WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has chosen a favored candidate in his bid to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his most vocal Republican critics.
Trump is planning to endorse Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman, who is preparing to launch a primary campaign against Cheney, the most prominent member of Congress to vote for Trump's second impeachment, according to a person familiar with his decision. The person spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.
The move marks Trump's most significant endorsement to date as he works to maintain his status as GOP kingmaker and make good on his threat to exact revenge on those who voted to impeach him or blocked his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Trump has already endorsed a number of Republicans challenging GOP incumbents including Kelly Tshibaka, who is running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska; Michigan State Rep. Steve Carra, who is trying to unseat longtime Rep. Fred Upton; former White House aide Max Miller, who is running against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez in Ohio; and Joe Kent, who is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington.
All voted in favor of impeaching Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building.
Trump met with Hageman last month as he assessed the potential candidate pool, hoping an early endorsement would help clear the field and prevent a crowded primary that might be advantageous to Cheney's chances.
At least half a dozen other Republicans have already announced their intentions to run and it wasn’t immediately clear whether the news of Trump's decision — which was first reported by Politico — would succeed in pushing them out.
They include state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, whose campaign was disrupted in May by the revelation that he impregnated a 14-year-old girl when he was 18; state Rep. Chuck Gray, a political radio commentator; and Darin Smith, an attorney with ties to the Christian Broadcasting Network and the conservative Family Research Council.
Hageman was an early supporter of Cheney’s unsuccessful attempt in 2013 and 2014 to oust popular U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, and the two have remained in touch, though it is unclear how close they are personally.
She finished third in a six-way Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018, getting 21% of the vote. Former State Treasurer Mark Gordon won, followed by investor and Republican megadonor Foster Friess, whom had Trump endorsed.
Hageman grew up on a ranch near Fort Laramie in southeastern Wyoming. She holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wyoming.
She’s listed as a senior attorney with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that aims to protect “constitutional freedoms from violations by the administrative state," according to its mission statement.
Her Cheyenne law firm touts its ties to Wyoming’s ranching industry and Hageman’s involvement in lawsuits over wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, grazing on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land and water rights, among other issues.
She recently expressed support on Facebook for a new Texas law banning most abortions and has been a longtime cheerleader for the state's coal mining industry.
Possibly foreshadowing the congressional race ahead, Hageman was the first in her 2018 campaign to go negative, criticizing one opponent as “anti-coal” and “obsessed with so-called green energy.”
Now, Hageman faces having to explain why she has parted ways with Cheney despite recent close ties. Hageman was among the first and most prominent people to endorse Cheney in her brief and unsuccessful run against Enzi. And Hageman and Cheney coordinated politically as recently as 2017, emails obtained by The Associated Press show.
Undercutting a common line of attack against Cheney — that she spent most of her life outside Wyoming before moving to Jackson Hole in 2012 — Hageman told The Associated Press in 2013 that Cheney's family had a long history in Wyoming and that such criticism was a “distraction.”
Hageman also donated $1,500 to Cheney for her successful first run for the U.S. House in 2016, and photographs of the pair together were already being used as campaign fodder.
Trump’s allies in Wyoming have been trying — unsuccessfully so far — to change state election law to allow for a runoff or ranked-choice voting system starting with next year’s primary. Such a big change would be costly and difficult to pull off by then, opponents of the changes say.
Hageman didn’t return phone and social media messages seeking comment.
Gruver reported from Fort Collins, Colorado.