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A Republican move to punish Liz Cheney would create a pro-Trump litmus test for the party.


Representative Liz Cheney, the No. 3-ranking Republican in the House, has become the most visible and imperiled target of the pro-Trump majority in the G.O.P., and she faces possible punishment from them on Wednesday over her vote to impeach former President Donald J. Trump last month.

She and other House Republicans will gather Wednesday afternoon for a private meeting where lawmakers will have the opportunity to confront her in person. Members of Mr. Trump’s family and some of his allies in Congress want to force her out of her leadership position. House Republican leaders have been mum in recent weeks as they have mulled how to deal with Ms. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

If Republicans do punish Ms. Cheney, they will be creating an unofficial litmus test for any party member seeking office: Do you support Mr. Trump and his actions, including his comments at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington just before a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol? Ms. Cheney and nine other House Republicans voted in favor of an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump for “incitement of insurrection.”

At home in Wyoming, the sense of betrayal among Republicans is burning hot at the moment. It’s especially acute among the conservative grass roots and local party activists whose strong presence in the state helped deliver Mr. Trump his largest margin of victory anywhere — beating Joseph R. Biden Jr. with 70 percent of the vote.

At least one conservative state lawmaker — who described the impeachment vote as “an ice pick in the back” by Republicans who supported it — has printed “Impeach Liz Cheney!” yard signs and is vowing to challenge her in 2022. Ten county-level Republican Party organizations have voted to censure Ms. Cheney in recent days, and more are expected to follow suit.

People close to Ms. Cheney, who insisted on anonymity so they could discuss her private views, said that her break with the pro-Trump faction reflected her belief that many more Republicans share her disgust with how seriously Mr. Trump undermined confidence in the country’s electoral system.

As she watched Mr. Trump and his supporters peddle conspiracy theories and promote what she called “the big lie,” Ms. Cheney became deeply unsettled by how many of her colleagues seemed so cavalier about Mr. Trump’s actions, friends and associates said. In conversations with colleagues, Ms. Cheney has said she hopes her example makes more Republicans in and out of public office comfortable acknowledging that they should have pushed back earlier.

Her allies said that attempts to punish her were counterproductive at a time when the party should be united in opposition to Democratic control of Washington.

“The beneficiaries of Republican fratricide are Democrats,” said Karl Rove, the former Bush strategist, who is close to the Cheney family. “So the more we have purity tests and everyone has to think and act alike, particularly when it comes to former President Trump, it’s only helping Democrats.”

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