventionist inclinations. Unlike Cheney, Stefanik appeared to learn enough from the Russian collusion hoax to see such explosive claims through a healthy lens of skepticism, asking intelligent questions before leaping to conclusions for political gain.
When Republicans ran terrified of the Russia collusion narrative that engulfed the first years of the Trump presidency, Stefanik confronted holes in the story, inquiring to then-FBI Director James Comey why the agency had not properly informed Congress of its deep-state investigation early on at a hearing in March 2017. After the story’s spectacular collapse more than two years later, during which the narrative of Trump as a Russian agent took deep roots in major corners of the population, Republicans, especially those in leadership, would be wise to remain on alert for such intel operations that reappear.
Nearly a month after the story of Russian bounties was exposed as low-level intelligence with little credibility, Cheney still hasn’t apologized despite the narrative weaponized against the colleagues she leads.