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Liz Cheney to debate Wyoming GOP foes after Jan. 6 hearings

Liz Cheney is returning to Wyoming after a week of hearing dramatic public testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee to debate Republican primary challengers including Harriet Hageman, her Donald Trump-endorsed opponent.

Cheney is likely to draw criticism in Thursday's televised debate for investigating the former president's effort to overturn the 2020 election and his encouragement of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

At the Reagan Library Wednesday night, she offered a stark choice to her fellow Republicans. 

"It has become clear that the efforts Donald Trump oversaw and engaged in were even more chilling and threatening than we imagined. It is undeniable: The Republican Party cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution."

She chastised Republicans who supported Trump's efforts to remain in power, despite his election loss. 

"At this moment, we are confronting a domestic threat we have never faced before– a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our Constitutional Republic," Cheney said. "And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man." 

While she has taken a key role as one of just two Republicans on the House committee, Cheney faced a backlash among Republicans in deep-red Wyoming.

The state Republican Party last year censured her and voted to no longer recognize her as a Republican. Even so, Cheney has if anything increased her national profile, out-raising Hageman by a well over 2-to-1 margin over the first three months of 2022.

Thursday's debate, hosted by Wyoming PBS in Sheridan, will be closed to the public for security reasons and to prevent people from disrupting the event, the station's general manager Terry Dugas said in a statement.

"There are regular reports in the media of political figures and public servants being assaulted. Even in Wyoming, political figures receive death threats," Dugas said.

Reached by phone, Dugas declined to describe any specific security concerns but said the decision to close the event to the public was his and not requested by any of the candidates.

Cheney and Hageman both have been campaigning around the state, but Cheney's recent appearances on live TV as vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee have been quasi-campaign events, too, on a national level.

The debate comes just two days after Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide in Trump's White House, testified before the House committee that Trump was told that armed protesters were at a rally he led just before the insurrection, and that Trump tried to go with the crowd he encouraged to march on the Capitol.

The debate at Sheridan College will feature Cheney and four challengers, none as well known as Hageman, a Cheyenne ranching and natural resources attorney.

The other three are Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, of Cheyenne; retired U.S. Army Col. Denton Knapp, of Gillette; and businesswoman Robyn Belinskey, of Sheridan.

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