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Watch now: Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, remote Donald Trump Jr. speak at Cheyenne protest against Rep. Liz Cheney

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CHEYENNE — Close to 1,000 protesters gathered Thursday afternoon outside the Wyoming Capitol to join Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz in denouncing Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump.

Gaetz took to the dais in front of the Capitol steps at 1:15 p.m. and criticized Cheney throughout his public address, emphasizing the need to defeat her in the 2022 Republican primary. He said that Cheney represented corporate interests, not the people of Wyoming, and criticized her investment in longstanding wars abroad.

At one point in the speech, which lasted close to 25 minutes, Gaetz called in Donald Trump Jr. via speakerphone.

“It seems like Liz Cheney’s favorables there are only slightly worse than her father’s shooting skills,” Trump said through the phone, making reference to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The former president's son, Donald Trump Jr., addressed hundreds of Wyomingites by cell phone on Thursday at the Wyoming Capitol.

Meanwhile, Cheney was in the process of introducing legislation in an effort to prohibit President Joe Biden’s executive orders on drilling on federal lands.

Also Thursday, Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis took to the airwaves to defend Cheney’s decision to impeach the president, which the congresswoman has characterized as “a vote of conscience.”

“Wyoming people like to make their own decisions,” Lummis said on Fox Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Show. “They don’t particularly like outsiders coming in and telling them what to do. I think Wyoming people will handle this over time in a way they feel is appropriate.”

Gaetz commended Lummis in his speech Wednesday, though he mispronounced the newly elected senator’s last name, which rhymes with “hummus.”

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After Cheney voted to impeach Trump — becoming the most high-profile of 10 Republican House members to do so — Cheney has faced calls to leave her position as the House Republican Conference chair.

She also faces a more competitive primary in 2022 than in any other election since she took office in 2017. State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, has already announced his campaign for the seat, and new data from Trump pollster John McLaughlin suggests Cheney trails 54-21 in a hypothetical matchup with Bouchard — though some question the poll’s accuracy.

On Thursday, Trump’s son emphasized the need to be patient in finding a candidate to challenge Cheney next year: “Don’t just back the first person that comes along,” Trump Jr. said. Gaetz has not endorsed any candidate to run against Cheney.

Other, lesser-known candidates have also filed paperwork to run against Cheney, and other politicians have hinted they may get into the race. She has also received pushback from local Republican parties within Wyoming — including censures from three county-level organizations.

On the day of the Jan. 6 riots, Cheney said that Trump’s role in inciting the siege of the U.S. Capitol would be a “a part of legacy.” In explaining her decision to impeach, she said there had “never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

The result of a recent Senate vote suggests the body is unlikely to convict Trump, whom the Senate previously voted to acquit in 2020.

Gaetz, one of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, has long been a critic of Cheney, who largely voted in favor of Trump’s positions but had broken with him publicly on multiple occasions before this month — including on foreign policy.

In response to his announcement that he would be traveling to Cheyenne, Cheney said through a spokesperson: “Rep. Gaetz can leave his beauty bag at home,” referring to a video of Gaetz applying makeup for a TV appearance. “In Wyoming, the men don’t wear make-up.”

Gaetz, who previously criticized Cheney’s use of a spokesperson, referred to the comment in his speech Thursday.

Makeup can cover imperfections on one’s face, he said, but it can only do so much to cover up the “soulless corruption of Washington, D.C.”

He criticized Cheney’s foreign policy history, saying that it was easier for him to get makeup off his shirt than for Cheney to get the “blood off her hands.”

***

Gaetz began his speech by shouting “I love Wyoming” to cheers.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Capt. Tom Pritchard estimated there were 750 to 1,000 people in the crowd. Gaetz said that if Cheney had held a rally of her supporters, it likely could have fit inside an elevator in the Capitol building.

Gaetz, who said this was his first time in Wyoming, compared Cheney with other Washington “insiders” like Biden, Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to which the crowd booed.

“We can stop ‘em, and it starts right here in Wyoming,” said Gaetz, who promoted a style of politics he said his grandfather termed “prairie populism.”

His speech focused largely on the ill effects of neoconservatism and foreign wars, criticizing the role Cheney and her father have played in both.

“The real cowboys I know would have found greener pastures than Afghanistan, and they wouldn’t have taken 20 years to do it,” Gaetz said.

He also criticized the donations Cheney has received from political action committees.

“She works for them, not you,” he said.

Gaetz made reference to the controversy over Cheney’s fishing license application last decade, which incorrectly asserted she had already lived in the state of Wyoming for 10 years.

“Go home, Cheney!” the crowd chanted at one point.

A number of counterprotesters were also in attendance, including members of the Laramie Human Rights Network.

Some displayed signs with messages such as “Florida fascist go home” and “I hate Liz too.”

Russell Richard, who said his family has lived in Wyoming for at least six generations, held a sign that said “Florida man is an idiot” on one side and “Cheney spoke truth” on the other.

Rep. Ocean Andrew — a freshman Republican from Laramie — introduced Gaetz before he spoke. Andrew organized a Facebook page promoting the gathering. More than 200 people had indicated they planned to attend, and nearly 500 indicated they were “interested.”

Members of the national news media were in attendance, including One America News Network.

Country music played while demonstrators waited for Gaetz.

One woman, who asked not to be identified, held a sign that said “Impeach Liz Cheney!” She said she felt “betrayed” by Cheney’s vote earlier this month.(tncms-asset)6889aa34-61a4-11eb-b5c4-00163ec2aa77[10](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)18924d4a-61a1-11eb-9384-00163ec2aa77[11](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)f5ccf3e8-619e-11eb-824b-00163ec2aa77[12](/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)01a364c6-61a5-11eb-9356-00163ec2aa77[13](/tncms-asset)



Photos: Anti-Cheney protest at Wyoming Capitol

 
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Politics Reporter

Nick Reynolds covers state politics and policy. A native of Central New York, he has spent his career covering governments big and small, and several Congressional campaigns. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport in 2015.

Managing editor

Brandon Foster is the Star-Tribune's managing editor. He joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 as the University of Wyoming sports reporter after graduating from the University of Missouri and covering Mizzou athletics for two years.

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