Even as she was allying herself with Mr. Trump, Ms. Stefanik was playing a leading role in countering his effect on the Republican Party, which lost its House majority that year in part because suburban women were alienated by him. She began an intensive drive to recruit and elect more G.O.P. women, raising huge sums for the task.
But by the following year, with Mr. Trump facing his first impeachment, Ms. Stefanik made it clear she was no longer reluctant to be associated with him. The starkest indication of her shift came during his hearings and subsequent Senate trial, when the New York Republican served as one of the former president’s defenders.
House Republicans voted on May 12 to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their leadership ranks for her refusal to stay quiet about President Donald J. Trump’s election lies.
- Backlash to Impeachment Vote: In January, Ms. Cheney issued a stinging statement announcing that she would vote to impeach Mr. Trump. In the statement, which drove a fissure through her party, she said that there had “never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States” than Mr. Trump’s incitement of a mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. She was among 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him. A group of Mr. Trump’s most strident allies in the House called on her to resign from her leadership post.
- Leadership Challenge: In February, Ms. Cheney fended off a challenge to strip her of her leadership position in a secret ballot vote. Even as a majority of House Republicans opposed impeaching Mr. Trump, most were not prepared to punish one of their top leaders for doing so — at least not under a blanket of anonymity.
- Censure: Ms. Cheney also faced opposition from the Wyoming Republican Party, which censured her and demanded she resign. Ms. Cheney rejected those calls and urged Republicans to be “the party of truth.”
- New Challenge: Ms. Cheney continued her blunt condemnation of Mr. Trump and her party’s role in spreading the false election claims that inspired the Jan. 6 attack, prompting a new push to oust her from her leadership role. This time, the effort was backed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader.
- Removal: Ms. Cheney framed her expulsion as a turning point for her party and declared in an extraordinary speech that she would not sit by quietly as Republicans abandoned the rule of law. She embraced her downfall and offered herself as a cautionary tale in what she is portraying as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. The removal came by voice vote during a brief but raucous closed-door meeting in an auditorium on Capitol Hill.
- Impact and Analysis: What began as a battle over the party’s future after the violent end to the Trump presidency has collapsed into a one-sided pile-on by Team Trump against critics like Ms. Cheney, a scion of a storied Republican family. The episode, a remarkable takedown that reflected the party’s intolerance for dissent and unswerving fealty to the former president, has called attention to internal party divisions between more mainstream and conservative factions about how to win back the House in 2022.
- Successor: On May 14, House Republicans elected Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a vocal defender of Mr. Trump, as their No. 3 leader. Ms. Stefanik pledged to maintain a focus “on unity” as conference chair, but she has also drawn criticism from some hard-right Republicans who have questioned her conservative bona fides.
Her combative tone and willingness to lean into the proceedings as a partisan brawler catapulted her into the limelight, drawing widespread praise from conservatives on social media and attracting the attention of Mr. Trump, who anointed her a “new Republican star.” The attention also led to a significant surge in campaign donations, allowing Ms. Stefanik to build a list of over 200,000 small-dollar donors, according to her aides.
Her performance also won over some of the ultraconservative members she had earlier disdained. Representative Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican who served with Ms. Stefanik as an impeachment defender, recalled in an interview how she had carefully prepared her questioning behind the scenes, and praised how she had calibrated her fierce tone to the proceedings.
“When you’re talking about a bipartisan veterans’ bill that everybody’s going to agree with, you can have a press conference and everybody’s getting along and working together,” Mr. Zeldin said, referring to Ms. Stefanik’s earlier inclination to work across the aisle. “But when you’re talking about impeachment of a sitting president of the United States, it’s different.”
It was those performances and her effort to elect more Republican women to Congress — which bore fruit last year — that inspired party leaders, led by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, to tap Ms. Stefanik as they looked to dethrone Ms. Cheney.
“We need to be united, and that starts with leadership,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Capitalizing on the newfound swell of support from conservatives and the backing of a number of prominent freshmen congresswomen whom she helped elect, Ms. Stefanik turned her attention to bolstering her credentials with some hard-right members who were still skeptical of her.