A week before former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House term ended in January of last year, 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives joined all Democrats in voting to impeach him for inciting the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
More than a year and a half later, and after a series of vitriolic broadsides aimed at the Republicans who dared oppose him, Trump has exacted a measure of revenge.
Four of the 10 lawmakers who voted for impeachment opted to retire rather than face Trump-backed candidates in difficult party primary elections and four more were defeated in the intraparty faceoffs by Trump-endorsed challengers in recent months. Only two of the 10 remain in contention heading into their November general elections against Democratic opponents.
Trump gloated in victory after his most vocal opponent, Congresswoman Liz Cheney in the western state of Wyoming, was soundly defeated Tuesday in a congressional primary by Harriet Hageman, a Trump-backed candidate. Hageman embraced Trump’s debunked claims that he was cheated out of another four-year term.
Cheney has played a key role in the congressional investigation of the January 6 riot at the Capitol and Trump’s efforts in the weeks after his November 2020 election defeat to upend the outcome, which saw him defeated by the Democratic candidate, President Joe Biden.
After Cheney lost by more than a 2-to-1 margin, Trump said on his Truth Social outlet, “This is a wonderful result for America, and a complete rebuke of the Unselect Committee of political Hacks and Thugs” investigating the riot.
“Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself, the way she acted, and her spiteful, sanctimonious words and actions towards others,” Trump said. “Now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion where, I am sure, she will be much happier than she is right now. Thank you WYOMING!”
Undeterred, Cheney said Wednesday morning she is considering running for president in 2024, to keep Trump from reclaiming the White House as he has broadly hinted he will seek to do.
More immediately, though, Trump is facing several state and federal investigations into his actions trying to overturn the 2020 result and his role in the Capitol riot. The FBI is also looking into the discovery of highly classified national security documents he stored at his oceanside Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, while New York authorities are probing operations at his Trump Organization global real estate empire before he assumed the presidency.
Cheney has often vowed to do anything she can to keep Trump from the presidency again. It is unclear, however, whether she would attract a national following. Biden, 79, has said he plans to seek re-election although some Democratic activists say they want a younger party nominee in 2024.
One of the impeachment-voting Republicans who survived Trump’s wrath was Congressman Dan Newhouse in the western state of Washington, who defeated a Trump-backed Republican challenger in a party primary, and he now is favored in the November election against Democrat Doug White.
California Republican Congressman David Valadao, another impeachment voter, somehow avoided being targeted by Trump, even as he said the former president was “without question, a driving force in the catastrophic events” at the Capitol riot.
Trump did not endorse any of the Republicans opposing Valadao in the June primary and the four-term lawmaker now will face a Democratic opponent in November in what is a Democrat-leaning congressional district.
Aside from Cheney, Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler in the state of Washington, Peter Meijer in the Midwest state of Michigan and Tom Rice in the southern state of South Carolina were ousted by Trump-backed candidates in party primaries in recent months.
Four other Republican congressmen who voted for Trump’s impeachment decided to retire – Fred Upton in Michigan; John Katko in New York state; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, like Cheney a vocal Trump critic on the January investigative panel; and Anthony Gonzalez of the Midwest state of Ohio.
Several of those who opted for retirement said Trump supporters had often targeted them with vitriolic threats for their impeachment votes.
As he announced nearly a year ago that he would not seek reelection, Gonzalez said he feared for the safety of his wife and children.
After the House voted to impeach Trump, he was acquitted in a Senate vote, although seven Republicans voted to convict him in a trial that occurred after Biden had assumed the presidency.
Only one of those Senate lawmakers, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, faces reelection this year. She advanced in Tuesday’s voting to face a Trump-backed challenger in the November election, Kelly Tshibaka. Murkowski led Tshibaka by 4 percentage points in a 19-way primary with the top four finishers advancing to the November voting.