Rep. Liz Cheney fist bumps Biden amid tense relationship with GOP leadership

Rep. Liz Cheney scored a fist bump from President Joe Biden as he entered the House chamber for his first joint address to Congress.

It's a move that will likely turn heads, especially among Republicans who might view the greeting as cozying up to a president they fault for muscling his agenda through Congress without bipartisan support. Cheney (R-Wyo.) has also found herself on shaky footing in recent days, as her relationship with House Minority Leader has grown increasingly frosty.

After voting to impeach former President Donald Trump earlier this year, Cheney and her relationship with McCarthy have been symbolic of a growing rift in the GOP at large over what role Trump should play in the party going forward.

During a House GOP retreat over the weekend, the rift between the two lawmakers publicly escalated.

“There’s a responsibility, if you’re gonna be in leadership, leaders eat last,” McCarthy told POLITICO at the time. “And when leaders try to go out, and not work as one team, it creates difficulties.”

Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, told the New York Post on Monday that she believed those who supported Trump's efforts to overturn the election results should be disqualified from the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

At a Tuesday press conference, McCarthy dodged a question about whether Cheney was still a good fit for his leadership team.

The two have maintained that they are on good working teams, and McCarthy defended Cheney against lawmakers in the Trump wing of the party who tried to oust her from leadership over her impeachment vote. However, McCarthy has notably been absent from GOP leadership's weekly press conferences with Cheney after an awkward clash over Trump's role in the party.

Cheney, though, seems to have the support of at least one prominent GOP lawmaker, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The two exchanged a lengthy handshake with and shared words at the address. McConnell himself has frequently found himself at odds with the former president, who has taken shots at both lawmakers in statements since leaving office.

Despite any friendly optics, Cheney distanced herself from Biden after the address, issuing a statement that said Biden's policies were "bad for Wyoming and bad for America."

"I will fight back against these dangerous plans and always stand up for the interests of our state and for the constitutional values that we hold dear," she said.

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Christie calls Bruce Castor’s performance in impeachment trial ‘unthinkable’

Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on Wednesday called the performance of impeachment defense lawyer Bruce Castor “unthinkable,” joining the growing chorus of criticism after the first day of the Senate trial left former President Donald Trump displeased.

“That’s a prosecutor’s dream come true, for a defense lawyer to stand up during opening and say, ‘Wow, wasn’t that something? Boy, that was so powerful, we changed strategy,’” said Christie, who served as U.S. attorney for his state from 2002 to 2008.

At one point on Tuesday, the opening day of Trump’s second impeachment trial, Castor seemed to be so impressed with the House impeachment managers’ presentation that the defense team changed course on its strategy. To everyone’s surprise, he admitted as much on the Senate floor.

“I’ll be quite frank with you, we changed what we were going to do on account that we thought that the House managers’ presentation was well done,” Castor said.

Castor’s remarks portrayed the defense team as ill prepared, Christie said in a Wednesday radio interview with Fox News’ “Guy Benson Show.” Rather than assume that “the other side is going to be tremendous and prepare accordingly,” the defense team seemed as if it was counting on the incompetence of its opponents, he said.

“I mean, it is unthinkable to do something like that,” he said. “Even if you think it, you don’t say it.”

Christie’s comments on the defense team’s performance largely mirrored what Republican senators had to say after the first day of proceedings. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said that she thought Castor “did not present a case” and that she was “puzzled” by his presentation, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said it seemed as if Trump’s lawyers were “embarrassed of their arguments.”

On Tuesday night, Castor’s trial partner, David Schoen, defended Castor’s performance to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, telling him that Castor and his law firm “seem to be very capable people” and that Castor hadn’t planned to begin his arguments on Tuesday.

“So, I’m sure they will be very well prepared in the future and do a great job in the case,” Schoen said.

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Cramer: ‘Welcome to the stupidest week in the Senate’

Sen. Kevin Cramer made it clear Tuesday what he thought about the historic second impeachment trial of Donald Trump: "Welcome to the stupidest week in the Senate."

Shortly before the trial was set to begin, the North Dakota Republican released a video statement criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for using impeachment "flippantly" as a political tool.

"As a response to her view that Donald Trump demeaned the Office of the President, the House Speaker is now making a mockery of Congress and one of the most serious institutions in our country," Cramer said. "It’s disgusting.”

"While Speaker Pelosi sent these backbenchers to tie up the Senate," Cramer said, referring to the House impeachment managers, "she sent the rest of the House home instead of leaving them here to carry out the actual work of the American people."

Although the House is not expected to hold any votes this week or the next, the legislative calendar indicated the time period is designated for committee work, which will likely be focused on shaping the legislation for President Joe Biden's Covid relief package.

Over the last few weeks, many GOP senators have made it clear that they do not believe the trial is constitutional, an argument that Trump's impeachment lawyers are expected to focus on this week. Cramer was among several GOP senators who urged the Trump team to focus on process arguments, rather than relitigating discredited election fraud claims.

“The point here is to avoid conviction. It’s not a great moment for trying to score political points,” Cramer said at the time. “And I don’t think litigating the election is a winning strategy. I think it’s got lower percentage of success than a Hail Mary in the Super Bowl.”

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