Stefanik privately pledges to serve only through 2022 in House GOP leadership

Rep. Elise Stefanik is only looking to serve one term in GOP leadership.

The New York Republican is telling her GOP colleagues that she intends to finish out the rest of this current cycle as conference chair if she is ultimately elevated to the No. 3 leadership position, according to multiple Republican lawmakers familiar with the conversations.

Then, in the new Congress, she intends to seek the top job on the House Education and Labor Committee, those sources said, a longtime priority for her.

Stefaik’s pledge to limit her time in GOP leadership is just one of several assurances she is making to other House Republicans as she works quickly to lock down support for her leadership bid. While she is widely expected to clinch the post after embattled Conference Chair Liz Cheney likely gets the boot next week, some lawmakers on the far-right have grumbled about her voting scorecard. Other members of the conference have complained they feel boxed in by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is whipping members hard to support Stefanik.

While other GOP members expressed interest in the position, so far none have formally stepped into the race to challenge Stefanik.

Stefanik, a moderate turned Trump ally, is also vowing to toe the party line and not buck leadership whenever they are whipping for or against something — a promise intended to assuage colleagues that she will not rock the boat like Cheney. The current No. 3 not only voted to impeach Donald Trump but also bucked the party a handful of other times on certain votes.

Her pledge of a limited time in leadership comes as some conservative House members have voiced concern about her more moderate record. On Wednesday, members of the House Freedom Caucus aired their grievances on a phone call. Those gripes include that she has a conservative scorecard of less than 50 percent and that McCarthy and others have quickly moved to install her into the position, giving the ultra-conservative caucus no room to express their preferences of who should lead GOP messaging ahead of 2022, POLITICO first reported.

Stefanik is also expected to speak before the Freedom Caucus on Monday as part of her effort to reach out to members who are hesitant -- if not outright opposed -- to her rise to the leadership post, according to sources.

But with Stefanik only vowing to fill out the rest of this term in leadership, it could assuage not only the conservative hard-liners, but other members who have complained about how speedy the Cheney replacement process has been. Several other Republicans have been floated for the conference chair position at some point, including Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice conference chair.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who is currently expected to introduce the resolution to oust Cheney from leadership, is term-limited out as the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, clearing the way for Stefanik to run for the top panel post next Congress. Stefanik is also a member of the high-profile House Intelligence Committee, where she propelled herself to GOP stardom during Trump’s first impeachment.

House Republicans will gather next Wednesday at 9 a.m. for their weekly conference meeting, where the vote on Cheney is expected to come up. A separate vote on her replacement would then need to take place, though the timing on that vote is still to be determined.

Stefanik’s meteoric rise goes hand in hand with the conference moving to oust Cheney as she doubled and tripled down on her views about the deadly Jan. 6 attack, arguing as her colleagues moved to shore up support for her replacement that the “2020 presidential election was not stolen.”

“Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” Cheney tweeted on Monday.

While Cheney is fighting to project her message of how the GOP needs to change course, she is not fighting to remain in leadership, aiding efforts by Republican leaders to put Stefanik in this position.

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GOP grapples with extremist episodes among its own

The House GOP’s No. 3 leader recently urged Republicans to make clear they’re not the party of white supremacy. Two days later, one of their members spoke at a conference organized by a known white nationalist.

The whiplash between Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) plea and Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) public speech underscores just how tough it is for GOP leaders to rein in members who cater to the extreme wings of the party. As Republicans increasingly grapple with how — or even whether — to exorcise the most radical elements from their party, their leaders’ jobs won’t get any easier.

The House GOP has so far not confronted a huge political problem from Gosar’s speech to the America First Political Action Conference, or from other incidents that link a few of its members to far-right imagery or rhetoric.

But some fear that if the conference — which just ushered in a historically diverse freshman class — doesn’t stomp out those political brush fires now, there’s a risk they will spread and engulf the party. Democrats are already trying to make QAnon, the far-reaching conspiracy theory labeled as a domestic terrorism threat by the FBI, the face of the GOP ahead of the midterms.

“I think the organization that [Gosar] spoke to is one that has expressed views that are clearly racist … This is not the kind of an organization or an event that other members of Congress should be participating in,” said Cheney, the House GOP Conference chair who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

“I've been very clear about the extent to which we have to stand against white supremacists, stand against anti-Semitism,” added Cheney. “And that should not be part of our public discourse.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the top two GOP leaders, have been silent on Gosar thus far, though both have condemned racism and bigotry in all forms. Said McCarthy spokesperson Mark Bednar: "There is absolutely no place for racism in our discourse or society."

Other Republicans privately said they were disturbed by Gosar’s appearance at the white nationalist conference and are concerned that it tacitly signals the embrace of extremist groups that have no place in the GOP. Only some were publicly willing to call out Gosar's attendance at the event.

“From what I understand of what AFPAC is and what it stands for, it is unbecoming of a member of Congress to speak or attend the conference,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the head of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus in the House GOP conference.

The episode comes as most Republicans also voted, but failed, to keep freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in her committee assignments after she circulated conspiracy theories and endorsed social media posts calling for violence against Democrats.

Now, Republicans are questioning whether the embrace of far-right groups by federal lawmakers is giving power to organizations that had previously been stifled on the national stage.

“It's always been lurking in the shadows. And then they have a convention. ... It is completely nuts,” one GOP lawmaker said of the AFPAC event, where organizer Nick Fuentes called for protection of “the white demographic core” and pushed other racist rhetoric.

“It's really disgusting, nefarious stuff," this Republican lawmaker added. "And this is the stuff you have to just actively beat back.”

The GOP’s rightward drift toward extremism has been years in the making, but the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 — when white supremacists, Holocaust deniers and QAnon believers stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s win — has only amplified a bitter internal debate about the direction of the party.

Democrats argue that moves like Gosar's speech prove that extremists are winning the battle for the GOP's soul.

“The idea that a sitting member of Congress would go and show his support and solidarity for racist white nationalists is an outrage,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the lead impeachment manager during Trump's second impeachment trial, which ended in his acquittal of inciting the Jan. 6 attack.

“But it is a terrible statement about the moral deterioration of the Republican Party. I would hope that the Republican caucus would immediately take action against members who are consorting with white nationalists,” he added.

That's not to say House Republican leaders haven't vocally condemned white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other racist beliefs. Gosar himself denounced “white racism” and later tried to distance himself from AFPAC. But the Arizonan also told the Washington Post that he was seeking to cultivate relationships with new voters.

GOP leaders have dismissed accusations that Republicans are increasingly tolerant of far-right ideologies in an effort to not alienate voters, particularly those brought to into the party's fold under Trump.

Yet the former president has winked at the QAnon movement and refused to denounce white nationalist groups like the Proud Boys during the first presidential debate last year. Instead, Trump said the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by,” which the group has turned into a slogan. He also said there were "very fine people on both sides" of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

“I think most people are going out of their way to distance themselves from the extremists,” said another GOP lawmaker. “But some people are embracing it. And other people may be not paying enough attention to what they’re doing.”

“We all need to pay more attention to the things we say and do, and where we say and do them,” this Republican lawmaker added.

McCarthy (R-Calif.), who wants to unite the party in his drive to win back the House, has recently claimed to not know what QAnon is and routinely mispronounces its name. He also did little to stop Greene from winning her runoff race even after POLITICO uncovered a string of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic Facebook videos she made.

And Scalise (R-La.), who survived a 2017 assassination attempt when a radicalized left-wing gunman opened fire on GOP members playing baseball, has called out Democrats for failing to condemn violence during Black Lives Matter protests over the summer that responded to police brutality against unarmed Black people.

“We’ve been very vocal speaking out against white supremacy, any kind of bigotry, or hatred,” Scalise said. “I think it’s important that you call it out wherever you see it. Not only on the opposite side of the aisle, but on your own.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has gone further, making clear that far-right extremists such as Greene have no place in the party. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said last month.

This year isn't the first time House GOP leaders have faced problematic right-wing members in their ranks. Former Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) — who also spoke at AFPAC last week — espoused white nationalist views and other controversial beliefs during his time in office, but it took years for Republican leaders to punish him by kicking him off his committees. When King finally lost his primary in 2020, party leaders sighed with relief.

Today there is a growing cohort of members who could create King-like headaches for GOP leaders. Aside from Greene and Gosar, freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has associated with far-right gun groups; freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has faced scrutiny for past social media posts about Adolf Hitler, which he later said were a mistake; and Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) were ringleaders of the effort to challenge the election certification in Congress.

Investigators are looking into what role, if any, lawmakers played in the Jan. 6 riots. Boebert has been criticized for live-tweeting Speaker Nancy Pelosi's whereabouts during the siege; she also denied giving Capitol tours to anyone other than her family ahead of the riots.

Notably, Republicans' internal discussions over how to handle far-right ideology come as they criticize Democrats for failing to loudly denounce some of their own members' controversial remarks — particularly Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose comments on Israel were met with a resolution from her party denouncing hate speech.

“In our political discourse, there are things that should be beyond the bounds,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). "And ideology of hate is beyond the bounds, whether it's on the left or the right."

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Cheney to keep her leadership position after tense GOP meeting

Rep. Liz Cheney will keep her job as the No. 3 House Republican after a resounding victory on Wednesday evening, easily beating back a conservative-led push to oust her as conference chair for voting to impeach Donald Trump.

The effort by Trump loyalists to punish Cheney, the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership, had been brewing for weeks and finally came to head during a heated, closed-door meeting that stretched for more than four hours as several dozen members defended or condemned her.

But in the end, the overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted on a secret ballot to keep Cheney in power: 145 Republicans voted against the resolution calling on her to step down, while just 61 voted for it, according to sources with knowledge of the tally.

Cheney’s victory also represents a big win for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who at the start of the “family discussion” offered a full-throated defense of Cheney and made the case for her to stay in leadership — a critical boost for the Wyoming Republican.

McCarthy, who is desperate to turn the page on his party’s internal conflicts, told Republicans they need to be united to win back the House in 2022 and pleaded with his party to move on. And ousting Cheney could have had disastrous optics for the GOP, even though the party remains largely pro-Trump.

After the meeting, the top three GOP leaders held a brief news conference and put on a united front.

“We addressed this as a family, addressed this as a team and ultimately finally worked to have a vote to keep the entire team together and ultimately kept the team much stronger,” said a visibly jubilant McCarthy. “Because while we aired those grievances, everyone tonight was united.”

Cheney told members behind closed doors that she won’t apologize for her impeachment vote, but she defended why she put out a statement on her position a day before the floor vote — timing that incensed many Republicans, since it handed Democrats a fresh batch of talking points. Cheney had been making and fielding calls to members in the run-up to the meeting.

“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we can move forward together,” Cheney said after the vote. "We're not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership."

Now, McCarthy and GOP leaders hope they can put the Cheney chapter behind them and finally rally around a common goal: countering the Biden agenda and climbing their way back to power.

But McCarthy isn’t in the clear. The party is still reeling from the deadly attack on the Capitol, which has sparked a bitter battle for the future of the GOP. Trump is still promising to be a major player in the party. Cheney’s critics are still fuming. And Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) just formed a super PAC to target the pro-Trump wing of the party.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are pushing ahead with a Thursday floor vote on a resolution to strip freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments over her past incendiary remarks. McCarthy tried to get Democrats to back off, but they didn’t bite on his offer of an alternative form of punishment.

McCarthy is now declining to take punitive action against Greene himself, instead slamming Democrats for their “partisan power grab.” But that means Republicans will be forced to go on the record over Greene — a scenario they were hoping to avoid.

But even as Greene remains defiant publicly, she apologized to the conference for her past rhetoric during the Wednesday night meeting, which earned her a standing ovation from some members.

"She came inside our conference and denounced them as well. She said she was wrong," McCarthy said. "She has reached out in other ways and forms. And nothing that she said has been based upon since she has been a member of Congress."

During the meeting, McCarthy said that while he didn’t agree with Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump, he said she had a right to vote that way. He also said members need to trust their leaders and can’t question every single decision they make.

After leadership addressed the conference, the meeting quickly turned into a “fiery” exchange, as one source inside the room described it. Rep. Daniel Bishop (R-N.C.) kicked things off by formally introducing a resolution calling on Cheney to step down from her post.

Then dozens of lawmakers began lining up at the mics to speak their mind, with members either airing their grievances over Cheney or delivering passionate defenses of the Wyoming Republican.

Lawmakers who were critical of Cheney painted her as out of step with the majority of the conference, where over 120 House Republicans voted to challenge the election resolution and just 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump. They also argued that, as conference chair, Cheney has a responsibility to be aligned with her party because she is in charge of messaging efforts.

And Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) spoke up and took aim at Cheney’s past effort to support one of his primary challengers — a gripe he first brought up during a private meeting last summer, when conservatives piled onto Cheney over her criticism of Trump.

But Cheney’s supporters argued that the GOP can’t shun voices of dissent inside their ranks and said she had every right to vote her conscience. They also warned that purging Cheney, the highest ranking Republican woman, over her perceived disloyalty to Trump could be disastrous in the next midterms.

During the meeting, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina — who also voted to impeach Trump — criticized McCarthy for trekking down to Mar-a-Lago last week to make amends with Trump, according to sources inside the room. After that meeting, McCarthy made clear that Trump would be an integral part of the GOP’s efforts to win back the House.

Rice also voiced frustration that a Cheney attack page was posted on WinRed, the GOP’s online fundraising platform designed to be a counterweight to Democrats’ ActBlue.

Some have framed the debate over Cheney as a proxy war for the heart and soul of the post-Trump GOP, which has been wracked by inner turmoil since the deadly insurrection on the Capitol.

"I don't think this is about Liz Cheney. ... This is about the direction of our party, and whether or not we're going to be, you know, a minority dedicated to just one person, or we're going to be a Republican, a united Republican majority,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who also backed impeachment. “That’s what we’re talking about."

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Liz Cheney’s problems pile up

Liz Cheney was once considered the future of the GOP. Now she’s fighting to keep her political career alive.

After voting to impeach Donald Trump last week, the highest-ranking woman in the House GOP finds herself at risk of losing her leadership post; staring down a pro-Trump primary challenge; and censured by her own party back home in Wyoming.

The most immediate threat to Cheney — a push by Trump loyalists to oust her as conference chair — has gained momentum inside the House GOP, although the process is complicated and could still sputter out. But at least 107 Republicans, or just over a majority, have communicated to the leaders of that effort that they would support removing Cheney from leadership on a secret ballot, according to multiple GOP sources involved in the effort. Others are threatening to boycott future conference meetings if she remains in power.

And at least two members have privately signaled interest in replacing Cheney as the No. 3 Republican, sources say: Reps. Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin, two New Yorkers who both sprang to popularity in the party after fiercely defending Trump during his first impeachment.

If Cheney does lose her post, it will be the latest sign that the Trumpification of the Republican Party isn't stopping anytime soon, even after the ex-president flew off to Mar-a-Lago with a disgraced legacy in Washington. Some say the Cheney fight has already become a proxy battle for the heart and soul of the splintered GOP.

“She has proven that she is out of step with the vast majority of our conference and the Republicans across the nation,” said freshman Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana), who is spearheading the resolution calling on Cheney to step down. “A lot of people within our conference have a problem with it.”

“There are other people who are absolutely interested in filling that void, I will tell you,” he added of potential Cheney replacements. “And they would have broad-based support.”

Long simmering frustrations with Cheney — once a fast-rising star in the GOP — have spiked inside the GOP, especially among its right flank, according to interviews with over a dozen lawmakers and aides. Members are not only angry with her impeachment vote, but also furious that Cheney announced her position a day ahead — giving Democrats ample time to use her statement in all of their talking points, while also providing cover to the nine other Republicans who backed impeachment.

A compilation video of the multiple times Democrats and news media cited Cheney’s statement on impeachment has even been circulating in some GOP circles. As conference chair, Cheney is in charge of the party’s messaging efforts.

But several other senior Republicans think Cheney ultimately hangs on to her post, arguing most Republicans will have little appetite for creating more chaos in the conference at a time when the party is desperate to unite.

And behind the scenes, Cheney has been doing a bit of damage control: she has been making calls to all corners of the conference to hear lawmakers out and ensure the party is unified going forward, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

“Removing Liz as the Conference Chair when she did exactly what the Leader told all of us to do – vote her conscience – sends a bad message,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “And I’ve spoken with many members of our Conference who have expressed their support for Liz and her leadership. I have confidence she will remain in her position and she has my support.”

While GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) have both said they want Cheney to remain in her job, McCarthy also told reporters Thursday that “questions need to be answered,” such as the “style in which things were delivered.” Members will have an opportunity to air those grievances at next week’s closed-door conference meeting, McCarthy added.

The GOP is far from unified when it comes to Cheney’s future. She has her share of ardent and high-profile defenders in the House, including several ranking committee members and her home state Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said her “strong voice and leadership will matter this next four years more than ever.”

Cheney’s allies argue that removing her from leadership — and thereby aligning the party even more closely with Trump — could backfire ahead of 2022. It could also help Cheney carve out a unique lane if she chooses to launch a White House bid in 2024, they say.

“I think it'd be a disaster,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) said of Cheney’s potential ouster. “We need to keep our eye on the ball. We have a very great chance of taking the majority.”

“And if we continue to give the American people a vision of Republican internal fratricide,” he added, “that doesn't do us any favors in convincing them that we're better apt to lead the House of Representatives, come midterm Presidency of Joe Biden.”

Even if Cheney does manage to cling on to her leadership perch, she’s still facing serious questions about her long-term future in the House GOP, which is still overwhelmingly pro-Trump. Some lawmakers think she’ll never be able to run for leadership again.

Meanwhile, her political problems back home have started to pile up: state Sen. Anthony Bouchard has already announced a primary challenge, though it could be tough to knock out someone with a national profile as large Cheney's. And the Wyoming GOP unanimously agreed to censure Cheney last weekend over her impeachment vote.

It’s a remarkable turn for Cheney, who clinched a seat at the leadership table in just her second term in Congress. Cheney, 54, even passed on a Senate bid last year to seek her fortunes in the House, leaving some wondering if she would take on McCarthy or Scalise for the top spot one day.

Yet Cheney — who has clashed with colleagues before — has so far rebuffed calls to step aside. She also was unapologetic about her impeachment stance, framing it as a vote of conscience and privately telling colleagues she wanted to be on the right side of history, political consequences be damned.

“We’re going to have these discussions inside the conference. We have differences of opinion about a whole range of issues, including about this one,” Cheney said Thursday on Fox News. “I anticipate and am confident that we will be united as a conference going forward.”

Cheney’s critics began circulating a petition last week demanding a special conference meeting to debate and vote on the resolution calling on Cheney to resign. Just 20 percent, or 43 members, of the House GOP is required to sign the petition in order to force the meeting.

But support from two-thirds of the conference is needed to hold an immediate vote on the resolution. Otherwise, it goes to a special panel, which includes some members of leadership. And only if that committee reports a favorable recommendation would the resolution go before the full conference for a vote, which would be conducted via secret ballot.

So far, the anti-Cheney crew has yet to submit the petition for a special meeting, though members have expressed confidence that they have the numbers on their side.

The group has also been conducting a temperature check inside the GOP to gauge whether a majority supports her stepping down as conference chair. Rosendale said multiple members fear they will be retaliated against if they publicly call to remove Cheney, which is why they’re more willing to vote on a secret ballot than sign a petition.

“It’s an extremely sensitive issue anytime that you’re going to challenge the leadership,” Rosendale said. “Most members are concerned about how this vote could impact their committee assignments.”

Many of the same Republicans who backed the president’s baseless election fraud allegations, such as Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), are now leading the charge against Cheney.

This isn’t Cheney's first dust-up with the GOP’s right wing. Last summer, members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus ripped Cheney for criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, as well as for supporting a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).

At the time, some hard-liners even discussed recruiting someone to challenge Cheney for conference chair — Stefanik and Zeldin were both floated — but no one stepped up. Cheney was then unanimously selected in November to serve another two-year term in leadership.

Some lawmakers doubt whether Stefanik or Zeldin would mount a bid this time around, either. Stefanik, who gave Cheney’s nominating speech in November, has been telling at least some of her colleagues she doesn't want the job. Other GOP sources, however, have told POLITICO she is making early calls to lawmakers to feel out their support.

And then there is Zeldin, who would face the challenging optics of booting the only woman from GOP leadership, right after a record-breaking number of Republican women were elected to Congress. Plus, major corporations have frozen donations to lawmakers who challenged the election results — which includes Zeldin and Stefanik — giving a Cheney an edge there.

In a sign of how intense the issue has become, offices that are choosing to stand behind Cheney are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-Cheney spam emails, according to lawmakers/aides.

Yet that hasn’t stopped some members from voicing their support for Cheney.

“As we figure out where Republicans go from here, we need Liz's leadership,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), who serves with Cheney on the Armed Services Committee. “We must be a big tent party or else condemn ourselves to irrelevance.”

Said another House Republican: “If I would not vote to impeach the silliest Republican in DC, why would I vote to remove the most serious Republican in DC.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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McCarthy says Trump accepted some responsibility for Capitol riot

GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told House Republicans Monday that President Donald Trump bears some blame for last week’s deadly Capitol riots and has accepted some responsibility, according to four Republican sources on a private call.

McCarthy’s remarks came during a House GOP-wide conference call — their first meeting since a mob of pro-Trump rioters assaulted the Capitol building and left five people dead in an attempt to halt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. McCarthy also told members that he urged Trump to call up Biden and congratulate him for his win, sources said.

The California Republican’s description of his conversation with Trump runs counter to the public stance held by the president, who hasn’t accepted any blame for encouraging his supporters to go to the Capitol and pressure lawmakers into overturning his 2020 loss.

The GOP meeting, which lasted over two hours, offered Republicans an opportunity to air their safety concerns, ask questions about the attack, and discuss ways other than impeachment to hold Trump accountable for his role in inciting the violent mob. Democrats are aiming to bring impeachment articles to the floor this week and are expecting to get some bipartisan support.

McCarthy — who is one of Trump’s closest allies and is opposed to impeachment — acknowledged that they have some serious work to do in uniting the GOP conference, which is now bitterly divided.

“Now is a far greater and more urgent task,” McCarthy told members on the call, according to one source familiar with the remarks.

To the outrage of many Republicans, it took Trump nearly 24 hours to release a video condemning the violence and lawlessness that overtook Capitol Hill. Trump acknowledged emotions were running “high” and said he was turning his focus to “ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.” But the president avoided taking any personal blame for urging his followers to go to the Capitol on Wednesday to protest the election being taken from them.

“To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country,” Trump said. “And to those who broke the law, you will pay.”

Before the conference call, McCarthy — who has been hearing out members in one-on-one conversations in the days since the riots — sent a letter to his Republican colleagues saying he is opposed to impeachment, though he didn’t mention Trump by name.

Instead, McCarthy outlined a number of other options that some members have expressed interest in pursuing, including censuring Trump and forming a commission to investigate the Capitol attack. Some of those options were discussed on the conference call.

But even with those choices up for debate, there are still as many as 10 House Republicans who are seriously considering backing impeachment, including GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming and frequent Trump critic Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

During the call, Cheney did not tip her hand on her impeachment stance, but framed it as a "vote of conscience" and "not a political vote," according to a source.

The meeting came after multiple House Republicans privately expressed anger and frustration with McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) for failing to show leadership during the crisis and not publicly pushing back on Trump. Members were also incensed that the pair carried on with the election challenges after the riots temporarily derailed floor action and forced members, staffers and reporters to hunker down in safe rooms.

Some freshman lawmakers were more vocal about how much work the GOP needs to do to win back the American people’s confidence.

“It didn’t have to end like this, with five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer,” Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) wrote in Sunday Op-Ed published in the Detroit News.

“If the Republican party ever hopes to regain the public’s trust and lead the country forward after this heinous assault, it must first be honest with itself,” Meijer concluded.

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