In rural Wyoming, skepticism, apathy for Cheney hearings on January 6 | 307 Politics

Mike Koshmrl,

SUBLETTE COUNTY — Natalie Strong took a moment outside the All American Fuel convenience store in Big Piney to think back to Jan. 6, 2021, the day a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Strong was a little embarrassed to say it, but she was drawing a blank. The working mother didn’t have much of an opinion on U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, and she didn’t have much to say about her congresswoman’s role as vice chair of the congressional committee investigating the insurrection which took place 1,700 miles away some 18 months previously.

“I couldn’t even tell you what happened on January 6,” Strong said. “There’s so much going on in my life that I really don’t follow the news. It’s not my thing.”

Strong’s lack of interest in the events of January 6 and the U.S. House Committee’s review of the attack was widely shared by the 19 Wyoming voters WyoFile spoke to this week. in rural Sublette County – a very desert gas-field country that is home to small communities like Bondurant, Hoback Ranches, Daniel, Marbleton and Pinedale. The majority of randomly selected respondents – nearly 80% – paid no attention to hearings that some say could lead to criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. The handful of residents who had listened to or read about the committee were skeptical of its motives and legitimacy.

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“They had to hire Hollywood,” said Valerie Wheeler, a bartender at The Den, between serving customers at the Daniel Junction restaurant. “I’m serious, I don’t believe a word that comes out of their mouth.”

A low opinion of Cheney, the belief that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and the perception that insurrection is overdone to shine Cheney’s star on the national stage were commonplace in Sublette County, where the population has slipped since a natural gas boom in the early 2000s. If such sentiments are as widespread as many observers believe, they undermine the eligibility of Cheney, who has won victories in previous House races , but now faces a formidable adversary hand-picked by Trump: Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman.

Early polls from Hageman-aligned groups suggest the challenger is well ahead. But Cheney’s campaign and supporters have been betting big on winning hearts and minds through the incumbent’s leadership role in high-profile select committee hearings and the agency’s revelations about the Capitol attack. This strategy, however, hinges on the attention of Wyoming voters and the fact that they haven’t made up their minds.

This approach carries significant political risk. While the second-term congresswoman has occupied the national stage, interviewing witnesses and laying out a case against Wyoming’s popular former president, Hageman has been traveling the state’s conventional campaign circuit for months.

“As you will see in detail during our hearings, President Trump has ignored the rulings of our country’s courts, he has ignored his own campaign leadership, his White House staff, numerous state Republican officials, he ignored the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior Security,” Cheney said in his opening remarks at the first hearing. “President Trump has invested millions of dollars in campaign funds to deliberately broadcast false information, running advertisements he knew were false, and convincing millions of Americans that the election was corrupt and that he was the real president. As you will see, his disinformation campaign sparked the violence on January 6 .

The January 6 committee has held five hearings since and more are scheduled for July – which have reportedly been pushed back due to emerging new evidence. They have captured national attention. But not that of Natalie Strong or most of her neighbors in Sublette County.

While it’s unclear how many Wyoming residents are watching the Jan. 6 hearings, those tuning in aren’t picking it up on public service broadcasting. WyomingPBS opted to keep its normally scheduled lineup, which includes shows like “Curious George” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” Station manager Terry Dugas told the Washington Post that his outfit airs the hearings instead on Create, a digital subchannel of Wyoming’s PBS, because of the swearing that sometimes occurs during testimony.

“We are committed to Wyoming parents to provide a ‘safe harbor’ on our primary channel for their children during the day,” Dugas told the Post.

Nevertheless, the January 6 hearings are accessible to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection: they are broadcast live on YouTube and elsewhere.

State Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), who was named to Cheney’s leadership team, listened to at least parts of the first four hearings and said he spoke to a number of Wyoming voters who are “glued” to the hearings.

“It’s a small group of people and maybe an odd group,” Case said.

Case said there are facets of the Wyoming GOP, but not its leadership, that push back against Trump’s debunked claims, and the widely held belief that large-scale systematic fraud swung the election in Joe’s favor. Biden.

“I can’t change it,” Case said of Wyomings believing Trump’s lie. “I just know that if we let them say it over and over again, it becomes true for a lot of people.”

The longtime lawmaker, who has been censured by the Fremont County Republican Party for positions that deviate from the leadership of the Wyoming Republican Party, said he was ‘proud’ of Cheney for fighting misinformation and co-chaired the committee.

“There’s good and bad here,” Case said. “I will go all the way. I stake my own reputation on it.

Cheney too, with his work.

Former five-term U.S. senator and Cody resident Al Simpson, another member of Cheney’s leadership team, said he ‘didn’t care’ even though she was 80 percentage points behind . The important thing, he says, is that Cheney is right.

“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to America. It’s destroying democracy,” Simpson said of Trump’s attempts to nullify the election. “At some point, his words will go down in the books. At one point, [Trump] will be gone, and my Republican colleagues who are for him will be dishonored.

In the meantime, Simpson doesn’t count Cheney. There are still nearly two months until the Aug. 16 primary, and until then voters will learn more about Trump’s role in instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. That information could change the equation for Cheney and his Trump-aligned challenger, he said.

“Wyoming people are open-minded and closed-mouthed,” Simpson said.

Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler declined an interview request for this story. Just like the Hageman campaign. In an emailed statement, Adler said the committee expects to reveal many more facts that will provide a fuller picture of what happened prior to January 6 and the day itself.

Some Wyoming voters and politicians have already canceled the Jan. 6 committee.

“There’s clearly an agenda, and I’m saying that because they’re not showing both sides,” Lincoln County Republican Party Chairwoman Marti Halverson said. “It’s so choreographed that I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

Halverson, a former state representative, met with WyoFile last week at the Alpine Civic Center during a visit from Donald Trump, Jr. to promote Hageman. A few hundred Star Valley residents showed up one Wednesday morning to attend, offering hearty applause in response to the blows aimed at Cheney.

“Harriet will take Lincoln County for sure,” Halverson said, “but I’m not going to make a prediction as to how many, because there are pockets of Rep. Cheney’s supporters.”

Just north in Teton County, where Cheney has a home, Republican Party Chairwoman Mary Martin is keeping a neutral stance in the main battle: Unlike Halverson, she didn’t attend a Trump, Jr. event .in Jackson the day before. Among the Teton County GOP, there are two “very distinct camps,” she said.

“Some were totally insulted by what she said about Republicans in the state of Wyoming,” Martin said, “and others will tell you she’s the bravest person on the planet.”

Teton County Conservatives’ reception of the Jan. 6 committee hearings is also mixed, she said: some are watching carefully, while others think it’s a “big propaganda advertisement” for the Cheney’s political campaign.

The dichotomy leans more toward skepticism in Sublette County, where nearly 80% of voters voted to re-elect Trump-Pence in the 2020 election.

From the parking lot outside the Den at Daniel Junction, Cora breeder Pat Noble took a moment to share his insight. Noble is not one to watch TV – he finds it too one-sided – but listened to committee hearings when he could on the radio.

“I try to achieve a complete result [presentation] of an issue before I make up my mind,” Noble said, “but it’s a little hard to find it.

Regarding the Jan. 6 events on Capitol Hill, Noble thought it was “a shame it went this far,” but he believes the insurgents’ cause was right and the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. . He doesn’t believe, from what he’s heard listening to the committee hearings, that they’re shaking the former president fairly.

“They’re so committed to trying to pin Donald Trump on it,” Noble said. “Why are you focusing on this when there are so many things you can focus on? »

Of the 19 Sublette County residents WyoFile spoke to, only one openly said that Joe Biden was the rightful President of the United States.

“I’m a professional myself, so I trust the professionals with what they have to say,” Pinedale resident Antolin Barraza said of the election results. “Whether the result is what I wanted or not, I will let them choose.”

Barraza, an engineer, voted for Trump. Like most of his fellow citizens who agreed to speak, he was disconnected from the January 6 committee hearings. In fact, he didn’t even know they were happening.

“Almost irresponsibly, sometimes you don’t pay attention to some of these things,” Barraza said. “We’re too busy playing in the mountains and living life and enjoying what’s around us. We have this privilege.

WyoFile is an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on the people, places, and politics of Wyoming.

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