Liz Cheney faces Republican voters in Wyoming: A timeline of her metamorphosis from rising GOP star to anti-Trump conservative

·9 min read
Liz Cheney
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) speaks with former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 7, 2022.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • Liz Cheney faces the biggest test of her political career in the Aug. 16 Wyoming GOP House primary.

  • Once seen as potential House speaker, the congresswoman was ousted from GOP leadership last year.

  • A vocal critic of Trump, she has become the face of the January 6 panel probing the Capitol riot.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who was first elected to represent Wyoming's at-large congressional district in 2016, has long compiled a voting record that reflects her conservative political beliefs and that of her constituents.

In 2017, she voted for former President Donald Trump's signature Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.

The congresswoman also supported a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, calling the Democratic-enacted health care legislation "a disaster for hard-working Americans."

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, voted with Trump's position on legislative issues 92.9 percent of the time during his four years in office.

But after the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021, she became one of the former president's most prolific Republicans critics, voting to impeach him for "incitement of insurrection" and railing against what she described as his disregard for the Constitution as he has repeatedly disputed the results of the 2020 presidential election.

That criticism has made Cheney one of Trump's biggest electoral targets, as she faces a tough August 16 primary against a slate of candidates led by water rights attorney Harriet Hageman, who was endorsed by the former president and over 100 of her GOP House colleagues.

Here is how the dramatic shift in Cheney's political trajectory was put into motion:

November 8, 2016: Cheney is first elected to the House

Cheney was first elected to Wyoming's at-large congressional district, taking in 62% of the vote in the same election where Trump won the presidency.

Liz Cheney
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, left, sits with his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney, right, as the 115th Congress convenes on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 3, 2017.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

She ran on a conservative platform in an overwhelmingly Republican state, and was on her way to a Congress that would soon be fully controlled by Republicans.

Many Republicans, including former Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, once saw Cheney as a future GOP House speaker.

"You could see a speaker's gavel in her hand, and I don't think it's that many years off frankly," he said in November 2020, when Cheney was still the No. 3 House Republican — a role she assumed just two years after joining Congress.

January 6, 2021: Cheney immediately rebukes Trump after the Capitol riot

Cheney saw the Capitol insurrection as an affront to the rule of law — it disrupted the Electoral College certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory and forced lawmakers into secure spaces away from the mayhem that was unfolding at the ornate building.

To Cheney, Trump abdicated his commitment to the secure and peaceful transfer of power, threatening democracy based on debunked election theories that were used to whip up aggrieved supporters who felt that he had been wronged.

Liz Cheney
Rep. Liz Cheney was once the highest-ranking female Republican in Congress.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

That same day, Cheney laid out a blistering indictment of Trump.

"We just had a violent mob assault the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty," she said in a statement. "There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame."

"This is what America is not. It has just been absolutely intolerable and unacceptable. The mob will not prevail," she added.

January 13, 2021: Cheney votes to impeach Trump

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Capitol riot.

In announcing her vote to convict, the congresswoman issued a scathing rebuke of the former president.

"None of this would have happened without the President," she said. "The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

Voting for impeachment against a president in the same political party is already a rarity, but Cheney's political pedigree and stature immediately put her vote under a microscope.

February 3, 2021: A vote is held on Cheney's future in leadership

By going against Trump, the reigning leader of the GOP, Cheney's position in leadership was quickly imperiled, especially among conservatives who remained steadfastly loyal to the former president.

Despite the dissent among many members, she retained the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a critical boost at the time.

During a vote on Cheney's fate in leadership, she gave an intensely personal speech, saying that she was "deeply concerned about where our party is headed," according to The New York Times Magazine.

In a 145-61 vote, the Republican caucus decided to keep Cheney in leadership.

February 6, 2021: Cheney is censured by the Wyoming GOP

The reverberations from the GOP turmoil in Washington, DC, quickly created trouble for Cheney back home in the Equality State.

On February 6, Cheney was censured by the state party for her vote to impeach Trump.

Wyoming Republicans contended that Cheney's position was a slap in the face of the will of the state's voters, who gave 70 percent of the vote to Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump
Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Fla., on February 28, 2021.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Does the voice of the people matter and if it does, does it only matter at the ballot box?" said Joey Correnti, the GOP chairman in Carbon County, according to the Associated Press.

After the censure vote, Cheney defended her position, saying that she would continue to focus on representing the state.

"Foremost among these is the defense of our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees," she said. "My vote to impeach was compelled by the oath I swore to the Constitution."

April 27, 2021: The cracks in leadership become apparent

For weeks, the relationship between Cheney, McCarthy, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise had deteriorated as Cheney continued to lambast Trump for his false claims about the election.

In late April 2021, McCarthy publicly declined to say whether he believed that she should remain in the party's leadership.

When asked by Punchbowl News reporter Jake Sherman if Cheney was still "a good fit" for the leadership team, McCarthy declined to offer his own personal assessment.

"That's a question for the conference," he said at the time.

May 9, 2021: McCarthy officially backs a successor to Cheney

McCarthy threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to ascend to the No. 3 leadership position.

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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) heads to the House floor to vote at the US Capitol on February 3, 2021.Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Stefanik had a more moderate voting record than Cheney during Trump's presidency, but the New York lawmaker continued to question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, much to the delight of the former president.

May 12, 2021: Cheney is ousted from leadership

Cheney, a longtime champion of conservative values, was removed as the House Conference Chair in a voice vote.

A day before the vote, she reiterated her sentiments about the 2020 election in a defiant House floor speech.

"Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar," she said at the time. "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."

September 2, 2021: Pelosi taps Cheney for the January 6 committee

Cheney was tapped by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California to serve as the vice chair of the House committee investigating January 6.

While a bill creating a bipartisan panel passed the Democratic-controlled House, it was blocked by Senate Republicans as it failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a legislative filibuster. Pelosi, in turn, created a panel investigating the riot.

"We owe it to the American people to investigate everything that led up to, and transpired on, January 6th. We will not be deterred by threats or attempted obstruction and we will not rest until our task is complete," Cheney said in a statement in which she accepted the vice chair post.

Liz Cheney
Rep. Liz Cheney greets Washington Metropolitan Police Department officers Abdulkadir Abdias, center, and Daniel Hodges, right, after the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot finished a primetime hearing on Capitol Hill on July 21, 2022.Tom Brenner for the Washington Post via Getty Images

June 9, 2022: The first January 6 hearing is held

The first public hearing of the January 6 committee was broadcast on June 9, 2022, with almost 20 million people tuning in during prime-time hours.

The panel's work has subsequently led to a series of successive hearings which have brought previously undisclosed revelations about the events of that day to the public, including bombshell testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about Trump's actions on January 6 and testimony from Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who was pressured by a litany of Trump allies to help overturn Biden's win in the key swing state.

August 16, 2022: Primary Day in Wyoming

Cheney faces a huge challenge in overcoming the strong pro-Trump sentiment among GOP primary voters in the state in light of her work on the January 6 committee.

Hageman has the support of most GOP leaders in Washington, DC, along with much of the party apparatus in Wyoming.

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Cows graze in front of a barn with a campaign sign supporting Rep. Liz Cheney in Jackson, Wyo., on August 15, 2022.AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

But as Insider's Oma Seddiq reported, Cheney still retains goodwill among some Republicans on Capitol Hill.

"I hope she wins," Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told Insider. "I've hosted fundraisers for her. But I recognize that in the time of Trump that may not be possible."

"We'll see what happens, but I don't think she's gone by any means. I wouldn't be surprised to see her run for president," he added.

Cheney, in several interviews this summer, has not ruled out a 2024 White House campaign.

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