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Conservatives clash with Cheney over her support for Fauci, Massie primary challenger

Conservative lawmakers clashed with House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage Sunday shows - Infrastructure dominates Liz Cheney says allegations against Gaetz are 'sickening,' refuses to say if he should resign MORE (Wyo.) on Tuesday over her public support of Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: US health officials call for J&J vaccine pause over rare blood clots | White House seeks to reassure Five questions raised by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause Biden says vaccine supply not impacted by J&J pause MORE and for previously backing a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold Massie14 Republicans vote against resolution condemning Myanmar military coup House approves bills tightening background checks on guns Can members of Congress carry firearms on the Capitol complex? MORE (R-Ky.).

Reps. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzAssociate indicted in Gaetz scandal cooperating with DOJ: report Trump knocks CNN for 'completely false' report Gaetz was denied meeting The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage MORE (R-Fla.), Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' MORE (R-Ohio) and Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyUS Chamber enters hostile takeover by crony capitalists Exclusive: Biggs offers bill banning federal vaccine passports Both parties look to recruit Asian American candidates as violence against group increases MORE (R-Texas) got in a heated argument with Cheney at a closed-door GOP meeting described by one source in the room as "a war zone," with lawmakers raising their voices during the confrontation.

Tensions flared when members were allowed to step up to microphones in the room to raise questions and concerns. Gaetz asked about the House GOP leadership’s policy on getting involved in primaries, telling leaders that if they are going to get involved, there will be attacks coming back at them, according to multiple sources in the room.

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The question appeared directed at Cheney, who had made donations to Massie's primary challenger, Todd McMurty, but later requested they be returned after racist posts on social media emerged. She also retracted her endorsement of McMurty.

Cheney initially dismissed Gaetz's remarks on Tuesday, noting it was not a political conference meeting, but quipped that she was “looking forward to your documentary,” referring to Gaetz’s upcoming HBO documentary "The Swamp," according to sources.

Gaetz then said he deserved an answer, before House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRepublicans need to stop Joe Biden's progressive assault on America Top academics slam Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act Boehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' MORE (R-Calif.) intervened.

“McCarthy stepped in to conduct a separate meeting among the aggrieved parties and Liz to discuss issues,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “McCarthy tried to defuse it and tell folks he would schedule a separate meeting.”

After the meeting, Gaetz went public with his criticisms of Cheney, tweeting: "Liz Cheney has worked behind the scenes (and now in public) against @realDonaldTrump and his agenda."

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"House Republicans deserve better as our Conference Chair," he added. "Liz Cheney should step down or be removed."

Massie, who was next in line to speak at the microphone during Tuesday's meeting, immediately went after Cheney for initially supporting his primary challenger. Cheney told Massie — who has butted heads with Cheney on a number of policy issues — that he was a “special case” and that his “problem was with the president, not me.”

Massie then shot back that his problem was with her, not President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to move ahead with billion UAE weapons sale approved by Trump Fox News hires high-profile defense team in Dominion defamation lawsuit Associate indicted in Gaetz scandal cooperating with DOJ: report MORE.

Trump previously called for Massie’s ouster after he threatened to jeopardize the quick passage of a record $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in late March.

But the attacks on Cheney didn't stop there.

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Roy blasted the Wyoming Republican for championing Fauci — who has come under fire by a number of conservatives and White House staff — noting that his Democratic opponent for November has retweeted Cheney’s comments in support of the nation's top infectious diseases expert.

Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertEthics panel upholds metal detector fines totaling K against Rep. Clyde Exclusive: Biggs offers bill banning federal vaccine passports Gaetz to speak at Save America summit amid sex trafficking investigation MORE (R-Texas) followed Roy at the microphones and defended Massie, calling him a “fighter” and saying they need more members like him in the conference.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) added that he disagreed with Cheney’s characterization of Massie as a special case and argued that she was undermining Trump by breaking with him on some key issues.

Jordan, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told the room he didn’t intend to speak on the issue but then raised concerns about the number of times Cheney has broken with and criticized the president.

Cheney later described it as a “robust” conversation and that it’s good for the conference to have difficult discussions and debates to get on the same page.

“Listen, we had a robust exchange of views," she told The Hill after the meeting. “You know, we have disagreements, and so that's part of having a healthy conference debate. But I think that it's a healthy thing to have those kinds of disagreements, and I would imagine that we will be able to make sure that we're all together and I'll look forward to being in the majority and having many of those same people want to be team players when were in the majority.”

Cheney added that Republicans should be focused on coronavirus, not making personal attacks.

Massie declined to go into detail about the exchange. 

“You know, I'm trying to get our conference back together, so I'll let other people comment. I don't want to talk about what was said in there," he said.

Updated at 1:05 p.m.