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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.

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.