The Cheney ’24 Big Lie

liz cheney
Liz Cheney says she is dedicated to doing “whatever it takes” to prevent Donald Trump from returning to the White House. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Image
Tina Nguyen
September 7, 2022

Within hours of her spectacular, entirely predictable primary election loss, Liz Cheney, the single-issue, soon-to-be-unemployed anti-Trump Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, set about putting her next career arc into play. Overnight, she formed a political action committee called The Great Task, filed to transfer some $7 million of leftover campaign funding into the new endeavor, and lined up a morning interview on the Today show to tease what that “great task” will entail: doing “whatever it takes” to prevent Trump from returning to the White House, even if it means running for president, herself. “It is something that I am thinking about, and I’ll make a decision in the coming months,” she said.

Of course, as both her detractors and supporters readily admit, it’s hard to envision how Cheney—a hardline conservative who cheered the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, but also led the Jan. 6 hearings targeting Trump—would ever have the electoral support to be more than a nuisance candidate, or even a spoiler. And even crazier to imagine that the daughter of Dick Cheney would truly ever be embraced by the left for more than a fleeting moment. “She’s not going to get Democrat support,” predicted one MAGA political consultant. “She’s in no-man’s land because she has no political identity: She’s too conservative for the left and she’s too liberal for the right… She has no political home, and she has no elected political future.”

But that’s not entirely true. Cheney does have a political identity, albeit an unpopular one, and while she has few ideological compatriots these days—Reps. Adam Kinzinger, Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Peter Meijer, and Tom Rice are all leaving Congress—she also has a number of powerful, deep-pocketed allies, including the Koch Network, the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and Citigroup C.E.O. Jane Fraser. Pro-Israel groups also love her.  But even would-be supporters are skeptical that she would succeed in mounting any kind of sustained opposition to Trump. Indeed, recent reporting suggests that Cheney would be razed in the primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Whether she’s serious about a 2024 run or merely teasing one to stay in the headlines, Cheney clearly intends to leverage her Jan. 6 committee halo to make herself the face of the cause. She could have married her microcelebrity to an existing anti-Trump group, such as the Lincoln Project or Anthony Scaramucci’s Right Side PAC, which is trying to sway anti-Trump Republicans to vote for Joe Biden. But a Cheney ally told me that the outgoing congresswoman prizes her independence too much to contribute to another team. “Starting something new and fresh that she’s leading was always going to be the answer, as opposed to partnering up with other groups or other individuals,” this person said. “It is undeniably a good thing,” agreed an anti-Trump operative, arguing that going solo bolsters her icon status. “She’s the one who’s stood for office, sat on the dais, put herself up against the forces arrayed against American democracy.” 

But inevitably, maintenance of the new Cheney brand—principled, righteous, a selfless defender of democracy—will run up against the crude requirements of 21st century political life in the social-media thunderdome. For The Great Task to succeed as a solo project, the venture must inevitably become the Liz Cheney Show, necessitating a constant stream of TV appearances, speeches, book deals, and media provocations—like, say, a pyrrhic dash for the presidency—to hold mindshare in a highly distractible attention economy. And the more visible Cheney makes herself, the easier it will be for Trump and his MAGA allies to turn that against her.

“I foresee her probably running for president and coming up incredibly short,” the MAGA consultant told me bluntly, pointing to her dismal performance among Wyoming’s Republican caucus—she was defeated nearly two-to-one by her opponent, Harriet Hageman—and predicted that she would fare even worse in a ‘24 primary. “Running for president, and knowing you’re going to lose, is nothing more than [a bid] to build attention, to get data, which she will eventually monetize through probably sending out emails and giving revenue shares [of the campaign funds] to people.”

But whoever ran for president who didn’t crave attention? Cheney can be sincerely dedicated to her holy mission to bring down Donald Trump by any means necessary while simultaneously enjoying that time in the spotlight. It’s not as if she needs the money, really—a wealthy husband and the family’s Halliburton fortune should take care of that—but $7 million dollars doesn’t necessarily go all that far these days, and there are two years until Election Day 2024. The Great Task will require some serious dough. Time to pony up. 


D-Whacked

It seems like just yesterday that Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter, formed a rival media company, and entered into a merger agreement with a little-known SPAC (the ominously named Digital World Acquisition Corp.) to take the whole shebang public. Of course, since then, Trump Media and Technology Group has been plagued by every conceivable problem: its rollout was delayed numerous times, it was caught cribbing its code, it has yet to launch an Android app, it is struggling to retain talent and is plagued by histrionic MAGA users threatening violence against F.B.I. agents. 

And then there are the legal concerns: TMTG is still waiting for the merger to close before the company can access all that DWAC cash, but a prolonged S.E.C. criminal investigation into whether the two entities improperly discussed a merger before DWAC was formally established has precipitated an equally prolonged collapse of its stock, from a high of nearly $100 per share to about $23 today. In the meantime, it’s unclear how TMTG is funding its daily operations—or even whether it’s paying its bills at all. RightForge, the company hosting Truth Social on its servers, recently claimed that TMTG has stiffed them out of $1.6 million in contractually obligated payments. Finally, and perhaps most fatefully, DWAC itself is a ticking time bomb. Like most SPACs, it had a customary two-year deadline from its inception to complete a merger. That “outside date,” as I noted earlier this summer, is September 20, 2022.

Incredibly, DWAC is now on the verge of liquidation because its shareholders—primarily Trump superfans backing their idol’s attempt to stick it to Big Tech—missed their opportunity to extend the deadline. The group’s directors have extended the shareholder vote to Thursday at noon, in order to give investors more time to get organized (an affirmative 65 percent vote is required to grant the extension), but it certainly looks like TMTG is in jeopardy. Yes, the SPAC sponsors can unilaterally extend that horizon at a cost of approximately $3 million for every three months, but they’ll need to put up their own money to do so. (A filing on Tuesday indicated that they’ll take this path.) There’s no way of knowing when the S.E.C. investigation might be resolved, or whether it will put the kibosh on the whole deal. And frankly, at this point, there’s no good reason for retail investors to hold onto the stock. As my partner Bill Cohan noted, “shareholders would be smarter to sell their stock as many appear to be doing today and get $20 per share, rather than $10 a share plus interest on liquidation.” (This is not investment advice.)

The bigger lesson here is that there’s limited upside, but endless risk, in meme stock capital. “They’re not serious investors [and] not as well organized as Wallstreet Bets,” Parler founder John Matze told me, referring to the famed Reddit forum where retail investors successfully short-squeezed GameStop and AMC to illogical and unsustainable heights. DWAC’s investor relations team had a similar opportunity to rally the Trump apes to diamond-hands their way to the proverbial moon, which they apparently missed. Digital World’s C.E.O., Patrick Orlando, is now on a Truth Social posting spree, belatedly trying to whip votes for the extension, either over the internet or by phone, by Thursday. (There are six different numbers you can call; operators are standing by.)

What comes next is unclear. Without a merger, and no PIPE, there is no cash reserve upon which TMTG can build out its dreams of becoming a MAGA competitor to Netflix, Disney+, Facebook, and whatever other online content platforms exist. Trump could, of course, attempt to save the deal by encouraging shareholders to vote for the SPAC extension on Thursday, but it might be a case of too little, too late. In fact, Trump himself is no longer a director, nor are his confidantes Don Jr. and Kash Patel, and, as he posted on Saturday, he might have given up on the SPAC altogether: “In any event I don’t need financing, ‘I’m really rich!’ Private company anyone???”

At this juncture, shutting down Truth Social isn’t a serious option. Independent of Trump, there’s clearly a market opportunity for MAGA-oriented Twitter knockoffs. (Ironically, Truth Social has never felt more like a Twitter clone than it does these days.) Trump himself may yet abandon Truth Social as his sole dedicated internet outlet, if the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. Sure, some users might lose respect for Trump if the venture fails, or if he bails. But it’s impossible to overstate the rationalizations that Trump’s diehard fans will generate on his behalf—especially if he gives up Truth so he can run for president.

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