Liz Cheney Faces Long Odds in Primary Battle After Trump, Jan. 6 Comments

By Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord
Joseph Lord is a congressional reporter for The Epoch Times.
January 24, 2022Updated: January 24, 2022

News Analysis

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is facing a tough primary battle later this year after her comments about former President Donald Trump and her activities on the Democrat-dominated committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Since the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, Cheney has increasingly distanced herself from the former president. However, that’s a dangerous move for the would-be moderate, as Trump remains the leader of the Republican Party for many GOP voters.

Recent opinion surveys show that in both Wyoming and across the nation, Cheney’s positions are far from popular among GOP voters, setting the Wyoming Republican up for a difficult primary challenge from Trump-endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman.

Cheney Sided With Democrats on Jan. 6 Protest

In early 2021, Cheney joined congressional Democrats in blaming Trump for the breakdown of order during the Jan. 6, 2021, protest which, according to Cheney, constituted an “insurrection” against the United States government. While the House commission has turned up no evidence that the rally was part of a larger conspiracy by senior Republican officials to overthrow the U.S. government, Cheney has persisted in the claim.

Cheney, who was stripped of her role as the House’s No. 3 Republican over her repeated criticism of Trump, also has joined Democrats on issues related to the 2020 election. Many Republicans, including Trump, have said that there were statistical improbabilities and other indicators of potential fraud in the 2020 election that throw the results of that election into doubt.

But Cheney, again, has rejected this claim.

Cheney is also one of only two Republicans with a seat on the Jan. 6 committee, which critics—including House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)—have accused of blatantly partisan behavior in favor of Democrats.

While on the commission, Cheney and GOP colleague Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who himself has long been a Trump opponent, have joined Democrats in issuing subpoenas for top Trump-era officials, including former White House adviser Steve Bannon and chief of staff Mark Meadows. Bannon and Meadows refused the subpoena, citing executive privilege as former members of the executive branch.

While there is practically no legal precedent to address the competing claims of executive privilege and legislative subpoena, Cheney and Kinzinger joined with committee Democrats in advancing a contempt of Congress charge against both Bannon and Meadows.

Recently, Cheney and Kinzinger have joined Democrats in expanding their search for the still-undiscovered evidence of criminal sedition.

Thus far, the committee has asked two sitting lawmakers, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), to appear and testify before the committee. Both have refused, potentially setting the stage for a censure vote or other punishment against the two.

Cheney also has been silent on the treatment of defendants arrested in connection with the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

In a months-long investigation, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and a coalition of other Republican lawmakers found that the conditions faced by the Jan. 6 “political prisoners” in the District of Columbia jail system have been “nothing short of human rights violations.”

Many of the defendants, according to Greene, have been held without bail and without a trial for months, in contravention of their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial. Many have been denied visits with their families, while others have been denied razors, haircuts, and even bathroom access.

A recent surprise investigation of the D.C. jail by the U.S. Marshals Service, which found evidence of “deficiencies” in the jail’s living conditions, appears to vindicate Greene’s claim. Acting U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia Lamont Ruffin said at the time officers had found evidence that water was shut off to inmates as punishment.

Along with others on the Jan. 6 committee, Cheney has been silent about the allegations.

Poll: GOP Voters Disagree With Cheney’s Actions

Cheney’s actions over the past year have done little to endear her to Republican voters, many of whom still look to Trump for leadership and guidance. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Republicans, in addition to a substantial percentage of Democrats and independents, disagree with the Jan. 6 committee’s actions and claims.

One poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, asked likely voters about broad issues related to Jan. 6 and the 2020 election.

Rasmussen found that 61 percent of GOP voters agree that the Biden administration’s Department of Justice and FBI have “targeted non-violent American patriots.” More surprisingly, more than a third of Democrat respondents (35 percent) and 49 percent of crucial independent voters agreed with the statement.

The poll also found that a majority of black voters (58 percent), who have historically caucused with Democrats, agree that Jan. 6 defendants are being held as “political prisoners,” compared to 44 percent of white voters who agree with the designation.

Voters also were asked whether they believe that President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said that he hadn’t, in addition to 41 percent of independents and a surprisingly high 14 percent of Democrats.

These results are bad news for Cheney, who has thrown her fortunes behind the opposite positions.

Trump-Endorsed Challenger Wins Recent Straw Poll

While Republicans across the nation vie for Trump’s endorsement before the 2022 midterm elections, in Wyoming, the former president has already endorsed a primary challenger against Cheney, attorney Harriet Hageman. In the small red stronghold of Wyoming, which has only one House seat, a primary victory all but guarantees victory in the general election.

For Cheney, achieving this primary victory is shaping up to be a steep challenge.

Hageman has vowed to stand up for election integrity, saying on her website that “tens of millions of Americans have lost faith in the security and integrity of our elections.”

“We must rebuild that trust,” she said.

Hageman has also promised that in Congress she will be “demanding transparency in government” and will help to “rein in the surveillance state.”

She has campaigned on America First principles, saying that she would work to secure the borders, keep manufacturing jobs in the United States, and restart America’s domestic energy sector, which is currently reliant on Russian and Saudi oil due to Biden’s climate policies.

In both 2016 and 2020, Trump won the state by nearly 40-point margins. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won only 21.6 percent of the state’s vote; Biden fared only a few points better in 2020, winning around 26 percent of the vote.

While Cheney may hope that the so-called insurrection and Trump’s claims of election fraud would change minds in the state, a recent straw poll indicates that Wyoming Republicans remain as enthusiastic for Trump as ever.

The Jan. 22 straw poll, which asked 71 Wyoming GOP activists to cast a vote in support of Cheney, Hageman, or someone else, ended conclusively in Hageman’s favor. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, 59 votes were cast for Hageman. Cheney, by contrast, received only six. The other votes were cast for Wyoming state lawmakers.

“I think it’s a good sign. It’s not an endorsement, but these are the county activists,” Hageman told the paper after the votes were tallied.

While the poll focused on the attitudes of GOP activists rather than on rank-and-file Wyoming voters, it provides a glimpse into the prevailing sentiment among the state’s Republicans.

In the 2020 election, Cheney won 68.6 percent of the state vote. If she wins the primary, she is likely to receive similar returns in the red stronghold.

However, several factors—the sentiments of Republican voters on issues relating to Jan. 6 and the 2020 election, Wyomingites continued admiration for Trump, and the momentum that Hageman’s campaign has already built—paint a bleak picture for the former vice president’s daughter.

Cheney’s sole Republican colleague on the Jan. 6 committee, Illinois’s Kinzinger, has already announced that he won’t seek reelection in November, a fact that some speculate is related to his role on the panel. Cheney has announced no such intention.

While Republicans are widely expected to reclaim the House majority in the 118th Congress, it’s far from guaranteed that Cheney will retain her seat.

One thing is clear: Cheney and Hageman are bracing for a tough, dirty battle to take Wyoming’s lone House seat.

Zachary Steiber contributed to this report.