A former senior investigative counsel who worked with Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on the January 6 committee recently moved to Kansas City, Missouri from Virginia with the intention of running as an independent in the 2022 U.S. Senate race.
John Wood, a close friend of the Cheney family, officially left his position on the committee in late June and rented an apartment in Kansas City. According to The Heartlander, a Kansas City-based news site, he only registered to vote there on June 18.
“I’ve been friends with her [Liz Cheney] for a long time. I share her conservative views and her conservative values,” Wood said in a recent interview. “But I also share her concern about former President Trump, and I believe deeply in democracy and our Constitution.”
Earlier this week, Cheney lost her primary election in Wyoming to Harriet Hageman, a Trump-backed opponent. Wood said he wasn’t discouraged by the outcome.
“The same probably would have been true here in Missouri in a Republican primary where, unfortunately, the primaries tend to be driven by the bases of both parties,” he said. “But I think the general election, there’s an opportunity to appeal to a lot more people who are kind of in the mainstream.”
Wood announced his candidacy on June 28 as an alternative to the supposedly “extreme” GOP Senate candidate Eric Greitens, who was leading in the polls at the time. “I am not looking to be a spoiler. I’m in this race to win it,” Wood told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think that there is a coalition of common-sense voters that can be put together.”
We deserve better than radical, violent extremism from our US Senators. I'm a 6th generation son of Missouri who has spent his career serving our state and country. I'm proud to announce my candidacy for the US Senate. I'm all in to bring voters a real clear choice for a change.
— John Wood (@JohnWoodMO) June 29, 2022
John Danforth, the former Republican U.S. Senator from Missouri, is backing Wood’s campaign with millions of dollars of his own money, and as much as $20 million from his political action committee, Kansas City-based author and journalist Jack Cashill reported in the American Spectator on Thursday.
Danforth co-authored an exasperating report last month that dismissed GOP concerns about voter integrity, claiming to make the “conservative case” that Trump lost and Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.
As far back as 2005, Danforth was arguing that the Republican Party was too conservative, telling the New York Times that it had become a party “overtaken by conservative Christians.”
Danforth, an Episcopal priest, was a public supporter of efforts to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. He has said the worst mistake he ever made was supporting Senator Josh Hawley’s political aspirations.
Danforth also insisted “we’re not in this to be a spoiler” back in July. “That’s for sure. We’re in it to win it, and I believe that we can win it.”
After Greitens lost the primary election earlier this month, Wood remained in the race. He faces rising Republican star Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s attorney general, and Democratic heiress Trudy Busch Valentine in the November election. Regardless of what Wood and Danforth may insist, his independent candidacy will siphon votes away mainly from the Republican.
Wood’s effort is reminiscent of CIA operative Evan McMullin’s NeverTrump run for president in 2016.
McMullin entered the race as an independent and said that he wanted to be “an alternative for people who don’t like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.”
He, too, insisted that he was not a spoiler for Trump because Trump didn’t have a chance to win anyway.
“Donald Trump is already losing to Hillary Clinton. I just entered this race yesterday. He’s already doing very badly,” McMullin told CNN at the time. “Trump is weak. Trump is a weak candidate and he is losing badly to one of the most unfit Democratic candidates to appear before the American people in quite some time.” We all know how that turned out.
Wood, reportedly a sixth-generation Missourian, has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 2004, according to Bush-era Department of Homeland Security official Matt Mayer. “He is the epitome of a Washington insider trying to grab as much power and money as he can,” Mayer told American Greatness.
It’s a stretch to say Wood is still a Missourian.
Three years ago, The Heartlander reports, the “nominal Republican” built “a five-bedroom, seven-bath, 6,579-square-foot home worth $4 million to $5 million” for his family in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, Virginia.
Before that, according to records obtained by The Heartlander, in 2009 the Woods built a five-bedroom, six-bath, 4,660-square-foot home in Arlington, Virginia, another D.C. suburb. For that, they obtained a $727,000 loan from CitiMortgage Inc. in 2010.
Meanwhile, Wood’s son Connor is a member of the golf team at The Potomac School in McLean, an exclusive K-12 private school with an annual tuition of $47,000 a year—roughly four times as much as the University of Missouri. The young Wood played for Potomac as a freshman last year, and played in a PGA Jr. League event in Maryland as recently as July 25.
That raises the question of whether Wood will uproot his son and the rest of the family to live in 45 Madison Apartments in Kansas City—which, while billing itself as “luxury living,” features modest one-bedroom units (660 square feet) to three-bedroom units (1,294 square feet).
During the Bush Administration, Wood worked under former Attorney General John Ashcroft in the Department of Justice and was chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. At DHS, Wood worked alongside Liz Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, who served as the department’s general counsel.
As the Federalist reported, Chertoff endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and Joe Biden for president in 2020, claiming the GOP had been “hijacked.”
Mayer told American Greatness that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Wood and the “hot-tempered” Perry fought at DHS to have the civil disorder in New Orleans designated as an “insurrection,” even though it would more aptly be described as a breakdown of society following a natural disaster.
“He’s got insurrection on the brain,” Cashill quipped in reaction to the story.
Fast forward to the violent, deadly, and destructive George Floyd riots of the summer of 2020, and the I-word seemed to disappear from Wood’s vocabulary.
Cashill reported in the American Spectator that he had a surprise run-in with the D.C. insider while he was having breakfast in a Kansas City restaurant with Michael Ryan, the executive editor of Heartlander who had just reported on Wood’s candidacy. Cashill said he was reading the article when Wood walked in.
“While I was reading, a tall, dough-faced, middle-aged fellow sat down at an adjoining table no more than five feet from us,” Cashill wrote. “What caught my attention was his attire. In his shorts and pink polo shirt, he looked like he was on the way to a J.Crew catalog shoot.”
He added: “Only a preppy . . . would dress like that on a morning cool and rainy enough to merit an overcoat. [It was in the low to mid 60’s in Kansas City on Tuesday.] Seated by himself, he immediately started making phone calls on his headset.”
Cashill said he did “a double take” when he saw who had sat down next to him, and decided to engage him in conversation.
“You’re the guy running for Senate, right?” Cashill recalled, noting that Wood “seemed gratified that we recognized him.”
I started in benignly enough, asking him why he chose to run. He said that former Republican Sen. John Danforth had called and asked him to. He asked if we knew Danforth. I said that I met him once or twice, but who hadn’t?
I asked Wood why he remained in the race and what he hoped to accomplish. He countered by asking whether we were Republicans. Yes, I told him. I added that I had voted for Eric Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general and the winner of the primary, an ‘extremist’ by no known definition.
For the record, Trump carried Missouri by 15 points in both 2016 and 2020. ‘You can’t win,’ I said to Wood pointedly but still politely. ‘It seems that all you can do at this point is siphon votes from Schmitt.’ Wood claimed that he expected to take votes from both candidates. Neither of us was buying that BS, and Wood was beginning to suspect he had wandered into political quicksand. With his breakfast on the way, however, he couldn’t just up and leave.
As I continued to prod, Wood took the position that Schmitt’s challenge of the 2020 election results and his closeness to Trump made him essentially unfit for office. When I asked what role Schmitt had played in the election aftermath, Wood cited the fact he supported a lawsuit contesting the election outcome.
Schmitt had joined other attorney generals in challenging the results in the four states that had changed voting protocol, allegedly for COVID reasons. ‘Schmitt went through the courts,’ I said.
The uncharismatic Wood, Cashill wrote, “was at his most animated” when the conversation turned to January 6 “insurrection.”
When I asked about the summer-long riots of 2020, he said, ‘Those were bad too.’ The summer riots were far worse, I explained, but there were almost no consequences for the rioters. Scores of Jan. 6 protestors, I continued, were imprisoned for no greater crime than wandering uninvited around the Capitol.
Cashill noted that Wood seemed to be only concerned about the destruction wrought by the January 6 protestors.
I believe he was about to say they killed a guard but, realizing that canard wasn’t going to fly with this audience, he used the word ‘hurt’ instead. He knew who Ashli Babbitt was but insisted the officer who shot and killed her had no choice.
When Cashill asked Wood what he knew about Rosanne Boyland, the battered 34-year-old January 6 protester who died outside the Capitol’s lower west terrace tunnel amid a violent crackdown by D.C. and Capitol police, the ex-investigative counsel said that he had never heard of her.
As his conversation with Wood on Tuesday became more heated, Cashill said he accused him of “opening the door to a Democrat,” and “helping to perpetuate the dual system of justice” now plaguing America.
Ryan chimed in by citing the now thoroughly discredited Trump-Russia investigation, which prompted Wood to insist “the FBI acted in good faith.”
Mike asked how they could repeatedly lie on the FISA applications necessary to keep the sting going. Wood shrugged and mumbled something about a special prosecutor looking into it.
Sure, right, I said, but there is no justice in D.C. courts.
Some 95 percent of prospective jurors voted against Trump. These juries were convicting Jan. 6 protestors before the jurors finished eating their donuts. As the Michael Sussmann case proved, they refused to convict a Democrat in spite of the irrefutable evidence against him. Losing patience, I said, ‘People like you are turning this country into a banana republic.’ With that, Wood’s breakfast arrived, and we let him eat in peace.
“We had encountered a RINO in the wild, an agent sent to Missouri to subvert an election for reasons he could not begin to explain, let alone justify,” Cashill concluded.
It remains to be seen how successful his bid to attract “mainstream” voters will be, but now that his candidacy is getting some attention in the media, we can hope the Show-Me State Republicans have had enough.
Wood on Tuesday decided to throw in the towel:
“I made the decision to run for the United States Senate when Eric Greitens was the favorite for the Republican nomination,” he wrote in a long Twitter thread. “That would have been unacceptable, embarrassing, and dangerous for my party, my state, and my Country.”
I believed Missouri voters deserved a truly principled, conservative choice this November and so did more than 22,000 Missourians who helped secure my position on the ballot.
Circumstances have changed.
While I think I could have beaten Eric Greitens, Missouri no longer faces the risk of Greitens as our next U.S. Senator.
While I have significant differences of opinion with both the Republican and Democratic nominees, it has become evident there is not a realistic path to victory for me as an independent candidate.
Today, I am announcing that I am withdrawing my candidacy for the United States Senate.
Many Missourians, as well as Americans across the country, have expressed their support for the noble causes of uniting our Country, defending democracy and protecting our Constitution.
While my candidacy is ending, my commitment to these causes endures. I will continue to work in other ways to promote these causes, which are dear to my heart.
I have been inspired in this campaign to follow the example set by great and courageous leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Jack Danforth, and Liz Cheney.
I hope others who seek elected office will endeavor to set aside the extremist rhetoric that is dividing our Nation and begin the critical work of restoring public trust in our democratic institutions.
I am extremely appreciative of everyone who has supported my campaign, especially family, friends, campaign staff, volunteers, contributors, and other supporters, including all those who helped secure my position on the ballot.
I am grateful for your belief in my campaign and for your commitment to healing our country.
While my campaign for the US Senate is ending, my fight for our democracy is not. I will continue to stand up for our democratic republic and oppose those who prioritize party and self-interest over the needs of our country however I can.