GOP purged Cheney for 'unity,' but Trump bent on retribution

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks to reporters outside the White House after a meeting with President Joe Biden, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – Republican leaders insisted that purging Trump critic Rep. Liz Cheney from their ranks was necessary to unify the party ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

But former President Donald Trump, who celebrated Cheney's ouster by calling her a “bitter, horrible human being,” has made clear he has no interest in putting the hostilities behind him as he continues to seek vengeance and lie about the 2020 election.

“Whatever the rest of the country thinks or whatever his opponents in the news media think, he believes that he lost the White House illegitimately, and that’s a pretty big grudge, so I don't think he's going to give up that sense of grievance very easily,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a longtime Trump friend and informal adviser.

Six months after losing reelection, Trump has emerged more emboldened than ever after House Republicans voted Wednesday to remove Cheney — the Wyoming congresswoman and a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney — from her post as the No. 3 Republican over her repeated criticisms of the former president.

It's the latest sign of how firmly Trump has cemented his grip on a Republican Party that now has little room for those who dare to confront his election delusions — rejected in the courts and by Trump's own attorney general and homeland security officials — even after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

His posture is forcing some Republicans into an awkward straddle of pledging allegiance to Trump while acknowledging the presidency of Democrat Joe Biden. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who has courted Trump and led the purge of Cheney, acknowledged after a meeting Wednesday at the White House that Biden's election was legitimate.

“I don’t think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” he said.

But that's precisely what Trump has been doing.