When Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2016, no one was going to mistake her for a Rockefeller Republican. Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is an arch-conservative known for her decidedly hawkish and pro-neocon views on foreign policy. But in 2021, the 54-year-old congresswoman finds herself being slammed as too left-wing by far-right extremists in the Republican Party — and her cardinal sin, as they see it, is believing that inciting violent insurrection is an impeachable offense.
On January 6, violent insurrection came to Washington, D.C. when a mob of extremists — including QAnon supporters, members of the Proud Boys, White nationalists and members of various militia groups — stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in the hope of preventing the certification of former Vice President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. Then-President Donald Trump had spent two months promoting the debunked conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him because of widespread voter fraud, and the mob that stormed the Capitol Building obviously believed him. Some of the insurrectionists were calling for the lynching of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Vice President Mike Pence, who the insurrectionists believed had betrayed Trump.
Pelosi, stressing that Trump incited the violence, called for his impeachment — and Cheney was among the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for incitement to insurrection. Cheney, acknowledging Biden as president-elect, called Trump out in no uncertain terms.
In an official statement on January 12, Cheney announced that she would be voting to impeach Trump and declared, "This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our republic…. None of this would have happened without the president. 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."
The backlash against Cheney by pro-Trump Republicans has been intense. In Wyoming, State Sen. Anthony Bouchard — a far-right wingnut, Trump supporter and the founder of the group Wyoming Gun Owners — has announced that he will be challenging Cheney in a GOP congressional primary in 2022. Bouchard, an outspoken supporter of pro-QAnon extremists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, considers Cheney a "turncoat" for voting to impeach Trump.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is among the far-right Republicans who is hoping to see Cheney voted out of the House and replaced by someone who is even further to the right. On January 27, Gaetz spoke at an anti-Cheney rally in Wyoming and told the crowd, "Defeat Liz Cheney in this upcoming election, and Wyoming will bring Washington to its knees." Gaetz described Cheney as a "beltway bureaucrat turned fake cowgirl that supported an impeachment that is deeply unpopular in the state of Wyoming."
GOP activist Donald Trump, Jr. called into the rally, voicing his desire to see Cheney voted out of office in 2022. And on Twitter, the former president's son tweeted, "It's time to get this RINO out of GOP leadership."
Former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski, journalist Lachlan Markay reports in Axios, has been fundraising against Cheney via his political action committee Fight Back Now America. In a text, Lewandowski stressed that Cheney "must be removed from GOP leadership and primaried" and wrote, "I launched Fight Back Now America for reasons like this. We must hold spineless Republicans in Washington — like Liz — accountable! Donate to defeat her."
Former President Trump himself, according to CNN, wants Cheney to pay a price politically for voting to impeach him. On January 29, CNN's Michael Warren reported, "Trump has repeatedly questioned his Republican allies about efforts to remove Cheney from her leadership position and run a primary candidate against her. He has also been showing those allies a poll commissioned by his Save America PAC that purports to show that Cheney's impeachment vote has damaged her standing in Wyoming, even urging them to talk about the poll on television."
The anti-Cheney movement speaks volumes about the state of the Republican Party in 2021. Even someone as arch-conservative as Dick Cheney's daughter is now considered too liberal by many Republicans. Considering incitement of violent insurrection an impeachable offense is now problematic in some GOP circles. And the more that Trump, Jr., Gaetz, Lewandowski and others rail against Cheney, the more they show how dangerously extreme their party has become.