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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Cheney And Wyoming's Senators Differ With The President Regarding COVID-19

L-R: Senator John Barrasso, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and Senator Mike Enzi

Since coronavirus began infecting millions of Americans, Wyoming lawmakers have been critical of President Donald Trump's stance on combatting the pandemic. While they never criticize him directly, one of their attempts to tiptoe around the Trump-sized elephant in the room backfired…as Fox News host Bret Baier told his audience last week.

"Breaking tonight - there's something of a political mutiny tonight among House Republicans. One of the top figures is under attack from some inside the GOP conference. Congressional Correspondent Chad Pergram tells us about it from Capitol Hill this evening," Bair said.

"Good evening, Brett. Well, this exploded today at a meeting of the House Republican conference, which is chaired by Liz Cheney of Wyoming. There are some conservatives who believe that Cheney has been too deferential toward Dr. Anthony Fauci," Pergram replied.

Conservatives in Congress are also upset that Cheney has been outspoken in opposing the president's decision to remove some twelve thousand U.S. troops from Germany. One of the president's sons then weighed in by comparing Cheney to former GOP presidential nominee and now Senator Mitt Romney who was the only Republican in Congress to vote for an article of impeachment. Donald Trump Jr's tweet reads: "We already have one Mitt Romney we don't need another…we also don't need the endless wars she advocates for." Cheney didn't like that barb from a member of the First Family.

"Donald Trump Jr. is not a member of the House Republican conference," Cheney said. "We have a situation in many cases where in our conference, we can have a healthy exchange of views. Unfortunately, you don't see that as much in the Democratic Caucus."

President Trump then retweeted a call for her to resign as the third highest ranking Republican in the House, before his fingers typed: "Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars…." Cheney says everything's fine though.

"Everybody is united, we know that we're going to need to be united in order to prevail in November," Cheney said.

Like Cheney, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz also didn't want to discuss this internal GOP dust up.

"I think my tweets and public comments because of themselves, man," Gaetz said.

Gaetz is one of the president's top, rhetorical bomb throwing lieutenants on Capitol Hill. So when pressed, he finally unleashed on Cheney, especially for the stance on foreign policy she inherited from her father.

"You know, I don't believe Liz represents the energy behind the America First movement that's been successful in electing the president," Gaetz said.

While far-right conservatives have latched onto foreign policy differences to go after Cheney, the dust up started over her defending the response to coronavirus laid out by Dr. Anthony Fauci - the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But Cheney's not alone in that, at least among Wyoming's federal lawmakers. The state's senior senator, Mike Enzi, in effect told us the president's claim that COVID cases are spiking because of more testing is ludacris.

"Testing is the key to a lot of this to give people confidence in being able to come back. And when they do, the economy will come back because people have a lot of pent up spending," Enzi said.

And as the virus was spreading this spring - back when Congress was shuttered - Wyoming Junior Senator John Barrasso disagreed with the Trump administration as well. The doctor by training was even crunching his own numbers on the virus based on numbers from the University of Washington.

"It's evolving with the Washington model. You know, a week or so ago, they had Wyoming predicted deaths at over 200. And I do my own math and my own studies based on this, so I had it about 250," Barrasso said.

Still, even as the president has tried to leave states and localities on the hook for the disheartening records of coronavirus deaths and rapid spread across the U.S., Congresswoman Cheney says she's fully behind Trump.

"We got to make sure the president gets reelected. We've got to make sure we get the majority back," Cheney said.

Cheney admits that being thrust into the crosshairs of the conservative media machine and the president's tweets isn't what she wanted. Still, she says listen to Dr. Fauci on coronavirus, and not others...especially the President.

Based on Capitol Hill, Matt Laslo is a reporter who has been covering campaigns and every aspect of federal policy since 2006. While he has filed stories for NPR and more than 40 of its affiliates, he has also written for Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Guardian, The Omaha World-Herald, VICE News and Washingtonian Magazine.
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