In solidarity with Trump, McCarthy backs Rep. Cheney’s primary challenger
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed the GOP primary challenger to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Thursday, his latest show of fealty to former President Trump as Republicans try to take control of Congress.
McCarthy did not mention Cheney by name as he announced he was backing attorney Harriet Hageman in the August primary.
“The most successful representatives in Congress focus on the needs of their constituents, and throughout her career, Harriet has championed America’s natural resources and helped the people of Wyoming reject burdensome and onerous government overreach,” the Bakersfield Republican said.
Hageman — once a Cheney ally — did not hold back, saying that Cheney has become an ineffective leader and was being used by Democrats to “achieve their partisan goals.”
“Cheney is doing nothing to help us, she is actively damaging the Republican Party — both in Wyoming and nationally — and it’s time for her to go,” said Hageman, who has frequently battled the federal government over its environmental policies and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018.
A Cheney spokesman pointed to comments from prominent Wyoming journalists deriding the weight of a California politician’s endorsement to Hageman’s prospects.
“Wow, she must be really desperate,” spokesman Jeremy Adler said.
McCarthy’s move against Cheney is not surprising. Though the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney overwhelmingly supported Trump’s policies, she became an outspoken critic of his claims that the 2020 election was rigged and of his role in urging his supporters to march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The effort to stop the certification of the election results turned violent, with some of the protesters storming the Capitol, chanting for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged and injuring more than 150 law enforcement officers.
Cheney was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection, and is one of two Republicans serving on the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, McCarthy said Trump bore some responsibility for the events that occurred that day. But he later walked back his comments, and he refused to cooperate with the House committee.
Cheney, the onetime darling of Wyoming GOP voters, has suffered consequences for her break with the former president: Trump has backed Hageman in the August primary. She was ousted from her position on McCarthy’s leadership team. The Wyoming GOP Central Committee no longer recognizes her as a member of the party. And this month, the Republican National Committee voted to censure her in a resolution that described the events of Jan. 6 as “legitimate public discourse.”
GOP divisions continue over the RNC censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger with a resolution that seems to minimize the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Unlike Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who criticized the RNC for censuring one of its elected officials and for the language of the resolution, McCarthy at first avoided weighing in. At the end of last week, he predicted Cheney would not run for reelection. Some have also speculated that Cheney will run for president in 2024, rumors that she has not denied.
Nor has she backed down after being attacked by leaders of her party. When Trump announced his support for Hageman in September and called Cheney a “warmonger and disloyal Republican,” she responded on Twitter: “Here’s a sound bite for you: Bring it.”
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