Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) delivers her concession speech in Jackson. Photo from Getty Images.
By Terrance Turner
Aug. 16, 2022
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) has lost her House seat tonight. As polls close in Wyoming’s Republican primary, her challenger Harriet Hageman, a natural resources attorney, maintains a two-to-one advantage over Cheney with 13% of the vote counted, CNN reports. (UPDATE: CNN has now projected that Hageman has won the primary.) Cheney seems poised to lose her office — simply because she refused to follow her GOP colleagues and echo “The Big Lie” perpetuated by Donald Trump.
In the wake of his decisive defeat in the 2020 presidential election, Trump claimed that there was massive voter fraud and that he had actually won. An Associated Press review of “every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump” uncovered fewer than 475 instances (not all of which were cast in favor of Biden). That figure would have had no bearing on the outcome of the election — in which over 150 million votes were cast. Despite these studies — and over 60 lawsuits proving him wrong — Trump persisted.
He was joined by GOP congresspeople like Sen. Ted. Cruz (Texas), Rep. Mo Brooks (Alabama), Rep. Paul Gosar (Arizona) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia). Hageman, who fought against environmental regulations as a lawyer, only recently fully embraced the former president’s false narratives about a “stolen” election. “Absolutely the election was rigged. It was rigged to make sure that President Trump could not get reelected,” Hageman said at a recent campaign event, according to the Casper Star Tribune, which noted cheers from the crowd. “What happened in 2020 is a travesty.”
Trump endorsed Hageman in September 2021. “Harriet Hageman adores the Great State of Wyoming, is strong on Crime and Borders, powerfully supports the Second Amendment, loves our Military and our Vets, and will fight for Election Integrity and Energy Independence,” he said in a statement at the time. “Unlike RINO Liz Cheney, Harriet is all in for American First.” (In supporting Hageman, Trump is overlooking her previous efforts to keep him out of the White House. In 2016, she supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, calling Trump “the weakest candidate” for president among Republicans and worried that nominating “somebody who is racist and xenophobic” would hurt the GOP’s chances in the general election, The New York Times reports.)
But Cheney refused to buy into the lie — and it cost her. Cheney (the No. 3- ranking Republican in the House) was removed from her post as House Conference Chair on May 12, 2021. House Republicans ousted her because she refused to endorse Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was rigged, and because she voted to convict Trump after he incited the Capital riot on January 6th.
House members removed her via voice vote. They opted not to hold a recorded vote after Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said that they should vote by voice to show unity. But Cheney stood firm, telling her colleagues before the vote: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person. You have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.”
“We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country,” Cheney said, according to CNN. The New York Times reports that Republicans booed Cheney during her remarks.
But Cheney remains unbowed, telling reporters afterward: “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets near the Oval Office.”
The night before, in a floor speech addressing the House, Liz Cheney refused to back down. Despite facing her all-but-certain removal from office, she remained defiant. She urged her colleagues to understand and reject the threat posed by former President Donald Trump: “Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.”
“We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed,” Cheney said. “Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Even after being kicked out of her chair, Cheney continued to hold firm. She even served as vice chair for the January 6th Commission, which examined how Trump’s relentless promotion of the Big Lie sparked a deadly riot at the Capitol. “On this point, there is no room for debate. Those who invaded our Capitol and battled law enforcement for hours were motivated by what President Trump had told them: that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful President.
President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack.You will also hear about plots to commit seditious conspiracy on January 6th, a crime defined in our laws as “conspir[ing] to overthrow, put down or destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to oppose by force the authority thereof.” Multiple members of two groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, have been charged with this crime for their involvement in the events leading up to and on January 6th. Some have pled guilty.
The attack on our Capitol was not a spontaneous riot. Intelligence available before January 6th identified plans to “invade” the Capitol, “occupy” the Capitol, and take other steps to halt Congress’ count of Electoral Votes that day. In our hearings to come, we will identify elements of those plans, and we will show specifically how a group of Proud Boys led a mob into the Capitol building on January 6th.”
Tonight, as her defeat was sealed, Cheney delivered a speech that she reportedly had been writing all day. Speaking at a cattle ranch outside Jackson, Wyoming, Cheney (the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney) began with expressions on family. “Among the many, many blessings that we have as Americans,” she said. “the blessing of family is especially most important”. She acknowledged her parents, husband, and children (four of the five were present, except for a daughter who begins law school today).
Cheney recalled the words of a Gold Star veteran who inspired her to uphold her principles: “We must conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of the men and women who wear the uniform of this country,” she said. “This is not a game. Every one of us must be committed to the defense of this miraculous experiment called America.”
“Two years ago, I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could’ve easily done so again,” she said. But, she added, that would’ve meant embracing the Big Lie perpetuated by Trump and his GOP allies. “That was a path I could not and would not take. No House seat — no office in this land — is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect.”