This past week illustrated Mr. McCarthy’s challenge. In a conference call on Wednesday, he instructed House Republicans to “cut the crap,” according to two officials who participated. While he didn’t specify what he had in mind, there were plenty of options, from Republicans’ trying to punish Representative Liz Cheney for voting to impeach former President Donald J. Trump to the extremism of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon devotee whose paper trail of conspiracy mongering keeps growing.
Then on Thursday, Mr. McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Mr. Trump and declare that the former president was “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.” Hours later, two of Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic lieutenants, his eldest son and Representative Matt Gaetz, used a rally in Wyoming to highlight one Republican they’re committed to helping elect next year: whoever challenges Ms. Cheney in her primary.
By Saturday, after Mr. McCarthy’s aides said he would talk to Ms. Greene this week about her conduct, the congresswoman put out word that she had just had a conversation with Mr. Trump and he encouraged her on.
When the opportunity arose to fly across the country to see whether a slick-suited, 30-something congressman from Florida could stage a substantial rally in the name of DONALD TRUMP — in the district of a thrice-elected congresswoman with next-level name recognition — I knew I couldn’t resist.
And you know what, MATT GAETZ pulled it off.
On the steps of the Wyoming statehouse Thursday, at least 800 people were chanting “USA! USA!” while the GOP upstart (joined by DONALD TRUMP JR. via phone) blasted the state’s only congresswoman, LIZ CHENEY. It was a pocket-sized crowd compared to an actual Trump rally, but the maskless baby boomers in red MAGA caps emitted that same feverish voltage.
I knew going in this was Trump country, and that Cheney angered his many fans with her vote to impeach him. But I wanted to try to gauge just how deep the anger ran.
My takeaway, after an admittedly short stay and small sample size: If Cheney were up for reelection in 2021 instead of 2022, she’d be in serious trouble.
Honestly, it was hard to find anyone who would defend Cheney — and I really tried to talk to as many people as I could not at the rally. I stopped at a biker bar, a gun shop, a vape shop, a hardware store, a steakhouse, a diner, a dentist’s office and a pawn shop.
Greene trounced neurosurgeon John Cowan in the runoff and easily won in the fall — paving the way for her emergence as a symbol of the radicalized ideology that believes in QAnon, which inspired the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has enveloped much of the Republican Party while sparking fears of additional violence.
While some Republicans have tried to portray Greene as a political anomaly, her ascent demonstrates the extent to which key party leaders embraced her and propelled her to victory despite her well-documented history of spreading false claims and violent rhetoric. Critical to Greene’s success was the early intervention on her behalf by some of the party’s most staunchly pro-Trump figures and Greene’s ability to tap into the far-right online world where baseless claims thrive.
“She really got ingratiated with the House Freedom Caucus, and they’re the ones who really spring-boarded her,” Cowan told The Washington Post. “They were clearly picking their favorite from very early on.”
Greene said at a  GOP breakfast that “I started getting phone calls from the most conservative members in the House Freedom Caucus. Debbie Meadows — Mark Meadows’ wife — Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Biggs (R-Ariz.) is chairman of the Freedom Caucus.Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene at Axios:
At the time, Mark Meadows was preparing to resign his seat as a North Carolina member of the House to become Trump’s chief of staff, and Debbie Meadows would become executive director of Right Women, a political action committee devoted to electing women who agree to become members of the House Freedom Caucus. The website of Right Women said that it has a “robust vetting process,” suggesting it would have been aware of the reporting about Greene’s comments.
Greene also came up repeatedly during McCarthy's leadership meetings last summer, a source with direct knowledge told Axios.
- Scalise, Cheney and Walker gathered for the weekly meeting in the conference room of McCarthy's office in the Capitol and plotted how they should deal with her.
- Walker, now running for North Carolina's open Senate seat in 2022, strenuously argued they needed to do more to stop this "crazy" woman who threatened to bring down the party, according to a source with direct knowledge.
- Cheney (R-Wyo.) also spoke up aggressively in these meetings about the danger of having Greene in the party.
- Scalise (R-La.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) ended up putting out statements condemning her, yet McCarthy didn't do much beyond that once it was clear she was going to win the race by a healthy margin.