On Tuesday, Rep. Liz Cheney stopped by the Casper Star-Tribune offices for a half-hour sit-down with the newspaper. The interview spanned topics from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to Cheney’s campaign for the 2022 Republican primary to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s recent controversial comments.
The Star-Tribune has reported on some of Cheney’s most noteworthy answers throughout the week. Below, you can find a majority of her interview with the Star-Tribune. The discussion has been edited for length and clarity, and notes have been added where necessary for context.
Casper Star-Tribune: Are you going to be spending a lot of time in Casper?
Liz Cheney: We’re going to be in Casper today and part of tomorrow, and then we go over to Lander, Riverton. And then we’ll be in Cody, just sort of doing the whole circuit. Which is good. I mean, covering a lot of territory and getting to see a lot of people and talk to folks.
CST: Yeah. It’s like a precursor to what it’s really going to be like when you’re truly in the thick of the campaign.
LC: Yeah, I mean, being in the House, basically it’s sort of always a campaign, so it doesn’t change that much.
CST: That’s true. But this campaign will definitely be different. I feel like it’s already different.
LC: I think that’s true. Yeah. It’ll certainly be intense. I think there’ll be a lot of national focus on it in a way that we haven’t seen before. So it will be definitely — it will be good.
CST: So how are you going to change your campaign to address that? In terms of maybe spending or travel dates or anything like that?
LC: Look, I think definitely recognizing that it’s not going to be like last campaign was, certainly, because of the focus, the intensity. But in Wyoming, it really does always come down to sort of the person to person, individual, talking to people one-on-one and in small groups. And so we’re already starting to do that. Basically, you know, that’s something we do all year round every year. But I think this year, because there will be continued national focus, I think it’ll be a real choice for people to be able to say, “Look, you can cast your vote for the candidate who is going to stand up and defend the Constitution or for somebody who is likely to have received the endorsement of Donald Trump and is loyal to Donald Trump.” I think that’ll be a real choice for people to make.
CST: How do you think that that endorsement is going to affect the race, and how are you going to pivot when that endorsement likely does come?
LC: I don’t really anticipate that I will pivot, you know. What I will continue to do is talk about what I have done to fight for Wyoming, what I’ve been able to do in terms of results for Wyoming — on a whole range of issues, whether it’s energy or ag or what’s going on with our tourism industry, all of the big issues that matter for us. Warren Air Force Base. But also being very clear and direct and honest with people about, you know, “This is what happened in the 2020 election nationally. This is what happened on Jan. 6 and why I voted to impeach and what’s happened since then.” And so I think that that really will be sort of my message, what I’m talking to people about, no matter whether we end up with eight, nine, 10 other opponents in the race or just one.
CST: So I’m sure you saw our story on Anthony Bouchard. What do you make of all of it? (Editor’s note: The state senator disclosed on May 20 that he had impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18.)
LC: I really don’t have any comment on it. I’m focused on delivering for the people of Wyoming. I’m sure there’ll be multiple opponents in and out of the race, but I don’t have any comment on that latest story.
CST: OK. So say someone had approached your campaign with the information that he impregnated a 14 year-old-girl when he was 18. What would you have done with that information?
LC: We have nothing to do with the story. I don’t have any comment on it. And I’m not going to answer hypotheticals. I don’t believe that those are the kinds of stories that ought to be out there, that the people of Wyoming ultimately are going to be focused on. It’ll be substance and policy, and that’s the kind of race I’m going to run.
CST: Interesting. So you don’t think that the people of Wyoming are going to be — it’s not going to sway them much. Is that what you’re saying?
LC: What I’m saying is that I am going to be running for reelection, seeking reelection based on what I’ve done for the state of Wyoming, based on the big issues that we have to confront us and to challenge us. And I think that I’m going to run a campaign that’s worthy of the people in this state and it’s worthy of trying to earn their vote. That’s what I’m going to stay focused on.
CST: But he is your biggest threat at the moment. (Editor’s note: Bouchard was second to Cheney in fundraising in the first quarter of 2021.)
LC: I don’t have any comment on any of my opponents. I think I have seven or eight at this point.
Reliving Jan. 6
CST: So I was kind of curious, just anecdotally, if you could give me like a little bit of insight into what your Jan. 6 experience was like. We’ve had some people come out and say, “I was shuffled to this room. I was shuffled to this room. There were insurrectionists in my office here.” You know what I mean? Those like little anecdotes. I was wondering if you could kind of walk me through how that day unfolded for you and where your head was at.
LC: Yeah, I mean, I was on the floor of the House and because on the House floor, you don’t have television, we couldn’t see what was happening on the outside of the Capitol. So the reports that we were getting came from members who had their phone and they were getting reports on their phone, or multiple times we had a Capitol police officer go up onto the dais, after they evacuated Speaker Pelosi. And then the police officer kept going up to the dais to give us updates. And so he would say things like, “The rioters have breached the Capitol.” And then at one point he said, “The rioters are in the rotunda.”
CST: So what did you think at that moment? Where was your head at?
LC: It was hard to believe it was real because the Capitol is just such a sacred place, and you assume that it’s going to be secure. One of the most just troubling moments of that period of the day was when one of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, he was sitting across from me, and he looked at his phone and he said, “Liz, there’s a Confederate flag flying in the rotunda.” And that moment was really — you realized that never happened during the Civil War. So there was a period of time where we were being instructed to get our gas masks out from under the chairs in the House. You could begin to hear the banging. They were giving us warnings, notification that there’d been tear gas released in the rotunda, and that’s why we had the gas masks. So it was surreal. It made me very angry, the idea that this could have happened and that there were people who were trying to use violence to stop us from counting electoral votes.
CST: Yeah, usually such an insignificant thing that no one pays attention to.
LC: Yeah. I mean, we learned that day how important it is. But it was very important then, where they evacuated us to — my Democratic counterpart (New York Rep.) Hakeem Jeffries and I both agreed very early on how important it was that we work to make sure that people get back into the chamber that night. And that we finished counting the electoral votes just to show that the effort to stop us had not been successful.
CST: So then when you were evacuated, where did you go? How close did you personally come to the insurrectionists? Do you know?
LC: Well, I did not know at the time, but I know now that there’s an area called the Speaker’s Lobby and they were taking all of us down the stairs on one side of it. And on the other side of the hallway is where people were coming in, and certainly people were trying to come in through the main doors of the chamber. So, we were close.
CST: Did you know that they were trying to travel up to (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s office while you were in there? How threatening was that to you personally?
LC: I mean, like I said, it was surreal. It made me very angry. But because we didn’t have access to television — I guess there was some television in a kind of an anteroom, but it was very difficult to know the extent of everything that was going on outside.
Talking to constituents
CST: So you said you’ve been traveling the state a little bit. What has been the response to your presence?
LC: I’ve been very heartened by the numbers of people who say, “Thank you for standing up for principle.” Just last night, somebody said to me, “Listen, you know, we might not agree with you on everything, but the fact that you’re standing up and doing what’s right and having the courage of your convictions is something that people in Wyoming appreciate.” There certainly are people who are angry, and I don’t mean like aggressively angry, but angry about my vote.
CST: So what do you say to them?
LC: So we talk about why I voted the way I did, why it was important, what I saw that day, the fact that Donald Trump didn’t send help while the attack was underway.
CST: Are they receptive to that? Does it seem like it resonates?
LC: People listen. Yeah. I mean, look, I think these are really big and important issues. And I think these are conversations that we have to have. Some people, I’m sure their minds are not going to be changed. Some people listen and ask for additional information. And other people listen and say, “Gosh, I didn’t know that. And I’m really glad I had the chance to talk to you about it.”
Being voted out of leadership
CST: So it was also reported that you didn’t like make a ton of effort in this second vote to remove you from your leadership position, to kind of round up support to keep you in it. I’m curious why you made that decision and what kind of calculus went into the lead-up to not try and get people to keep you in power?
LC: You know, it became clear that to stay in that position, I would have to perpetuate the “big lie.” I would have to be willing to go along with the idea that the election was stolen. If you look at what the other leaders in the Republican party in the House are doing, that’s what they’re doing. Look at what (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy is doing, what (House Minority Whip) Steve Scalise is doing. They are embracing President Trump. They are essentially ignoring the very grave things that he did on Jan. 6, and I’m not willing to do that. I feel, for example, very strongly, we’ve got to have a Jan. 6 commission. And I think that that break between me and particularly Kevin McCarthy — he doesn’t want a commission and I think would rather that I wasn’t saying publicly we have to have a commission. So it became clear that I’m not willing to do what is necessary right now. I think it’s bad for Wyoming, and it’s bad for the country to perpetuate that lie. I think it’s much more important to get our party back to policy and substance.
CST: That being said, you did have a decent number of months in power while pushing back against the “big lie.” So why did you kind choose not to continue that? What was the political calculus that went into thinking like, “OK, this is the right thing to do to just relinquish my position,” basically?
LC: I think as time went on, things changed, and it became clear that that wasn’t tenable anymore. You know, there certainly was a period of time after Jan. 6, I was the only one in leadership who voted to impeach. And there was a period of time where it looked like we really could just move forward. We could say that what happened on Jan. 6 happened, we had the impeachment vote, let’s look to the future. But then Kevin McCarthy went to Mar-a-Lago and began to rehabilitate Donald Trump. We began to have debates about what role Donald Trump should play in the future of the party. And my view is if you provoke an attack on the Capitol and you refuse to send help and you continue to attack the foundations of our democracy, you can’t play a role in the future of the party. I’m not willing to not say that. I think it’s so important to preserve the democracy that I think that’s a case that must be made. And so it became clear that I would have to agree not to make that case if I am going to stay in leadership, and I just won’t do that.
CST: So take me inside the voice vote, then. What was it like? Was it just so much louder on the one side?
LC: By the time we got to that vote, it was clear what was going to happen. I opened the meeting with a prayer. We always open with prayer. This was the first time that I had given the prayer myself. I cited the verse, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” I asked that everyone in the room remember that history was watching us. And I said if you’re looking for leaders who will perpetuate the lie, then I’m not your person, and you have plenty of other people to choose from. It was very quick. My view on it is clear. I had to make a decision about whether or not it was more important to be a member of the House leadership or more important to fight for Wyoming’s values and principles and for the restoration of the party. And it was not a tough decision. It was very clear that it was more important to do the latter.
CST: I know what you’re getting at kind is, like, this was the right opportunity to kind of fall on your sword.
LC: It is not a political calculation. You know, there are other political calculations that would have been much easier. But this was really a moment — and you can look and see all of the effort that went into what happened between Jan. 6 and a couple of weeks ago to try to sort of get people together, to try to say, “Let’s move forward, let’s be unified.” But there’s just simply too much pull inside our conference in the House by Donald Trump. And it just became untenable.
Response to Greene’s comments
CST: Did you see McCarthy’s statement this morning on (Georgia Rep.) Marjorie Taylor Greene? (Editor’s note: McCarthy condemned Greene’s statements comparing COVID-19 safety measures to the Holocaust.)
LC: I did. I think Marjorie Taylor Greene, and I said this a couple of days ago, what she is saying is evil. It’s vile. I think that we need to hold her accountable. It’s interesting, if you go back and look at what McCarthy said in February, when all of the news came out about her Facebook posts that were antisemitic before she was in office, one of the things he said was, “If she had said these things, while she were in office, then we would have to hold her accountable.” So I think that’s the question. OK, so she’s now said these horrific things in office, and she needs to be held accountable for it.
CST: Do you think it’s Nancy Pelosi’s responsibility to do so? (McCarthy) said, “At a time when the Jewish people face increased violence and threats, anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Democrat Party and is completely ignored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
LC: I mean, look, I think that the Democrats need to make sure that they are holding accountable people in their caucus who have said things that are antisemitic who have supported groups like Hamas at a time when Israel is under threat. But I don’t think that we should pivot away from Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s a Republican. What she said is disgusting, and I think she ought to be held accountable for it.
Looking to 2022
CST: How is this campaign is going to be different? Do you plan to travel the state more? Which towns do you plan to go to more?
LC: Look, I will be all over the state all the time. It is going to be a very energetic, enthusiastic, intense campaign. I think that one way it might be different is there probably will be more national focus on it, depending upon what President Trump decides he’s going to do.
CST: So how does that affect where you go in the state and what you spend your money on?
LC: It doesn’t. The difference is I think there’s going to be more national attention and I think the issues about the Constitution are going to be different. But in terms of how I decide how I’m spending my time, I am all in, 100%, everything possible that I can do to have the chance to make sure that I’ve talked to as many people individually as possible. But I look at that from the perspective of running an effective campaign across Wyoming. We’ll see what happens in terms of opponents and endorsements.
CST: What’s the biggest obstacle you have to overcome in your campaign, do you think?
LC: Look, I am going to just continue to make sure that the people of Wyoming know what I’ve been able to do and what my views are. I think certainly the prospect of President Trump and his machine trying to come into our state and anoint somebody is something we’ve never seen before. And I think certainly that I won’t take that for granted. But again, it’s going to provide the people of Wyoming an opportunity to make a real choice. The other candidates in this race, including potentially whomever he decides he’s going to endorse, their loyalty is to a former president who provoked an attack on our Capitol. And my loyalty is to the Constitution, to the people of Wyoming. So I look forward to that race. I look forward to those debates.
CST: You want to do a debate?
LC: Yeah. I look forward to doing multiple debates.
CST: What are your stances on how Wyoming’s primaries and general elections should be run? And what are your thoughts on crossover voting?
LC: Look, the state Legislature will make those decisions. I really believe that these issues under the Constitution, they’re issues that should be decided by the state. I will run a race based on whatever the state Legislature decides. And I look forward to running a successful race based on whatever they decide.
CST: Do you think that taking away crossover voting could harm the number of votes you get?
LC: I really am committed to earning every single vote, and whatever the state Legislature decides — I just don’t think that it is right to get in the middle of that. I think that’s something that isn’t a federal issue. I’m a federal elected official.
CST: But their decision affects your race.
LC: I will run my race based on working hard to earn every single vote, no matter what they decide in terms of how the election is going to be run.
Support in Washington
CST: Have you spoken with (Wyoming Sens. John) Barrasso or (Cynthia) Lummis?
LC: I do. I have.
CST: They’ve kind of stayed out of this. All the statements they’ve given me are, “We look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Cheney.” What do you think of their stance on all this?
LC: Look, we have a really strong delegation and we work together on the issues that really matter for the state. And I am sure we’ll continue to do that. Whether, you know, you go back and look at what we were able to do during COVID. Then of course it was Sen. (Mike) Enzi. And it’s unusual. Most of my colleagues in the House don’t have that kind of relationship with the senators from their state, but the three of us work very well together, and we’ll continue to do that.
CST: So they’ve been supportive of you?
LC: We work together, every single day on just about every issue that matters for Wyoming.