Capitol Breach GOP Defections Cheney

Republican Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks with reporters at the Capitol on Dec. 17, 2019. She has been challenged for being one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach President Donald Trump.

CHEYENNE – Despite opposition from many Republican colleagues in Washington and some constituents back home, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., voted Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his role in inciting a riot in the U.S. Capitol last week.

Nine other Republican representatives joined her in voting for the article of impeachment.

Cheney, the state’s sole delegate in the House of Representatives, cast her vote during floor proceedings Wednesday afternoon. With the House’s vote to impeach Wednesday, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

While Cheney did not offer any testimony on the House floor prior to the vote, she spoke on a call with reporters shortly after the House adjourned Wednesday afternoon, stating she was left “no option” other than to vote for impeachment.

“It was an insurrection,” Cheney said of the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. “It was an attack on the very heart of our republic. There are some things that must never be partisan, and the defense of our Constitution, the defense of this republic, the defense of the peaceful transfer of power, ensuring that the Constitution and the constitutional duties we all have are carried out, those must never be partisan.”

Cheney pointed to a Trump tweet calling Vice President Mike Pence a coward that came just moments after Pence had been evacuated from the Senate chamber as an example of his role in the riot.

“I will continue to talk to and hear from my constituents all over Wyoming … but when it came down to it, the President of the United States inciting a mob to attack the Capitol and interrupt the democratic process, and then, while the violence played out, refusing to take steps to stop it, is, in my mind, absolutely high crimes and misdemeanors,” Cheney said. “There’s just simply no question, and so this was a vote that did not have anything to do with party or with politics.”

Cheney’s comments came a day after she issued a statement announcing she would vote to impeach. In that statement, Cheney posited there “has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

“Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough,” Cheney said in her statement Tuesday. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.”

Her vote put her in contrast with Wyoming’s other two congressional delegates. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., who just took office earlier this month, said in a statement Wednesday that she was opposed to impeaching Trump.

“Moving forward with impeachment at this juncture will only further divide our already hurting nation,” Lummis said in a prepared statement. “I respect the right of all of my colleagues to vote their conscience, but we need to calm the rhetoric and start finding ways to work together as Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the most pressing issues we face today.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has also remained focused on a peaceful transfer of power, providing little comment on the push for impeachment. In a statement provided last Friday, Barrasso said, “This is a time for healing for our nation, not additional division.”

When asked about Cheney’s comments by a reporter this week, Barrasso did not change his stance.

“The election is over. President-elect Biden will be sworn in on January 20th,” Barrasso said in a statement sent Wednesday. “Now is the time to focus our attention on pressing issues like getting the pandemic behind us and rebuilding our economy.”

While Barrasso and Lummis have expressed no interest in impeachment, Cheney’s comments condemning the president have angered many of her constituents. A Change.org petition calling for a recall of Cheney had already gained roughly 7,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon after being posted Tuesday night.

The petition, which states Cheney “does not speak for the people of Wyoming,” was posted by Gillette resident Shelley Horn, who said she wanted to send a message for Cheney “to get more aligned with the people that she claims to represent.”

“If you go on her Twitter page, every one of those people are Democrats that are patting her on the back,” Horn said in an interview Wednesday. “She’s supposed to be Republican. It doesn’t represent my values, because if you impeach again … you’re just going to cause more hate and division. That’s all that’s going to happen.”

Horn said she didn’t support Cheney in last year’s primary race, instead voting for Republican challenger Blake Stanley, though she then voted for Cheney in the 2020 general election, largely because she wasn’t a fan of the Democratic nominee. That won’t be the case in any future elections.

“Liz Cheney will never get a vote from me again,” Horn said. “I’ll just leave it blank.”

Despite the title of her petition, Horn acknowledged a recall of Cheney was essentially impossible, given Wyoming law does not allow it for nearly every elected office in the state.

“There’s no way to really recall her,” Horn said. “This is just to get her attention to let her know: you don’t align with Wyoming people, and you need to get back with Wyoming people and get on the ground. When she’s campaigning, I didn’t even see her at all.”

Frustrations with Cheney, who is the third-ranking Republican leader in the House, have also emerged among some conservative lawmakers in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was a co-founder of the uber-conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday that a vote should be held to consider removing Cheney from her GOP leadership position, according to a Politico report.

In the press call with Wyoming reporters Wednesday, Cheney maintained “it would be wrong” to think about her vote for impeachment in the context of politics.

“I think there are just times when those of us who are elected officials are called on to act in a way that does not take politics into consideration, and dealing with something as serious and as grave as the attack on the Capitol is one of those times,” Cheney said.

She acknowledged, however, that there was a wide range of opinions within the House Republican Conference, with some favoring a censure of Trump and others fully opposed to any congressional action. In a floor speech Wednesday, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Trump is responsible for the Capitol riot Jan. 6, but he ultimately voted against impeachment, joining the vast majority of GOP representatives in the House.

Moving forward, Cheney said she and her colleagues will be focused on standing against the policies expected from the incoming Biden administration, noting the Republicans’ minority in the House is one of the largest minority caucuses to exist in decades.

“Once we get through this period, once we get through the inauguration, we will very much be focused on policy and in laying out a positive agenda for the future, and it’ll be one that will allow us to win the majority back in two years,” Cheney said. “That’s what I’m focused on, and that’s what I look forward to our conference being able to accomplish.”

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