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Cheney warns that Trump has created the ‘Putin wing’ of the Republican party

‘I believe the issue this election cycle is making sure the Putin wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West Wing of the White House,’ ex-Republican lawmaker warns

John Bowden,Gustaf Kilander
Monday 19 February 2024 16:05 GMT
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Related: Whoopi Goldberg implores Liz Cheney to run 2024 campaign and stop Trump

Former Republican conference chair Liz Cheney has argued that former president Donald Trump has created the “Putin wing” of the Republican Party, a section backing the Russian president.

Ms Cheney, 57, was on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday warning of the Putin wing possibly coming back to the White House in the form of former president Donald Trump.

She slammed the ex-president for his recent comments saying that he wouldn’t protect Nato countries who don’t pay their fair share, recounting how he told a fellow world leader that he would urge Russia to do “whatever the hell they want”.

Ms Cheney also criticised Mr Trump for his silence after the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison camp.

“I think that we have to take Donald Trump very seriously,” Ms Cheney said. “We have to take seriously the extent to which you have now got a Putin wing of the Republican Party.”

“I believe the issue this election cycle is making sure the Putin wing of the Republican Party does not take over the West Wing of the White House,” she added.

Speaking to anchor Jake Tapper, Ms Cheney said: “Donald Trump, as you pointed out, said just a few days ago that he had told a Nato ally that he would encourage [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to do whatever he needed to do, whatever he wanted to do.”

“He’s basically made clear that under a Trump administration, the United States is unlikely to keep its Nato commitments. And I think that Republicans who understand the importance of the national security situation who continue to support him are similarly going to be held to account,” she added.

Calling Mr Trump’s comments on Nato “disgraceful”, Ms Cheney said, “I can’t imagine any other American president of either party since the establishment of Nato saying such a thing. And it’s completely uninformed and ignorant and dangerous”.

“When you think about Donald Trump, for example, pledging retribution, what Vladimir Putin did to Navalny is what retribution looks like in a country where the leader is not subject to the rule of law,” she noted.

She also tore into speaker Mike Johnson over the Republican leader’s refusal to put supplemental funding for Ukraine and Israel up for a vote in the House.

It’s widely thought that, with support from many centre-left Democrats and some progressives, the legislation passed with bipartisan support last week in the Senate would pass the lower chamber. But speaker Mike Johnson has refused to bring the legislation to the floor, citing the demand from right-wing members of his caucus for border security to be addressed before the House passes further funding for other national security priorities.

That position has infuriated Republicans in the Senate, especially since the same faction of the House GOP is responsible for walking away from a bipartisan deal reached on border security by Senate negotiators.

Ms Cheney implored Mr Johnson to find his “conscience” and bring the legislation up for a vote as Ukraine’s military situation begins to look increasingly desperate. The White House this week directly blamed Congress’s inaction for the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from a city that they had been defending from a Russian advance for months.

Addressing CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, she said: “One thing that’s really important, Jake, for the viewers to recognise and understand is, one man, one man has the power to get that done. And that’s Mike Johnson.”

“Mike Johnson ought to search deep in his conscience, understanding exactly what’s happening, the slaughter that’s happening,” she said. “History will look back on this moment, and ask: What did Mike Johnson do?”

His current resistance to bringing the legislation up for a vote, Ms Cheney continued, was the “path of cowardice and doing what Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin want him to do”.

The rhetoric was strong, but not particularly surprising to hear from Ms Cheney, who is no longer a member of the House of Representatives after being ousted in a primary election due to her opposition to Donald Trump in 2022. She has since remained one of Mr Trump and the right wing’s most vocal critics among the national GOP.

Ms Cheney soared to prominence in that regard after agreeing to serve as vice chair of the select committee formed to investigate the January 6 attack on Congress. Just one other Republican, former Rep Adam Kinzinger, served on the panel after then-minority leader Kevin McCarthy pulled his support from the investigation in the course of his journey to mend ties with Donald Trump.

The supplemental legislation passed by the Senate for Ukraine and Israel aid is controversial with the wings of both parties. Left-leaning Democrats oppose the legislation’s funding for Israel’s military given the ongoing bloody siege of Gaza. Hardline Republicans, meanwhile, oppose further aid to Ukraine’s military.

President Joe Biden has pledged to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. The White House has gone to a full-court press against congressional Republicans, seizing on the image of dysfunction and chaos plaguing the lower chamber, which has now ousted one speaker after less than a year in office and ground to a halt due to GOP infighting.

Complicating the issue for Mr Johnson is that despite grumblings about the rule change and its complicity in the downfall of Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House can still be ousted by a discharge petition brought by just one member. His party holds just a two-vote majority in the chamber, meaning just a pair of GOP rebels could bring down his speakership with the support of a unified Democratic caucus.

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