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RNC votes to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger over work with Jan. 6 panel

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets on Oct. 19, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets on Oct. 19, 2021.

Updated February 4, 2022 at 6:47 PM ET

The Republican National Committee on Friday censured the only two House GOP lawmakers on a panel investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, highlighting the strong hold former President Donald Trump maintains on the party.

The censure resolution said the committee was persecuting "ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse," but after news organizations reported on the resolution, the RNC said that characterization wasn't referring to the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois "crossed a line," said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a statement that added to the original wording of the censure document. "They chose to join 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. That's why Republican National Committee members and myself overwhelmingly support this resolution."

On Twitter, McDaniel addressed the issue further, writing: "I have repeatedly condemned violence on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, this committee has gone well beyond the scope of the events of that day."

Cheney posted on Twitter video of Trump supporters clashing with police on Jan. 6, writing: "This is not 'legitimate political discourse.' "

The RNC accuses Cheney and Kinzinger of conspiring with Democrats to try to "destroy" Trump

Committee leaders convened in Salt Lake City for the RNC's winter meeting.

The censure resolution says that the RNC shall "immediately cease any and all support" of Cheney and Kinzinger as members of the Republican Party.

"The Conference must design the strategy to stop the radical Biden agenda and retire Nancy Pelosi, tasks which require that all Republicans pull in the same direction. ... The Conference must not be sabotaged by Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who have demonstrated, with actions and words, that they support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump more than they support winning back a Republican majority in 2022," the censure document reads.

Ahead of the censure, which was done by voice vote and passed with overwhelming support, Cheney released a blistering statement:

"The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy. I'm a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what."

The censure is largely symbolic for Kinzinger, who announced last year that he will not seek another term in office. In that announcement video, Kinzinger cited his "disappointment in the leaders that don't lead" and rising extremism within the Republican Party.

For Cheney, the censure holds more weight. Already she has been ousted from a leadership chair within the GOP, and Republican leaders have also reportedly made plans to potentially fund a Trump-backed primary challenge against her in the upcoming midterm race.

Still, Cheney, despite finding herself perpetually at odds with Trump and, as a result, the ranks of GOP leadership, has reported fundraising success, pulling one of the highest donor hauls last quarter of the entire cycle.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise
Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.