Liz Cheney’s Unlikely Journey From G.O.P. Royalty to Republican Outcast
CASPER. — Representative Liz Cheney was locked up in an undisclosed location at the Dick Cheney Federal Building. She recounts how her father called her on Jan. 6.
Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, a Republican, recalled how she had been preparing for a speech on the House Floor in support of certifying Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s election as president. Mr. Cheney, the former vice president and his daughter’s closest political adviser, consulted with her on most days, but this time was calling as a worried parent.
He’d seen Donald J. Trump at a rally on that morning, vowing to rid the world of “the Liz Cheneys.” His floor speech could spark tensions, he said, and he feared her safety. Was she sure that she wanted to go ahead with the plan?
She stated, “Absolutely,” her father said. “There is nothing more important.”
Minutes later, Mr. Trump’s supporters broke through the entrance. House members fled and Ms. Cheney’s political future, which never included a speech, was quickly ruined. Friends said that her promising rise in House was something she had invested in and hoped would end in the speaker’s chair.
She stated, “This is all about being able say to your children that you stood for the right things.”
Ms. Cheney first entered Congress in 2017, and her lineage guaranteed her a prominent profile. But not in the ways it has since grown. Ms. Cheney’s campaign to defeat the “ongoing danger” and “fundamental toxicity of a president who has lost” has placed her in the un-Cheney-like role of resistance leader, and Republican outcast. Ms. Cheney vowed to be an anti-force, regardless of how lonely the pursuit might be, or where it might lead. She has not ruled out a potential primary challenge from Mr. Trump in 2024.
Beyond the threatening politics, Ms. Cheney is also a father/daughter tale, rich with dynastic echoes, ironies, and other details. Cheney was an unapologetic Prince-of-Darkness figure throughout his career. He was constantly attuned for doomsday situations and existential threats that America’s enemies presented to him, be they from Russia during Cold War or Saddam Hussein after Sept. 11.
Ms. Cheney sees the current Trump situation in the same apocalyptic light. Today’s threat is inside the party where her family has been ruling for almost half a century.
“He is just deeply troubled for the country about what we watched President Trump do,” Ms. Cheney said of her father. “He is a student historian. He is a student of the presidency. He’s well aware of the gravity involved in these jobs.
Last month, Ms. Cheney was ousted by her House colleagues for her criticisms of Mr. Trump. She invited an old friend, David Hume Kennerly to capture her movements for posterity. After work, they went to McLean to meet their parents for wine and steak.
“There was perhaps a bit of postmortem, it didn’t seem like a wake,” said Mr. Kennerly. This was Mr. Cheney’s White House chief of staff. “Mostly, though, I was able to get a sense of the pride and concern of her parents at that dinner. They wanted me there to support her at the end.
Although Mr. Cheney declined to interview for this article, he provided a statement : “As a father I am tremendously proud of my daughter. She is an American citizen, and I am very grateful to her.
The Cheneys are a private and insular brood, though not without tensions that have gone public. Heather Poe and Mary Cheney, her sister and longtime partner, were outraged by Ms. Cheney’s opposition to same-sex married during a brief Senate campaign. Mary expressed her support for her sister in conspicuous fashion after Jan.
She wrote, “As many people are aware, Liz and me have certainly had our disagreements over the years,” in a January 7th Facebook post. “But I am very proud of how she handled herself during the fight over the Electoral College…Good job Big Sister.”
Alter Ego for Her Father
Ms. Cheney (54), spoke in a clipped, urgent cadence in a conference room at the Dick Cheney Federal Building. This is one of many places in the country that bear her family name. Her disposition conveyed both determination as well as worry. She also displayed the sense that she had been through an extremely difficult stretch.
Ms. Cheney, who had been in Wyoming for much of the last congressional recess, was not often seen in public. The appearances she did make — a visit to the Chamber of Commerce in Casper, a hospital opening (with her father) in Star Valley — were barely publicized beforehand, in large part for security concerns. She has received a stream of death threats, common menaces among high-profile critics of Mr. Trump, and is now surrounded by a newly deployed detail of plainclothes, ear-pieced agents.
According to Federal Election Commission documents filed, $58,000 was spent by her campaign on security between January-March, which included three former Secret Service agents. Ms. Cheney received protection from the Capitol Police recently, which is unusual for a House member who is not in a leadership role. The fortress aura around Ms. Cheney is reminiscent of the “secure undisclosed location” of her father in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ms. Cheney has the traits of both her parents, particularly Lynne Cheney, her mother. She is a conservative scholar and commentator, but she is also more outgoing than her husband. But Mr. Cheney has long been his eldest daughter’s closest professional alter ego, especially after he left office in 2009, and Ms. Cheney devoted marathon sessions to collaborating on his memoir, “In My Times.” Their work coincided with some of Mr. Cheney’s gravest heart conditions, including a period in 2010 when he was near death.
After doctors fitted a blood pumping device to keep him alive, his health improved and he was able to travel. These included trips between Virginia, Wyoming and Wyoming where Mr. Cheney drove while Ms. Cheney was in the passenger seat. He would dictate stories to her and then she would type them into a laptop. He had his heart transplant in 2012.
Father and daughter promoted the memoir through joint appearances. In these interviews, Ms. Cheney interviewed the father in various venues across the nation. “She was basically there together with her dad to ease him re-entry to health on public stage,” said Alan K. Simpson, a Wyoming Republican who is also a long-time family friend.
2016 saw Ms. Cheney be elected to Congress. She rose quickly to the third-ranking Republican post, which her father had also held. While Mr. Cheney’s power as vice president was impressive, he thought of himself as a product, having been Wyoming’s atlarge congressman from 1979-1989.
Neither father nor daughter is a natural politician in any traditional sense. Mr. Cheney, a bureaucratic brawler and plotter, was ambitious, but in a quiet, secretive manner that is devious to many. Ms. Cheney focused mainly on strategic planning.
Following her graduation from Colorado College, Ms. Cheney worked for the State Department and United States Agency for International Development as her father was the defense secretary. She attended the University of Chicago Law School and practiced at the firm White & Case before returning to the State Department while her father was vice president. She was not like her father who was dispassionate or sheepish.
Ms. Cheney was once in the House viewed as a speaker — a mixture of establishment background and hard-line conservatism. While she had reservations about Mr. Trump, she was selective with her critiques and voted with him 93 percent of time and against his first impeachment.
Cheney was initially concerned about Trump’s foreign policy. However, he came to view the 45th presidency’s performance as poor overall.
“I had a couple of conversations with the vice president last summer where he was really deeply troubled,” said Eric S. Edelman, a former American ambassador to Turkey, a Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration and family friend.
After being transplanted and having a compromised immune system, Mr. Cheney discovered that his hatred for Trump White House only grew during the epidemic. He had also known and admired Dr. Anthony S. Fauci for many years.
While Dr. Fauci was being supported by Ms. Cheney, she seemed to be trolling White House last June when she tweeted: “Dick Cheney claims WEAR A MASK.” This tweet came over a photo of her father who looked like a rugged Westerner with a cowboy cap and face cover (hashtag “#realmenwearmasks”)
She has received significant support from several high-ranking Republican leaders, including many of her father’s old White House colleagues. In a January call to his former vice presidential, George W. Bush made it a point to thank Mr. Cheney for “his daughter’s work” and thanked him through a spokesperson.
Ms. Cheney voted for Donald Trump in November. However, she regretted it immediately. In her view, Mr. Trump’s conduct after the election went irreversibly beyond the pale. “It was like for Liz, it just can’t handle this anymore,” said Barbara Comstock (Republican of Virginia).
A 2024 Run for President?
Ms. Cheney, who returned last week from Washington, had very few dealings with her former leadership counterparts and was less restricted in sharing her dim view about certain Republican colleagues. On Tuesday, she attacked Representative Paul Gosar (Arizona) for repeating “disgusting & despicable lying” about the actions taken by the Capitol Police on January 6.
She explained that “we’ve got people we have entrusted with perpetuating the Republic who don’t understand what the rule is.” “We probably need to do Constitution boot camps for newly sworn-in members of Congress. This is obvious.
She stated that her primary focus now is teaching basic civics skills to voters who have been misinformed about Mr. Trump and other Republicans who should be better informed. Ms. Cheney expressed concern about the education needed. This is dangerous. It’s not difficult. Trump has a plan, I believe.”
There has been much speculation about Ms. Cheney’s plans. Despite being re-elected by 44 percentage points in 2020, she will face a difficult path in 2022. Numerous Wyoming Republicans have already made plans to challenge Ms. Cheney’s primary challenge, and her race will undoubtedly be the most closely monitored in the country next to 2020. It will also serve as a visible platform to her campaign to ensure Donald Trump “never again gets close to the Oval Office,” an enterprise that could possibly include a long-shot primary contest against him 2024.
Friends believe that Ms. Cheney’s Jan. 6 events transcended any local political concerns. Matt Micheli, a Cheyenne lawyer that was once chairman of Wyoming Republican Party, stated, “Maybe it’s Pollyanna a little here, but Liz seems to be playing the long-game.” Ms. Cheney confirmed this.
She stated, “This is something that will determine the nature of this Republic going ahead.” “So I don’t know how long this will take.”