Happy Friday, rulers! Katie here; we’re doing something different today. We have a guest contributor: Susan Anderson, a longtime Wyoming-based journalist who has covered the Cheney Family for three decades. Given all the interest in Liz Cheney’s independent streak and willingness to buck Donald Trump, Anderson wrote for us about her family background and how it might have shaped her character and political career, based on reporting over the years. More below. Thanks to Maya Parthasarathy for helping to put this newsletter together.
In the past year and a half, and especially in recent months, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has become a symbol of political courage and independence in the Republican party. She has paid a price for those qualities. In May 2021, she was removed as GOP conference chair in retaliation for her criticism of President Donald Trump and his role in the Jan. 6 riot. In the past month, Cheney has continued to demand accountability from the president and his allies as one of two Republicans on the Jan. 6 committee, where she has been a key narrator and questioner.
It’s natural to wonder where such unique leadership traits come from in an era where many lament they are in short supply among politicians. One might be tempted to think Cheney’s grit, determination and independence come from her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who got the nickname “iron-ass” from former President George H.W. Bush.
But I have covered the Cheneys for decades, and I know that Liz Cheney wouldn’t have become the singular political figure she is today were it not for a generations-long line of tough women in her family. From the great grandmother who raised five kids in a tent in muddy oil fields north of Casper, Wyo., to her mother Lynne, an author and historian who taught her daughters about female role models, Cheney’s young life was filled with accomplished and tough women.
Keen to see how this icon in the making evolved, I searched through notes from meetings with her and recollections from my years of reporting in Wyoming on Dick, Lynne and Liz Cheney. Then, on March 16 this year, Liz sat down for a discussion of what in her past and upbringing led to her taking what has been a lonely and costly path for a Republican politician.
Two family pictures in Lynne’s book that Liz talked about in March capture the tough matriarchy Liz descends from. In one from about 1942, her mother, Lynne, a curly-haired toddler in the photo, digs for worms in the family’s tiny Casper victory garden, wearing a beautiful, spotless velvet dress. The dress had been made by Lynne’s mother, who herself had grown up in a rough oil field hut in the town of Midwest. Liz Cheney described that oil town shack as having sides “like two-by-fours” with a cloth roof, “so it’s like a hard-sided tent basically on the edge of the oil fields and … cold. Cold.”
Rough as the oil field life was, Lynne was cherished and encouraged by her mother and grandmother, which one can easily see with the velvet dress she was wearing to dig up worms. Later, Lynne won academic and baton-twirling awards that were clearly important to her mother and grandmother. “There wasn’t a newspaper notice of her baton twirling wins that her grandmother didn’t save,” according to Liz.
A second photo that Liz Cheney treasures is from the 1950s. The entire Natrona County Sheriff’s Office stands in front of a Casper courthouse. Cheney proudly pointed out in a private interview on March 16 that there are 40 men in the photo and one woman, her grandmother, a deputy sheriff.
“I’m just unbelievably proud” of her mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Liz told me. “I think there was always a real sense you have to work hard, and a lot is expected of you.”
Her parents, and mother in particular, were also eager to ensure Liz grew up knowing about accomplished and ground-breaking women. Liz told the story of when she was six or seven, and Lynne, a prolific author of a dozen books about influential people in American history, wrote an article about the first American woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell, for a magazine — possibly American Heritage magazine, Liz remembered. Afterward, Liz remembers that her mother gave her and her sister Mary the article to read. “What a tremendous thing to have a mom who was working on those issues and focused on making sure Mary and I had role models like that,” she told me.
In a late June gathering with Casper voters, Liz praised the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, and a key witness in the Jan. 6 hearings. Her warm comments about Hutchinson and other young women who testified before the committee echo what she believes women with grit can and should accomplish.
In a private interview on July 25 at the end of the summer Jan. 6 committee hearings, Cheney was more committed than ever to speaking up in the manner of the women in her family. “Right now I think a lot of the time my job is to stand up and tell people stop,” she said. “Stop attacking each other for political purposes because we have just so many really important issues and threats and challenges. We can disagree … but the vitriol doesn’t serve the country.”
The rest of the newsletter comes from Maya and Katie …
“Kansas landslide fuels abortion rights movement’s next fights,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein for POLITICO: “Kansas’ overwhelming defeat Tuesday of a ballot measure that would have stripped abortion-rights protections from the state constitution sent shockwaves throughout the country, scrambling calculations about what is possible for red state progressives and which voters are more fired up by the fall of Roe v. Wade.
“The surprise 20-point margin in one of the most conservative states in the country highlighted the gap between what a majority of voters want and what a number of Republican candidates and lawmakers are pushing — both in Kansas and in several other states sure to play a key role in the coming midterm elections.
“Tuesday’s victory has Democrats hopeful that they can use ballot measures already scheduled for this fall in Michigan and Kentucky and other states to beat back attempts to ban or restrict abortion, and that Democratic candidates can ride the wave of popular anger over the loss of Roe.
“‘Abortion rights supporters now have an opportunity and an obligation to rebuild pro-choice voting coalitions in states where access has been lost or is at risk,’ Rachel Sweet with Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the group that led the fight against the amendment, told reporters Wednesday morning. ‘The people of Kansas spoke and now the rest of the country has to listen.’
“For anti-abortion advocates jubilant since the Supreme Court overturned Roe in June, the Kansas vote was a crushing blow, but they insist it won’t change their strategy.”
“The key abortion news you may have missed this week,” by Matt Berg and Olivia Olander for POLITICO
“Pelosi jabs at Xi before leaving Taiwan,” by Kelly Hooper for POLITICO: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended her visit to Taiwan on Wednesday, delivering a message of solidarity with the island republic and pushing back against China’s threats against her and the Taiwanese government over the trip.
“‘Whether it’s certain insecurities on the part of the president of China as to his own political situation that he’s ratting his saber, I don’t know,’ Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a press conference in Taipei in response to a question about the bellicose response her visit to Taiwan provoked from China and its president, Xi Jinping.
“‘But what matters to us is that we salute the successes of Taiwan, we work together for the security of Taiwan and we just take great lessons from the democracy in Taiwan.’
“Pelosi’s highly anticipated trip to Taiwan — an unannounced but widely reported stop on her tour across Asia this week — sparked controversy as China, which claims the island as part of its territory, threatened a forceful response if the speaker visited the island. China ramped up its actions and rhetoric once Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday, announcing it would conduct targeted drills and missile tests around Taiwan, and sending aircraft into the island’s air defense zone.”
“Brittney Griner Is Sentenced to Nine Years in a Russian Penal Colony,” by Ivan Nechepurenko in the New York Times: “A Russian judge on Thursday sentenced the American basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in a penal colony after finding her guilty of bringing illegal drugs into Russia, according to her lawyers. The sentencing ended a closely watched trial that her supporters say made her a pawn in a tense geopolitical showdown over the war in Ukraine.
“The guilty verdict was virtually preordained in a legal system in which defendants are rarely acquitted. It leaves Ms. Griner’s fate subject to diplomatic negotiations between Russia and the United States. The countries have been discussing the possibility of a prisoner exchange that would bring Ms. Griner home from Russia, where she has been detained since mid-February.
“Officials in Moscow had said that no prisoner exchange was possible until after a verdict. The United States maintains that Ms. Griner should not have been detained and that she is being held by Russia as a bargaining chip.”
“The women calling out Apple’s handling of misconduct claims,” by Patrick McGee for the Financial Times: “Megan Mohr was five years into her Apple career when, in 2013, a male colleague took advantage of her after a platonic night out drinking together. After the colleague drove her home and helped her inside, she briefly fell asleep before waking to the sound of clicking. The colleague had removed her shirt and bra. He was snapping photos, and grinning.
“Mohr previously had a bad experience with human resources—known internally as Apple’s People group—when another colleague had broken into her accounts and harassed her, leading her to file a police report. HR didn’t listen well or help in any way, she says, so this time she didn’t bother. ‘I was afraid of retaliation and knew HR wouldn’t have my best interest in mind,’ she says.
“But inspired by the #MeToo movement, Mohr decided in late 2018 to tell Apple of the illicit photos incident. She had no evidence and wasn’t calling for an investigation. She just thought HR should be aware of the person’s character and requested they never be put in the same department.
“Mohr thought this was a modest ask, but the email exchange seen by the Financial Times soon turned rigid and defensive. The HR representative displayed little empathy or experience dealing with sexual misconduct. He analogized her experience to ‘a minor traffic accident’ to explain how Apple couldn’t really get involved.
“‘Although what he did was reprehensible as a person and potentially criminal, as an Apple employee he hasn’t violated any policy in the context of his Apple work,’ HR wrote. ‘And because he hasn’t violated any policy we will not prevent him seeking employment opportunities that are aligned with his goals and interests.’”
McKenzie Wilson is now manager for ESG and sustainability services at Deloitte. Most recently, she was chief of staff at disaster response and humanitarian organization Global Support and Development. … Mayealie Adams is now vice president and head of government affairs at Danaher. Most recently, she was managing director for government and external affairs at Phillips. (h/t POLITICO Influence) …
Meaghan Byrne is now a policy adviser for Pat Ryan’s New York congressional campaign. She is a former legislative fellow for Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.). … Jaymi Light is now U.S. federal government relations strategist at SAS. She previously was a government affairs principal at Cigna, and is a Todd Young alum. (h/t Playbook) …
Madison West is now senior director of global corporate responsibility at Intel. She most recently was VP for ESG at government contractor Maximus. (h/t Playbook)