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Rep. Liz Cheney loses GOP primary to Trump-backed challenger, NBC projects

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Vice Chair U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a public hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee to research the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 21, 2022.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Rep. Liz Cheney, former President Donald Trump’s highest-profile Republican critic and a number one figure within the investigation of his role within the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, will lose her Wyoming primary race, NBC News projected.

The final result of the first for Wyoming’s sole House seat was widely expected, as recent polls showed Cheney trailing her top rival, Harriet Hageman, by double-digit margins. Hageman was projected to win the GOP primary by NBC News.

In a concession speech Tuesday evening, Cheney attributed her loss on to her opposition to Trump.

“Two years ago, I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the identical again,” Cheney said.

“The trail was clear. Nevertheless it would have required that I associate with President Trump’s lie concerning the 2020 election. It will have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic,” she said. “That could be a path I couldn’t and wouldn’t take.”

Cheney, whose next steps have been a subject of much speculation amongst political watchers, also hinted that she’s going to proceed to combat Trump’s falsehoods concerning the election.

“Tonight, Harriet Hageman received probably the most votes on this primary. She won. I called her to concede the race. This primary election is over. But now, the true work begins,” Cheney said.

Hageman, in contrast, thanked Trump in her victory speech. “His clear and unwavering support from the very starting propelled us to victory tonight,” she said.

Cheney’s seat in Congress had appeared rather more secure until fairly recently. The daughter of a former vp, Liz Cheney had been the No. 3-ranking Republican within the House and had easily won her last election in 2020.

Things modified after the Jan. 6, 2021, rebellion, when a violent mob of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee their chambers and delaying their efforts to verify President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. Members of the mob believed the then-president’s false claims that his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden was the results of widespread fraud. Trump continues to spread election conspiracy theories and falsely assert the election was rigged.

Cheney voted to question Trump for inciting the riot, making her one among just 10 House Republicans to accomplish that. The vote put a goal on all their backs: Trump has worked to purge them and other Republicans he saw as insufficiently loyal. With Cheney’s ouster, eight of the ten pro-impeachment Republicans have since either lost reelection bids or announced their retirements from Congress.

Unlike most of them, Cheney has not shied away from her impeachment vote with the intention to attempt to persuade Republicans in her overwhelmingly pro-Trump state to maintain her in Congress.

Reasonably, Cheney has made it a central theme of her campaign, framing her vocal opposition as an ethical imperative that transcends the goal of political self preservation.

“In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been a person who has posed a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump,” said Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, in one among multiple campaign ads focused on Trump.

Liz Cheney also became vice chair of the House select committee investigating the riot. She and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — who voted to question Trump and is now retiring — are the one Republicans on the nine-seat probe.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other GOP leaders have condemned the investigation as a partisan fishing expedition, though he had a possibility to appoint five members to the panel. He withdrew all of them after two were rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

McCarthy had also backed efforts last 12 months to strip Cheney of her rank as House Republican conference chair after she refused to tone down her criticism of Trump.

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