Trump calls election ‘the big lie’ as grip on party seems only to strengthen

The recent developments suggest a revival of his political fortunes in which those who refuse to go along with his voter fraud claims find themselves on the defensive.

By Associated Press

Donald Trump issued a press release on Monday declaring, “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”

Monday marks the sixth month to the day since he lost his election to President Joe Biden.

The Associated Press reports that Trump and his supporters are intensifying efforts to shame — and potentially remove — members of their party who are seen as disloyal to the former president and who reject his claims that last year’s election was stolen from him.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican in the House, risks losing her leadership post amid her increasingly public dispute with Trump.

In Utah, Sen. Mitt Romney, a rare Trump foe in the GOP, faced the indignity over the weekend of reminding a booing crowd that he was once their presidential standard-bearer. And in Texas, the only openly anti-Trump Republican in a crowded special election for a congressional seat finished a lowly 9th.

“So nice to see RINO Mitt Romney booed off the stage at the Utah Republican State Convention,” Trump crowed in a series of celebratory statements Monday lauding the Texas results and criticism of Cheney and Romney. “RINO” means “Republican in Name Only.”

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Trump left office nearly four months ago with his reputation badly damaged after a Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill led to several deaths. But the recent developments suggest a revival of his political fortunes in which those who refuse to go along with his voter fraud claims find themselves on the defensive.

Michael Wood, the Texas Republican congressional candidate who based his campaign on a vow to push the GOP past what he called Trump’s “cult of personality,” garnered just 3% of the vote in Saturday’s special election, while two Trump supporters, including one he endorsed, will advance to a runoff.

Trump’s grip on the party may only tighten in coming days.

Adding to his flurries of press releases, his powerful Facebook account could be reinstated this week if a quasi-independent oversight board rules in his favor. It has been four months since he last was allowed to post on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Virginia will decide whether to nominate a vocal Trump supporter for governor in one of the few marquee elections on the calendar this year.

An important signal of the party’s direction may come on Capitol Hill, where Cheney’s future is in question.

The Wyoming congresswoman, the most senior Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment, has insisted that the party must reject the former president’s claim that the election was stolen.

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Cheney, who has not ruled out a 2024 run herself, fired back.

“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,” she tweeted.

Clearly she has no intention of scaling back her criticism, even as she faces the possibility of losing her leadership post.

Cheney survived an earlier attempt to oust her from leadership, but it could be different this time. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy stood by her earlier this year, but he has declined to defend her from the latest round of attacks as he faces conservatives restive for her removal. That’s a sign of McCarthy’s own calculations as he works to stay close to Trump while also trying to extend a wider tent to help his party win general elections.

Mike DuHaime, a top Republican strategist, said the party is still grappling with its identity post-Trump, but argued that it will be better positioned going forward if it includes conservatives like Cheney and Romney.

“There are people who are playing to the base of the electorate, which is very passionate and believes the big lie about the election. And it’s enough to win a primary for Congress or Senate or governor, or even president, it seems.” But, he warned, “If we stay focused on only that, it’s not going to be successful enough in the general election to win back the majority.”

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“We have to at some point put this behind us if we want to be successful in a general election.”