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Liz Cheney and Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy tried to get Liz Cheney to apologize for how she handled her vote to impeach former President Trump before last week's highly anticipated House GOP conference meeting — a request she refused, two people with direct knowledge told Axios.

Why it matters: Cheney rolled the dice, refusing her leader's ask and counting on her supporters to keep her as conference chair, the party's No. 3 post in the House. Newly empowered, she's now embracing her role as the Republicans' Trump critic-in-chief.

What we're hearing: McCarthy, who hesitated in the first place about holding a vote to oust Cheney, told her privately hours before Wednesday's caucus meeting that their members wanted to hear her say she was sorry.

  • He also suggested it could sway some of her opponents.
  • Cheney's team, though, did a whip count, and she was confident she'd secure at least 142 votes, the sources said.

Inside the room: "Several members have asked me to apologize for the vote, they’ve asked my colleagues who also voted to impeach to apologize for the vote," Cheney (R-Wyo.) told her colleagues.

  • "I cannot do that. It was a vote of conscience. It was a vote of principle — a principle on which I stand and still believe."
  • Toward the end of last week's four-plus hour meeting, Cheney and members of the House Freedom Caucus demanded — for opposite reasons — that the conference take a vote. She ended up winning 145-61.

What to watch: Cheney is now looking to take advantage of her heightened profile.

  • On Monday, she'll hold a virtual fundraising event, according to a copy of an invitation obtained by Axios.
  • Notable guests include former House Speaker John Boehner; Sara Bonjean, a GOP fundraiser and wife of former congressional leadership aide Ron Bonjean; former Florida Rep. Ilheana Ros-Lehtinen; and former George W. Bush official Maria Cino.

She also doubled down on her condemnation of the former president during a Fox News interview Sunday, telling Chris Wallace that Trump “does not have a role as the leader of our party going forward.”

  • "People have been lied to," Cheney said. "President Trump, for months leading up to January 6th, spread the notion that the election had been stolen ... and people need to understand that."

But, but, but: The criticism hasn't completely faded for Cheney.

  • The Wyoming Republican Party voted Saturday to censure her over the Trump impeachment vote.
  • She also retains numerous critics in the Freedom Caucus and national Republican circles.

Editor's Note: The headline and lede on this story have been updated to reflect that Kevin McCarthy asked Liz Cheney to apologize for how she handled the impeachment vote.

Go deeper

Wyoming GOP censures Liz Cheney for voting to impeach Trump

Representative Liz Cheney outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2020. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Wyoming Republican Party voted Saturday to formally censure U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, for voting to impeach former President Trump for a charge of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Cheney and the nine other Republican lawmakers that voted to impeach Trump have faced backlash from constituents in their home states, and from members of their own party in Congress.

5 mins ago - World

Russia fires warning shot at British destroyer in Black Sea

The HMS Defender in the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast on June 18. Photo: Konstantin Sazonchik\TASS via Getty Images

A Russian warship and fighter jet fired "warning" shots at the British Royal Navy’s HMS Defender destroyer for encroaching on waters near Crimea in the Black Sea, Russia's defense ministry said Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the first time since the Cold War that Russia has used live ammunition to deter a NATO vessel, according to AP.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First look: WaPo Trump book's secret title revealed

Cover: Penguin Press

The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker will be out July 20 with "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year," Penguin Press announced.

Breaking: Axios has learned that The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender is moving "Frankly, We Did Win the Election" up to July 20, matching Leonnig-Rucker, from his earlier pub date of Aug. 10.