By Eric Bradner and David Wright, CNN
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney cast the Republican Party as “threatened by fealty to an individual” — former President Donald Trump — and defended her work on the committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection during a debate with her four GOP primary challengers Thursday night.
“There’s a real tragedy that’s occurring, and the tragedy is there are politicians in this country, beginning with Donald Trump, who have lied to the American people. People have been betrayed. He has consistently said the election is stolen when it wasn’t,” Cheney said in the debate broadcast by Wyoming PBS ahead of the August 16 primary.
She added: “We are now embracing a cult of personality. I won’t be part of that, and I will always stand for my oath and stand for the truth.”
Cheney is set to face the Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, a former Republican national committeewoman from Wyoming, and three other Republicans in the primary for the state’s only US House seat. Her rivals have attacked Cheney over her role as one of two Republicans on the House panel investigating the US Capitol riot, and have dismissed that probe’s importance.
Cheney went on the attack early in the debate, pointing out that Hageman’s campaign had hired the consulting firm of Bill Stepien, Trump’s former campaign manager. Stepien, Cheney noted, had told the committee he was happy to be part of “team normal” in the wake of Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, as Trump and some of his allies began spreading lies and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
“I’d be interested to know whether or not my opponent, Ms. Hageman, is willing to say here tonight that the election was not stolen. She knows it’s not stolen,” Cheney said.
However, Cheney said that doing so would cost Hageman Trump’s endorsement. “If she says it wasn’t stolen, he will not support her,” the congresswoman said.
Hageman made several false claims about the 2020 election, citing the “2000 Mules” film that peddles conspiracy theories about ballot drop boxes and “Zuckerberg money” — a reference to donations from the charity of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, to help local elections officials navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
“The truth matters,” Cheney said. “And the claims that Ms. Hageman is making about the 2020 election are the same claims for which the President’s lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was disbarred,” she added, referring to Giuliani’s suspension from practicing law in New York state by an appellate court that found he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” about the 2020 election.
“They are simply not true. It is not true that there was sufficient fraud to change the results of the 2020 election. The President’s own attorney general has said that, the President’s own deputy attorney general has said that and, I mean, President Trump — President Trump’s campaign manager said that; President Trump’s White House counsel said that; President Trump’s own family said that.”
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