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US Republicans gear up to oust Trump critic Liz Cheney from party leadersh

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., center, speaks with then-President Donald Trump during a bill signing ceremony for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Nov. 25, 2019. (Photo by AP)

Top US Republicans have joined forces to expel the House Republican Conference chair and the Representative for Wyoming, Liz Cheney, for her scathing criticism of former US President Donald Trump.

In an indication that Cheney is likely to face defeat in a party vote expected on Wednesday, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday said he would back congresswoman Elise Stefanik to replace Cheney as head of the 212-member House Republican Conference.

McCarthy and Representative Jim Banks, who heads the Republican Study Committee, a leading conservative caucus, said 54-year-old Cheney, who holds the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership, is facing the wrath for her repeated criticism of Trump.

They noted that the Wyoming Representative's denunciation of Trump's false claim that the 2020 presidential vote was stolen has created hurdles in the party's messaging against Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda.

"We need to be united and that starts with leadership," McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News. "We want to be united moving forward, and I think that's what will take place."

He also gave a thumbs up to Stefanik as a potential replacement for Cheney.

Stefanik, a 36-year-old Republican from New York state who became a popular figure in the party after vehemently defending the former US President during Congressional hearings ahead of his 2019 impeachment, also has the backing of Deputy House Republican Steve Scalise, as well as Trump himself.

Cheney, the daughter of former US Vice President Dick Cheney (2001-2009), was among ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which left five people dead, including a police officer.

Much to the chagrin of her fellow Republicans, she has continued to criticize Trump for repeating claims of his election loss to Biden due to fraud, while calling on party members to reject his claims.

In a fiery article for The Washington Post this month, Cheney spoke about defending the "basic principles" that underpin and protect the freedom and democratic process, in an attack on Trump and his Republican supporters.

"Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work -- confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this," Cheney wrote. "The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution."

"Any leader who is not focused on pushing back against the radical and dangerous Biden agenda needs to be replaced," Banks, US Representative for Indiana's 3rd congressional district, told Fox News in an interview on Sunday.

While McCarthy and Banks are pitching for the ouster of Cheney as a sign of unity between Republicans, there are fears about deepening divisions that could destroy the party.

"Right now, it's basically the Titanic. We're in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine," Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, who also voted to impeach Trump, was quoted saying in an interview to CBS.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who is being billed as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, likened the Cheney vote to "a circular firing squad" in an interview to NBC.

"We had the worst four years we've had - ever - in the Republican Party, losing the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. And successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division," Hogan said.

Meanwhile, Cheney also faces a tough re-election battle in her home state of Wyoming, where Trump seeks to defeat her as the state’s sole House member.

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