It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
After successfully winning the affection and approval of political enemies who, not so long ago, considered her father a war criminal, Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) will leave Congress in about 30 days to much greener, so to speak, pastures. (Ironically—or not—Cheney’s effort to indict Trump related to the events of January 6 will continue under Special Counsel Jack Smith, fresh off the heels of prosecuting Kosovo government officials at The Hague, the very place many of Cheney’s new admirers wanted former Vice President Dick Cheney to face trial.)
Democrats, however, may not give the doyenne of NeverTrump Republicans the grateful send-off she undoubtedly believes she earned during her brief tenure in Congress. Cheney, according to news reports, is as popular with the staff of the January 6 select committee as she is with Republicans in Wyoming, who voted her out of office by a nearly 2-1 margin in August.
Her obsessive fixation with Donald Trump—a personal vendetta in retaliation for Trump’s denunciation of the Iraq War and her father’s lies about weapons of mass destruction—is backfiring as the committee’s work concludes. And like all things Cheney, the end is fraught with internal drama, delusions of grandeur, personal score-settling, private bullying, and growing disaffection among those who trusted her to act in good faith.
The release of the official report has been delayed four times; it’s now scheduled for December 20, just two weeks before Republicans take control of the House with no time to pass any legislation to prevent a future “insurrection,” a major selling point to the public. Cheney, apparently, is to blame. “[Less] than six weeks before the conclusion of the committee’s work, Cheney’s influence over the committee’s final report has rankled many current and former committee staff,” the Washington Post reported last week. “They are angered and disillusioned by Cheney’s push to focus the report primarily on former president Donald Trump, and have bristled at the committee morphing into what they have come to view as the vehicle for the outgoing Wyoming lawmaker’s political future.”
More than a dozen former and current committee investigators spoke anonymously to the Post; some have quit in protest of Cheney’s focus on Trump. “[It’s] long been clear that Cheney deprioritized findings that didn’t fit a specific narrative about Trump’s efforts to foment the insurrection,” the Post revealed. One former staffer complained that the committee had morphed into a “Cheney 2024 campaign.”
The Post article followed an NBC News piece suggesting that the committee’s final report would omit the work of an entire team assigned to investigate the failures of law enforcement and intelligence agencies before and on January 6—despite specific language to that effect in the committee’s originating legislation. Staff members were “heartbroken” at the news, NBC News reported. So, staffers now are lobbying other committee members behind-the-scenes at the last minute to ensure a section addressing law enforcement’s missteps is included in the final version.
Committee advisors aren’t just talking on background, either. Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman and fellow NeverTrumper, blamed Cheney’s heavy-handedness for any reported strife. “I do think that Liz probably had outsized influence, or maybe too much influence on the committee,” Riggleman, who quit advising the panel several months ago, told CNN’s Jim Acosta over the weekend. “I do think that she should’ve had more members sort of taking the ball and running with it when it came with some of this reporting.”
Even on a committee populated by some of the most overblown egos in Washington, including Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Cheney’s hubris reigns supreme. Of course, being a Cheney means never having to say you’re sorry. Her spokesman immediately accused staffers of submitting “sub-par” work that unfairly “smears men and women in law enforcement” as racists—probably a true statement but still a convenient excuse to scuttle crucial elements of the investigation.
Poor Liz just can’t seem to catch a break anywhere. During an appearance at the University of Chicago earlier this month, Cheney was confronted by a group of conservative students demanding answers to questions about her father’s falsehoods justifying the war in Iraq. One student asked Cheney to square her condemnation of Trump’s election “lies” with Dick Cheney’s numerous lies about Saddam Hussein, 9/11, and weapons of mass destruction. Critics of the Bush Administration are “wrong,” Cheney scolded. “I think it’s really important to separate out policy disputes and disagreements from a president who’s attempting to undermine the Constitution,” she told the student, once again bringing the discussion back to Trump.
But one person should express tremendous gratitude to Cheney: Ray Epps. At the same event, Cheney, like so many January 6 committee members, oddly came to the mystery man’s defense, deflecting questions as to why Epps still has not been charged with any crime despite encouraging people on multiple occasions to go inside the Capitol.
There is no evidence, Cheney said, that Epps was acting on behalf of the federal government —a notable objection from Cheney since that wasn’t the question. Of course, Epps could have been acting on behalf of political interests or local authorities, but it remains interesting that he hasn’t been charged. Cheney, however, insists that anyone who finds this odd is “pushing conspiracy theories.”
Further, Cheney lectured the student that he didn’t “understand who makes prosecution decisions.” It was an odd flex considering Cheney has portrayed herself as Trump’s judge, jury, and executioner for the better part of two years. And aside from warning that the committee eventually would recommend charges against Trump, Cheney is part of a new subcommittee examining the potential of sending criminal referrals to the Department of Justice.
It’s safe to assume Ray Epps will not be one of the names on that list.
As she prepares to leave the halls of Congress and embark on a new political adventure—either landing a lucrative gig at a NeverTrump outlet funded by the Left or plotting a run for president in 2024—Cheney is a hero only in her own mind. Pimped by the Democrats, used by the news media, abandoned by Republicans, and disliked by the public, Cheney, like her father, might have managed to tick off almost everyone on her way out the door.
Don’t go away, mad, Liz. Just go away.