Liz Cheney, the daughter of Republican royalty who voted in GOP lockstep throughout the Trump administration, lost her run in the Republican primary for the Wyoming’s lone seat in the House of Representatives to a Trump-endorsed local lawyer Tuesday night.
After expressing an outrage at Trump’s attempted 2020 election overthrow that was initially shared publicly by much of her party, Cheney went on to become the face of the bipartisan January 6 Committee. At one of its televised hearings this summer, she told her Republican colleagues: “There will come a point when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Harriet Hageman, who last year attributed her own 2016 description of Trump as “racist and xenophobic” to having been hoodwinked by “Democrats and Liz Cheney’s friends in the media,” won her state’s race by a landslide. The Associated Press projected her to win with 66 percent of the votes to Cheney’s not-quite 29 percent.
Wyoming’s is the last primary challenge to the small number of House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, and consequently suffered a backlash that ended their congressional careers.
“Two years ago, I won this primary with 73 percent of the vote,” Cheney said at her concession speech Tuesday night. “I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear. But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would’ve required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take.”
In an interview with NPR Tuesday, Terry Gross asked Cheney’s Democrat counterpart on the Jan. 6 committee, Los Angeles Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, if he’d ever tried to talk a Republican colleague out of the belief that Trump really won the 2020 election.
“I haven’t,” Schiff said. “Because for the most part, it’s not necessary. They know the big lie is a big lie. They just lack the courage to do anything about it… They don’t want to be in Adam Kinzinger’s shoes or Liz Cheney’s or anyone else who has stepped up and now decided they had to retire or lose in a Republican primary.”
As the Washington Post notes, Cheney is the fourth House Republican to lose a primary after voting to impeach Trump last year on charges that he incited a riot. The others are Reps. Tom Rice of South Carolina, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington. Cheney’s Wyoming opponent passed the Trumpist loyalty test early in her campaign by baselessly disputing the results of the “rigged” 2020 election, though apparently not this one.
While Cheney conceded primary defeat, she also indicated that she may pursue a higher office.
On NBC’s Today, she hinted at a White House bid, saying, “It is something I’m thinking about, and I’ll make a decision in the coming months.” Cheney added that her priority will be “doing whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.”
While she has virtually no hope in a 2024 presidential primary, Cheney’s 14 percent favorability rating among Republicans may be enough to get her onto a debate stage in a field as concentrated as this one.
Cheney said the remainder of her congressional term will be focused on serving constituents in Wyoming and fulfilling her role as vice chairwoman of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Cheney filed early Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission to establish a leadership PAC with the name “The Great Task”—a reference to the last line of the Gettysburg Address, and signal that her role in politics is not over.
At her primary concession speech, Cheney warned that the survival of American democracy is “not guaranteed” and that denying the legitimacy of fair elections is a step toward tyrany. She said that it’s “entirely foreseeable” that ensuing threats of violence against law enforcement will escalate.
“Our nation is barreling once again towards crisis, lawlessness and violence,” she said. “No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility.”
She also denounced Trump’s evidence-free accusations of wrongdoing by the FBI agents who searched his Mar-a-Lago residence last week to retrieve top-secret documents. “I’m a conservative Republican,” she said. “I believe deeply in the principles and the ideals on which my party was founded… But I love my country more.”
Wyoming has “spoken on behalf of everyone who understands that our government is a government of, by and for the people,” Harriet Hageman said at her victory speech. But her triumph helped make Cheney the nation’s undisputed leader of the Trump GOP opposition.
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