Calling Wednesday afternoon’s U.S. House vote to impeach President Donald Trump for an unprecedented second time “a really sad day for the nation,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, said her support of impeachment was “a vote of conscience” and not about partisan politics.
“What we’ve lived through over the course of the last week's time we never thought we would,” she said during a call with Wyoming press shortly after the House voted 232-197 to impeach the president for inciting last week’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.
“When you look at what happened on Jan. 6 and the president’s role in that and the president’s actions while the mob was attacking the capitol … it was very clear to me there was no option other than voting to impeach,” Cheney said.
She was one of 10 House Republicans to break from the party and support impeachment.
Cheney said she cast the vote “with a heavy heart,” but also that she felt obligated to “recognize my oath to the Constitution isn’t one I can walk away from and one I can’t violate.”
Asked about an upswell of angry feedback from Wyoming residents since a Tuesday afternoon announcement that she’d vote for impeachment, Cheney said the issue goes far beyond party politics.
“I’ve spent many hours on the phone as we’ve been in Washington, first leading up to the Electoral College vote then leading up to this vote, talking to people all over the state,” she said. “The way I view this vote is it’s not a partisan vote.
“When it came down to it, the President of the United States inciting a mob to attack the Capitol to interrupt the democratic process, then while the violence played out refusing to take steps to stop it, was high crimes and misdemeanors, in my mind,” Cheney said.
“There are times when those of us who are elected officials are called to act,” she added. "This is one of those times.”
Wyoming led the nation in supporting Trump in the 2020 general election with 70% of the vote. In Campbell County, the margin was 87% in favor of the president. While some residents have reacted with support for Cheney, much of the response has been negative.
“Resign and pack up and move to NY with your crony buddies,” Barbara Finley posted to Cheney’s official Facebook page.
“You sold out the people of Wyoming,” posted Brian Sweeney.
Tracy Jonas posted that the congresswoman is “no longer welcome in our great state of Wyoming. You have turned against your constituency. I am truly embarrassed to have given my vote to the traitor you have become.”
Cheney said she sees the political divide in Wyoming and the nation is growing, but that being at the Capitol last week and witnessing the assault firsthand was an eye-opening experience.
“People showed up with weapons, they showed up with zip-ties to use on people,” she said. “There are some things that should never be partisan.
“We are living through a very dangerous moment for our nation. It’s a moment you will certainly see a widening and expanding set of criminal investigations (in the aftermath of Jan. 6).”
Cheney’s stand and break from the president comes at a crucial moment for her political career. The No. 3 House Republican and the highest-ranking woman in the party was cited by Democrats repeatedly during impeachment debate before Wednesday’s vote.
“That is not some irresponsible, new member of the Congress,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on the floor, also noting her relationship to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “This is the daughter of the former Republican whip and former vice president. She knows of what she speaks.”
Cheney represents one of the country's most safely Republican states, but her decision could prompt a primary challenge from the right in next year's election. That makes her backing impeachment all the more notable since Cheney is seen as someone looking to build on an already strong national profile to possibly grow within the Republican Party's upper ranks.
As the only woman in House GOP leadership, Cheney has been seen as a possible candidate for House speaker should the GOP regain the majority during the 2022 midterms or beyond. That might even have portended a future presidential run.
"There will be some blowback within her state and the Trumpites in it, but I think it’s a fairly calculated decision,” said Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman who was unseated in 2018 by a conservative primary challenger endorsed by Trump. “There’s some degree of risk-reward to it. As within any greater reward decision there’s going to be some degree of risk.”
Any hope of Cheney rising in the House GOP leadership looks bleak, at least for now. The two Republicans who outrank her, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, have generally remained supportive of Trump.
Other top members of her own party have begun clamoring for Cheney to quit — or be voted out of — her post as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. Rep. Jim Jordan, founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, called her stance on impeachment “totally wrong.” Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale said Cheney “ignored the preferences of Republican voters” proving she’s “unfit to lead.”