U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney should take a bow. Former President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to insult her shows just how desperate he’s become, and how deeply she’s gouged into his Napoleonic ego.

Opinion

During the 18 months Cheney served as vice chair of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, she was its pit bull. When it came time at last week’s final hearing to explain why the panel was referring four criminal charges against the former president to the Department of Justice, Cheney did the honors.

In one of her final acts in office, Cheney recounted Trump’s devastating decision to incite a mob over his “rigged” election lies, and then refuse to intervene for more than three hours as it lay siege to the Capitol, attacked and overwhelmed law enforcement and hunted elected officials, including his own vice president.

“This was an utter moral failure — and a clear dereliction of duty,” Cheney charged. “No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.”

That he’d react negatively on social media was a given, but how unhinged would he get this time? Would it be row after row after row of his standard ALL-CAPS CRAZINESS?!

Nope. His immediate reaction wasn’t to rant about his innocence. He didn’t even lie about a stolen election or criticize the man who took his job. Instead Trump shared a nine-word response to the entire hearing on his own Truth Social platform: “But Liz Chaney (sic) lost by a record 40 points!”

Yes, that’s all he wrote. Trump’s world is caving in all around him — he’s staring down repercussions for the Jan. 6 insurrection, multiple federal and state criminal probes and the public release of his precious tax records — but what he felt he most needed to convey to the world at precisely that moment is that he helped oust a single congresswoman from her representation of the least-populated state in the union. 

I think Cheney is already long over her GOP primary loss to Congresswoman-elect Harriet Hageman, though Trump clearly never will be, and he’ll take credit for it no matter how much his own world continues to spiral out of control.

That’s a lot of emotional power Cheney now exercises over Trump. He styles himself as a shrewd, hard-nosed real-estate magnate and yet Cheney’s living rent-free in his head. Can anyone who was once the leader of the free world actually be this clueless?

Trump should be paying close attention to what could await him if Special Counsel Jack Smith takes up any of the four referrals the Jan. 6 committee made to his office: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to make a false statement to the federal government and inciting or assisting insurrection. 

If Trump is convicted of violating the Insurrection Act, he would get exactly the punishment Cheney said he deserves: never being able to hold any federal office again. Ditto if he’s convicted of Espionage Act violations for the classified documents he allegedly took to Florida when he lost.

Cheney has said she has no regrets about losing her congressional seat, because keeping it would have required her to lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Recognizing the inevitability of political defeat, she turned her attention, instead, to a more important mission: keeping Trump from ever returning to the White House again.

Many Wyoming voters will never forgive Cheney for her impeachment vote or her role on the Jan. 6 panel, but I think many others will be kinder to her over time as they gain more perspective on how much damage Trump has done to the country. Believe it or not, some will even apologize.

One of the favorable factors for Cheney is that she never blamed Americans for falling victim to Trump’s cons and preying on their patriotism.

“Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened,” Cheney told ABC News. “They would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her. (He) turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution.”

Hageman, by contrast, has now irrevocably tied her political identity to backing Trump’s lies about the “rigged” election. Even if she wanted to abandon him, Hageman cannot simply walk away. You don’t just shuck off those handcuffs when you get tired of wearing them.

No, Hageman has made the political calculation to double down on her support, even as many incumbent Republican lawmakers distance themselves from Trump after the GOP’s disastrous midterm election results. Our freshman congresswoman doesn’t have much choice.

“The Jan. 6 Committee was illegitimate when it was created and its sham conclusions were pre-written,” Hageman said in a statement. She didn’t appear to appreciate the irony of releasing that accusation before the final hearing — pre-written indeed — but it sure gave me a chuckle. “Every moment of their witch hunt was politically motivated and everything they say should be viewed that way. What a colossal waste of time and millions of dollars in taxpayer money.”

“Witch hunt” may be the two most important words for her campaign fundraising machine during her first term, and she’ll need to fire that engine up ASAP. History shows how extraordinarily safe congressional seats are for incumbents in an ultra-red state like Wyoming, but of course Trump and the Cheney-Hageman experience has forever changed that calculus. Public popularity in Wyoming used to be a function largely of policy and party affiliation. One of Trump’s biggest disruptions was to make it, instead, a function of patronage.

Hageman was quick and crafty in adapting to the new rules of the game and it earned her a seat in Congress. But now, before she’s even taken the oath of office, her patron is on the decline. 

She hitched her wagon to what she thought was the most powerful horse in the field. Now the world is quickly realizing her rotund orange steed was a jackass all along. And Cheney is leading it to the glue factory.

Cheney made this bold declaration at the first Jan. 6 committee public hearing, more than two months before the Wyoming primary: 

“In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something.

“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

Cheney made the honorable choice. Hageman made the politically expedient one. Trump’s still here, but it’s already clear whose choice will stand the test of time.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. I would like to thank Kerry for a very well written article on Cheney vs Trump/Hageman. I agree with you 100%. I would also like to thank Ms. Cheney for All she has done to support the Constitution and this Country.

  2. Concerning Liz Cheney, there are two schools of thought amongst Republicans regarding her actions on the impeachment of former President Trump. One is that she did the right thing voting to impeach Trump for his part in the insurrection of January 6, 2021. The other school of thought is the ultra conservative voters of Wyoming feel that a member of our Congressional delegation should always vote according to the electorates’ wishes, even if it means the guilty parties go free, the representative’s oath of office be damned. Being a Wyomingite myself, I will always side with the person that defends our Constitution over an opportunistic sycophant.

  3. Actually, her final act was to sell out the country and the citizens of Wyoming by voting for the massive wasteful omnibus bill, when she hitched her wagon to the leftists she went whole hog. Yeah, honorable alright. So focused on Trump she forgot who elected her… and that’s the problem.

  4. Sorry Kerry, buy you couldn’t be more wrong about Harriet Hageman – you made the mistake of trying to predict how she will be judged in history on one issue which will rapidly decrease in importance as Trump goes down in flames.
    The only way to predict how Harriet will be viewed in her new roll as a Representative is to do an in-depth review or her substantial record in the courts – particularly the Federal court system. Its my understanding she has been one of the most successful and foremost natural resource attorneys in the United States and has argued cases at the highest level. To understand her experience in this field of natural resources one must recognize there are less than 10 really experienced individuals in Wyoming who have proven over the years their expertise in the field of natural resources. They include Jill Morrison, Doug Thompson, Ken Hamilton, Angus Theumer, Dan Hielig, Karen Budd Falen, Harriet Hageman and maybe a few more. Harriet is near the top of this distinguished list of competence.
    The bottom line is that Harriet can be expected to be one of the most knowledgeable natural resource experts to ever be elected to Congess. If she equals or exceeds her past performance she will have a major impact on natural resource issues in the house. It will be important to see which committees she is appointed to and whether she can put together a staff of truly talented experienced natural resource experts.
    Her unique experience as a natural resource attorney positions her to write amendments to legislation, existing laws which could redefine the ESA, Clean Water Act, Wild Horse and Burro Act, Wilderness designations, etc. and do this in a House of Representatives controlled by the Republications at least for the next 2 years. Never under estimate a person who has proven over and over that she is all about competence, competence, competence. The Donald Trump thing will wilt in the very near future and we’ll see Harriet in the legislative setting instead of the court room setting. Will she be as successful in Congress as she has been in the courts. Based on past performance, I think Harriet will be as influential.

    1. Hageman will do as she is told to do while she represents wyoming. The integrity that you feel she possessed is not shared by the majority of the country. Sure, the chrump fanatics here in wyoming may think she walks on water. But, local reputation does NOT transcend national reputation.

      On the national stage, she’ll be just another chrump sycophant who sold her reputation to promote a lie to get elected. You say she’s competent, but the rest of the country (including the people she’ll be working with) will see her as an opportunist that lied to get elected.

      If you are okay with that, that’s on you. You can’t expect others to be as accepting as you have been.

      She will cater to the right wing, q-anon thinking, “big lie” believing chrump repubs, and won’t care one bit about the state that put her there.

      Let’s not forget that Cheney lost because she wouldn’t promote the stolen election BS. She lost because she was HONEST. what does that say about the electorate that voted hageman in?

  5. I fear that the strong vote for Hagemann is proof that Wyoming voters are the most gullible, racist, and xenophobic in the country. It also shows that we have the least respect for our Constitution and our democracy.

    1. Bayard: Your comments play right into the desires of the 70-75% of Wyomings republican voters who want the state to remain an outpost of right wing thinking. Their greatest fear is an influx of migrants from California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado. When you bad mouth the state it discourages those on the left from moving to Wyoming which is exactly what the right wants. They probably applaud your comments and would encourage you to amplify your efforts to bad mouth Wyoming.

  6. Mr Drake’ back in 1980 or 81kids were showing cattle
    at Casper, fair, I met a Younge man that really impressed me of Knowledge, never met his father, his MOM was there quit often I wondered if/en that was your kin, I like tis post on Cheney, seeing that she is a friend of Meade, leaves me with good thouhjts,Meade was a good Man, did a good job

  7. Meh, the weekly agitprop predictably returns to Trump . . . definitive proof that it is actually Trump who is living rent free in the Marxist mind.

  8. Absolutely spot on as usual. This is about the only time I have ever agreed with Liz Cheney on anything, but I am so thankful that she stood up for the truth, and the Constitution! History will judge the Trumpers very harshly indeed.

  9. Kerry Drakes two lines: “That’s a lot of emotional power Cheney now exercises over Trump. He styles himself as a shrewd, hard-nosed real-estate magnate and yet Cheney’s living rent-free in his head.” … are breathtakingly analytical, incisive, and on-target.
    What a journalist!! Wyoming and WyoFile are lucky to have him. Move over, George Will and Tom Friedman.

  10. “[Hageman] hitched her wagon to what she thought was the most powerful horse in the field. Now the world is quickly realizing her rotund orange steed was a jackass all along. And Cheney is leading it to the glue factory.”

    BWAHAHAAAAA! I’m a new subscriber to WyoFile and I do so enjoy Drake’s editorials. Thanks for comments that are so entertaining to read in the morning that I nearly spit out my coffee!

  11. Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to say how history will judge Liz Cheney. But the voters she promised to represent, have already judged her. They handed her one of the biggest losses a sitting congress person has ever received in a primary election. Some may try, but it’s hard to spin that as a victory.

    1. Mr. Crooks missed her statement that “In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party. We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something.” Clearly she knew that in Wyoming she wasn’t likely to hold her seat, but she can rest easy in the pages of history — unlike a sad majority of voters in Wyoming. I respect her immensely, although I objected to almost all of her policy decisions. And she voted with the former president about 95% of the time, which certainly was representing her constituency. Only when it came to honoring her oath did she deviate. It’s unfortunate that honoring an oath is not understood by some Republican voters!