GOP officials on Friday voted to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the only two Republicans involved in the investigation into the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
On the same day that the Republican National Committee (RNC) formally condemned two of former President Donald Trump's most prominent GOP critics, Trump's vice president delivered his most direct rebuke of his former boss's attempt to undermine the 2020 election.
“President Trump is wrong. He had no right to overturn the election," Mike Pence said Friday while speaking at an event organized by the Federalist Society, a conservative rights group.
“President Trump is wrong. He had no right to annul the election,” said @Mike_Pence defiantly. pic.twitter.com/dfTMXCNpvQ
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) February 4, 2022
Pence appeared to be responding to a statement issued by Trump earlier this week, who claimed that Congress' efforts to reform the process by which Electoral College votes are certified are evidence Pence could "cancel the election." . Trump is likely wrong on that, although the law is somewhat vague (hence the ongoing bipartisan effort to clarify it).
But Pence didn't stop there. He went on to say that "there is nothing more un-American" than "to have one person choose the President." It was a clear shot for both his former boss and party leaders, who continue to coddle Trump's delusions about past elections: Democratic legitimacy must outweigh any individual.
The same party officials earlier Friday voted to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois), the only two Republicans involved in the investigation into the Jan. 6 riots at the US Capitol. In a statement, RNC President Ronna McDaniel said that Cheney and Kinzinger "have decided to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of commoners who engaged in legitimate political speech unrelated to Capitol violence." .
Friday afternoon's twin moments point to the ongoing turmoil within the GOP, which is keeping Trump and his most ardent supporters at least partially captive despite, or perhaps because of, the former president's defeat in 2020. The party is not 100 percent owned by the former president, at least not as long as prominent Republicans are willing to say things like "Trump is wrong."
With a view to this year's midterm elections and the approaching start of the next presidential candidate process, the party appears to be split in two. A faction including Cheney, Pence, Kinzinger is committed to upholding the basic principles of democracy and recognizes that Republicans will sometimes lose elections. The other engages with Trump's grievances about the 2020 election, no matter how empty or selfish.
Pence has criticized Trump's election interference in the past, but never as harshly as on Friday. Days before the Jan. 10, 2021 chaos, Pence told reporters he disagreed with Trump's legal acolytes, who believed they had found a loophole that allowed the vice president to discard legitimate electoral votes. In June, Pence went a step further, hinting that he would "never agree" with Trump on the issue.
Pence is a well-respected Republican who successfully fought his way through the chaos of the Trump years and emerged as one of the strongest non-Trump candidates for 2024. politically risky, and how the rest of the GOP react to his comments on Friday will tell us a lot about how far Trump continues to hold the party in his grip.