(L-R) Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) listen during a committee meeting on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
The Republican National Committee on Friday overwhelmingly approved a resolution to censure two of its own members, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, due to their involvement in a Democrat-led investigation of the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
That resolution described the deadly riot, in which hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee their chambers for safety, as “legitimate political discourse.”
Ahead of the censure vote, Cheney in a fiery statement slammed GOP leaders who “have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election.”
“I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump,” said Cheney. “History will be their judge.”
Kinzinger accused his colleagues of allowing “conspiracies and toxic tribalism” to “hinder their ability to see clear-eyed.”
The RNC had condemned the violence in the Capitol on the same day it occurred. “These violent scenes we have witnessed do not represent acts of patriotism, but an attack on our country and its founding principles,” RNC members said in a statement at that time.
The measure to censure Cheney and Kinzinger was adopted by voice vote during the RNC’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. No roll call was taken on the resolution, which passed with almost no dissent, NBC News reported.
After the vote, Cheney tweeted a brief video montage showing rioters violently clashing with police at the Capitol, spraying officers with chemical irritants, and attacking them with flagpoles and, in at least one instance, a hockey stick.
“This was January 6th,” she wrote in the tweet. “This is not ‘legitimate political discourse.'”
The RNC resolved to formally censure Cheney and Kinzinger and “shall immediately cease any and all support of them as members of the Republican Party,” the text of the measure said.
Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:
Their behavior “has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the Conference,” it said.
The resolution claimed Cheney and Kinzinger, the only Republicans on the nine-member select committee investigating the Capitol riot, “are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse, and they are both utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power for partisan purposes.”
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel echoed that language in an interview with The Washington Post. But McDaniel modified that language in a statement to NBC later Friday afternoon, distinguishing the so-called legitimate political discourse from the violent riot.
Cheney and Kinzinger “chose to join [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol,” McDaniel’s latest statement said. The text of the resolution itself made no such distinction.
The resolution cements the Republican Party’s official opposition to Cheney and Kinzinger, who have been pilloried at all levels of the GOP for continuing to vocally criticize Trump in the year following the Capitol riot.
Many other Republicans were willing to target Trump in the days after the attack — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said Trump bore responsibility for it. But most in the GOP have since returned to supporting Trump, who remains the de facto leader of the party and is hinting he may run for president in 2024.
The text of the resolution also accused Cheney and Kinzinger of engaging in actions “which seem intent on advancing a political agenda to buoy the Democrat Party’s bleak prospects in the upcoming midterm elections” through their work on the select committee.