CHEYENNE — Local officials offered mixed reactions Wednesday after Congresswoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was voted out of her House GOP leadership role due to her repeated refusals to condone former President Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant voter fraud in last year’s election.
Cheney, who has served as Wyoming’s sole House representative since 2017, voted to impeach Trump in mid-January for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, stating at the time that there has “never been a greater betrayal” by a U.S. president than the actions taken by the former president.
That vote – and her ongoing criticism of Trump’s false claims – have resulted in a bevy of primary challengers against Cheney, censures in several Wyoming GOP committees and, on Wednesday, the loss of her third-ranking position in House GOP leadership.
After the vote by House Republicans on Wednesday, Cheney remained defiantly opposed to Trump when speaking with reporters in Washington, stating the Republican Party “cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president.”
“I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office,” Cheney said. “We have seen the danger that he continues to provoke with his language. We have seen his lack of commitment and dedication to the Constitution. And I think it is very important that we make sure whomever we elect is somebody who will be faithful to the Constitution.”
It remains to be seen how severely her stance will influence voters across Wyoming, where the state Republican Party voted to censure Cheney in early February. While banned from most social media platforms, Trump has continued to bash the Wyoming congresswoman, issuing a statement Wednesday that described Cheney as a “bitter, horrible human being.”
“She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country,” Trump said. “She is a talking point for Democrats, whether that means the Border, the gas lines, inflation, or destroying our economy. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our Great Military, the worst decision in our Country’s history. I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!”
For Trump supporter Moses Hasenauer, who organized a “Stop the Steal” rally in Cheyenne the same day as the U.S. Capitol riot, Cheney is “reaping what she sowed.”
“You have 72 percent of Wyoming voters supporting President Trump, because he was helping the coal industry, and he was helping gas and oil,” said Hasenauer, a Tea Party activist who has previously served on the Laramie County Commission. “He wasn’t in Washington to start a riot. He was there to stop voter fraud and not have them install a president that would hurt this country.”
Hasenauer does not believe the presidential election was legitimate, despite many state courts finding no substantial evidence of widespread voter fraud. That viewpoint is widespread: A Reuters/Ipsos poll released last month found six in 10 Republicans agree with Trump’s claim that the election was stolen from him. The same poll found a majority of Republican voters maintain a favorable view of Trump.
“I think that (Trump) has a real good chance to win in 2024, and I believe the Republican Party is going to weed out what I call the ‘lefty Liz Cheneys,’” Hasenauer said. “If she comes here and tries to speak in front of the Capitol, I will guarantee you there would be 600, 700 people down there to boo her off stage. She’s done here in Wyoming.”
While several county-level GOP committees, including Laramie County’s, have adopted censures in response to Cheney’s impeachment vote, some Wyoming Republicans maintain their support for the congresswoman. A frequent backer of Cheney on social media, state Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, noted the House GOP caucus ousted Cheney on a voice vote, a step that makes it hard to gauge how widespread the opposition was.
“We don’t know how close the House is actually divided,” Brown said. “We don’t know how much of our belief system is actually still intact out in Washington, D.C., based on a voice vote.”
“A lot of Republican voters feel very strongly that Trump’s policies were good, but the personality behind those policies is what a lot of Republicans were struggling with, and then Jan. 6 solidified with a lot of people, including myself, that we just can’t stand behind this and watch this man terrorize our country, because he was a sore loser,” he continued. “We had 60-plus court cases that were all deemed to be more than enough information to completely obliterate his discussions of the stolen election. … We have to stop telling this big lie.”
For now, the party is left in a “really bad place,” Brown said, in which “if you’re not a Trump supporter, you’re not a Republican.”
Regarding his own House district in Cheyenne, Brown said he has heard from many constituents who agree with him and Cheney on their stance. But time will tell how the majority of Wyoming citizens feel about Trump’s claims.
“When it comes to a larger, broader picture of what my district feels like, I guess we’ll find out when it comes to election time if somebody runs to the right of me,” Brown said. “I’ve never attempted to be something that I’m not, and that’s the same way that Liz Cheney is.”
Leadership of the Wyoming Democratic Party also criticized the House GOP’s vote in a statement Wednesday.
“The vote held today is further confirmation that Republicans are more focused on defending a failed president and his lies than doing the work of the American people,” Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto said in the statement. “In Wyoming and across the nation, the GOP is willfully choosing to build their party on a foundation of misinformation and falsehoods. It’s a decision they will come to regret and voters will remember for many election cycles to come.”
Cheney was first elected to the House GOP chair position in November 2018. After an attempt in February to remove her from the position failed by a wide margin, the political winds changed. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has maintained the party’s concerns about Cheney have not been about her impeachment vote, but rather her ability to carry out the House GOP message.