Republicans censor Cheney, Kinzinger, call Jan. 6 investigative attack ‘legitimate political speech’

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WASHINGTON, Feb 4 (Reuters) – The Republican Party on Friday censured U.S. Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating in the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump’s efforts to quash his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, calling the investigation an attack on “legitimate political speech”.

Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the Jan. 6 House Select Committee. The panel is investigating who — including people in Trump’s inner circle — played a role in planning or carrying out the worst assault on the US Capitol since the War of 1812.

The resolution censuring Cheney and Kinzinger, approved at a Republican National Committee meeting in Salt Lake City, accused them of “participating in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political speech.”

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Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol that day, smashing windows, assaulting police officers and sending lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence running for their lives after Trump spoke a fiery speech repeating his false claims that his electoral defeat was the result of widespread fraud. .

Friday’s vote had a starkly different tone from a statement the Republican National Committee issued the day of the attack, when it said “these scenes of violence we have witnessed do not represent acts of patriotism. , but an attack on our country and its founding principles”.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said Friday’s resolution targeted the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation, which subpoenaed a range of politicians and Trump White House aides as he tried to reconstruct their role in the events leading up to the assault.

“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line. They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democratic-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political speech that had nothing to do with violence on Capitol Hill. “, she said. She said she “condemned violence from both sides of the aisle”.

The resolution passed in a voice vote as 168 RNC members gathered for their winter meeting. The yes votes were overwhelming, with a handful of no votes, according to reporters at the meeting.

Cheney and Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump for incitement, and they joined the seven Democrats on the panel investigating the attack.

The resolution said Cheney and Kinzinger have hurt Republican efforts to win back majorities in Congress.

The measure said the RNC will “immediately cease all support for them” as party members, but will stop short of calling for their ousting from the party, as originally proposed. The committee uses a portion of its funds to help support Republican candidates in their campaigns.

Trump, who retains a strong grip on his party ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm congressional elections, has been on the warpath against Republicans who have come out against him. Republicans are trying to take control of the House and Senate from President Joe Biden’s Democrats.

‘PERSONS OF CONSCIENCY’

Both lawmakers released statements ahead of Friday’s vote.

“Republican Party leaders have made themselves the willing hostages of a man who admits trying to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon the Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” Cheney said. , referring to the hundreds of Trump supporters charged with various crimes during the violent attack.

Four people died Jan. 6, and a Capitol Police officer died the following day. About 140 police officers were injured and four later died by suicide.

Cheney said she doesn’t recognize those in her party who “have ditched the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump,” who backed her Republican primary challenger in Wyoming.

Kinzinger, who is not seeking re-election, said he has been a conservative Republican since before Trump entered politics. He promised to continue “working to combat the political matrix that has brought us to this point”.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, in an interview with Fox News, did not comment on the censorship but criticized the House committee as purely political.

Not all Republicans are lining up against the two.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney hailed Cheney and Kinzinger as honorable in a Twitter post on Friday. “Shame falls on a party that would censor people of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol,” he wrote.

At least 71 Republican members of Congress transferred money last year to campaigns from Republicans in Congress, including Cheney’s, who backed Trump’s departure from office, according to a Reuters analysis.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy came to their defense Thursday night, writing on Twitter, “RNC censors Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger because they’re trying to find out what happened on Jan 6 – HUH?”

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Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Steve Holland; edited by Jonathan Oatis, Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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