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Wake Up To Politics - August 16, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Liz Cheney’s last stand
Wake Up To Politics - August 16, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 16, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 84 days away. Election Day 2024 is 812 days away.

Liz Cheney’s last stand

One of the marquee political events of the summer will take place today, as Wyoming voters head to the polls to decide the fate of Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the foremost Trump critics in the Republican Party.

Cheney is widely expected to lose. She faces a primary challenge from Harriet Hageman, a lawyer and former Republican National Committee member who has Trump’s endorsement.

All available polling suggests Hageman is poised to crush Cheney in the primary: the most recent poll, from the University of Wyoming, showed Hageman with 57% of the vote to Cheney’s 28%.

In a bid to stave off defeat, Cheney has sought to convince Wyoming Democrats — her new anti-Trump bedfellows — to change their party affiliations to vote for her in the Republican primary, but even that strategy doesn’t seem like it can save her.

As of August 1, the state had fewer than 40,000 registered Democrats and more than 207,000 registered Republicans. (An additional 33,000 voters are unaffiliated.) If the GOP electorate is as lopsided in Hageman’s favor as polls show, it does not seem as there are enough Democratic voters in the state to make a meaningful difference.

If she does go down in flames, Cheney would be the fourth of the “Impeachment 10” — the House Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment last year — to be defeated by a primary challenger backed by the former president, joining Reps. Tom Rice (SC), Peter Meijer (MI), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA).

Four other members of the group — Anthony Gonzalez (OH), John Katko (NY), Adam Kinzinger (IL), and Fred Upton (MI) — opted to retire instead of facing a bruising primary campaign. Only two are poised to be on the ballot in November: Dan Newhouse (WA) and David Valadao (CA), both of whom benefited from “top-two” primary systems where candidates of all parties were on the same primary ballot.

Liz Cheney in her final primary campaign ad. (Screengrab)

But none of the “Impeachment 10” has carried the anti-Trump flame like Cheney, who accepted an appointment by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to serve as vice chair of the House January 6th committee. The Wyomingite has used her perch on the panel to wage all-out war against the 45th president, repeatedly delivering crisp and pointed attacks aimed at Trump and his remaining allies in her opening and closing statements.

Cheney has kept her focus squarely trained on Trump even in her primary campaign in Wyoming, which the former president won with a greater percentage of the vote (69%) in 2020 than any other state.

Much of her TV advertising in the race has been about Trump, including her final ad, which warned that the former president’s lies about the 2020 election are a “cancer that threatens our great republic.”

Cheney’s political trajectory is a fascinating one to consider. She entered the political square as the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was then reviled by Democrats as a real-life “Darth Vader.” While her father was vice president, Cheney serve in the Bush-era State Department, becoming known for her neoconservative foreign policy and defense of the Iraq war.

Cheney spent the early 2010s as an Obama antagonist (even a defender of birtherism), “Hannity” guest host, and a Senate candidate who famously opposed gay marriage despite having a lesbian sister.

When she arrived in the House in 2018, assuming the statewide Wyoming seat once filled by her father, Cheney was quickly put on a path to leadership. Cheney became the chair of the Republican conference (again, a position once held by her dad) and turned down a possible Senate seat to pursue the goal of becoming the first Republican female speaker of the House.

And then, of course, once 2020 came, she slowly emerged as quiet Trump critic, then an impeachment backer, then lost her leadership spot over it, before finally going full-tilt against Trump. In one stirring scene from early this year, Dick and Liz Cheney were the only Republicans to attend a congressional ceremony marking the January 6 anniversary — showing a father and daughter bizarrely more comfortable among Democrats, at least on some issues, than in their longtime party fold.

Cheney, second from right, at a January 6 committee hearing. (Twitter)

Where Cheney’s twisting path takes her next is unclear. As the Washington Post put it, “Liz Cheney’s political life is likely ending — and just beginning.” After her presumptive primary loss, Cheney is expected to continue her anti-Trump advocacy, with the January 6 committee for the rest of the year and then possibly with a national organization or even a presidential run in 2024.

But first, Cheney is about to do something rare in politics: lose on principle. “If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat,” she told the New York Times in a recent interview, “then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”

More news you should know

Today’s other primaries. Another anti-Trump Republican will also face primary voters today, but this one is expected to fare better. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who voted for Trump’s conviction last year, faces a field of challengers including Trump-backed former state official Kelly Tshibaka.

Like the two pro-impeachment House Republicans who survived primary challenges, Murkowski will benefit from Alaska’s unique primary system, in which candidates from all parties are on the same ballot today. The top four candidates in today’s vote will be on the ballot in November.

Meanwhile, Alaska could send Sarah Palin to Congress: the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is one of four cadidates facing off in a special election today for the state’s at-large House seat today.

Sarah Palin could stage a political comeback today. (Gage Skidmore)

Trump investigations. Is it 2017 again? Because there is an outpouring of news about all kinds of investigations into Donald Trump and the cast of characters around him. Here’s the latest:

  • Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been told by prosecutors that he is a target in the Georgia investigation into efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Giuliani is set to testify before a grand jury in the probe on Wednesday. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was ordered by a judge on Monday to testify as well.
  • The FBI seized three passports from Trump’s home during its search of Mar-a-Lago for classified documents last week. The passports have been returned.
  • Former Trump senior adviser Eric Herschmann has been subpoenaed as part of the Justice Department’s other ongoing investigation into Trump, which is focused on the 2020 election aftermath. He is the fifth former White House official known to have been subpoenaed in the probe.
  • Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg is expected to plead guilty to charges relating to the former president’s family business this week. Weisselberg’s plea deal is not expected to include him cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.

Breaking news. First Lady Jill Biden has tested positive for Covid, the White House announced this morning. She has “cold-like symptoms” and will isolate in South Carolina.

First Lady Jill Biden tested positive for Covid. (White House)

What’s going on in Washington today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch it.

President Joe Biden will take a brief break from his vacation today to sign the Inflation Reduction Act, the major climate change, health care, and tax package that Democrats ushered through Congress last week.

He’ll depart South Carolina (11:40 am), arrive back at the White House (1:50 pm), sign the package (3:30 pm), and then depart D.C. again (7 pm) to arrive (8:15 pm) at a new vacation spot, his home in Delaware.

Vice President Kamala Harris has nothing on her public schedule.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre does not have a press briefing scheduled.

The Senate is on recess until September 6. The chamber will briefly convene for a pro forma session (8 am) to fulfill its constitutional obligation of meeting once every three days. No legislative business will be conducted.

The House is on recess until September 13, but will also hold a brief pro forma session (1 pm).

The Supreme Court is on recess until October 3.

Before I go...

Longtime readers of this newsletter will recall that for many summers I would put Wake Up To Politics on hold to attend sleepaway camp up in the Northwoods of Minnesota.

I was actually back at the camp this weekend, celebrating its 75th anniversary with other camp alumni from throughout the decades — including some of my best friends and counselors. I was coming back from the camp reunion on Monday, which is why there was no newsletter yesterday.

Camp taught me many lessons in the nine summers I was a camper or counselor, but one of them was the importance and beauty of balance. For eight weeks each year, we handed in our phones and fully immersed ourselves in nature. For me, that meant pausing the newsletter, stepping away from the news cycle, and just having fun.

I missed a lot of big news stories in those summers — from Supreme Court decisions to party conventions — but it always proved to me to be completely worth it. It was nice to do it again for one weekend, another reminder for me of how much there is to be gained from occasionally stepping away, catching your breath, and unplugging.

Even if it’s not always possible to have it for two whole months, returning to camp is always a reminder for me of the importance of finding small ways to replicate that feeling of calm and remove throughout each day, each week, and each year.

Thanks to all of you for indulging me just now, and during all those summers I’d put the newsletter on pause and take a break.

For me and many other generations of Camp Thunderbird almuni, this familiar scene at the camp’s waterfront represents the ultimate peace and calm. (Gabe Fleisher)

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe