Five years before receiving Donald Trump's enthusiastic endorsement, Harriet Hageman worked tirelessly to prevent him from becoming the GOP nominee for president — calling him "racist," "xenophobic" and "the weakest candidate."
Hageman, who is challenging Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney in next year's GOP primary, supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for president in 2016.
Trump endorsed Hageman last month as part of his ongoing war against Cheney, who voted to impeach him for inciting the Capitol insurrection.
In 2016, Hageman served on the Rules Committee at the Republican National Convention, where she helped lead an unsuccessful "last-ditch" effort to block Trump's nomination by "unbinding" delegates — which would have allowed them to vote for whichever candidate they wanted, regardless of the outcomes of their state primaries and caucuses.
"Ms. Hageman is hardly the only Republican to vigorously oppose Mr. Trump and later back him when it proved politically advantageous. Mr. Cruz and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, along with Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, who led the 2016 rebellion at the convention, all became enthusiastic Trump supporters," the New York Times reported Monday. "None of them, however, have quite achieved Ms. Hageman's remarkable political transformation, which has not been previously reported. Five years ago, she was a passionate opponent of Mr. Trump who tried to stop him outside the normal electoral process; now, she is his champion in the Republican Party's marquee showdown over fealty to the former president."
Hageman, who had not previously commented on her efforts to block Trump's nomination, is now blaming Democrats and Cheney's "friends in the media" for her anti-Trump activism five years ago — despite the fact that Cheney endorsed Trump in 2016, even reiterating her support after the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.
"I heard and believed the lies the Democrats and Liz Cheney's friends in the media were telling at the time, but that is ancient history as I quickly realized that their allegations against President Trump were untrue," Hageman told the NYT in a statement, which the newspaper noted "drew a tenuous connection between her actions and Ms. Cheney."
"He was the greatest president of my lifetime, and I am proud to have been able to renominate him in 2020. And I'm proud to strongly support him today," Hageman said.
During the summer of 2016, Hageman reportedly was a regular participant on conference calls with other Republicans who wanted to block Trump's nomination — long after he had won enough delegates to secure it. The idea was to insert a "conscience provision" that would unbind delegates, a move concocted by Cruz to create a convention floor fight over the nomination.
"She and other delegates, many of them social conservatives from the West loyal to Mr. Cruz, argued that Mr. Trump was a cancer on the party, chosen by liberal voters in Democratic states to undermine Republicans nationwide," the Times reported.
Steve Duprey of New Hampshire, who also served on the 2016 Rules Committee, recalled: "To vote to free the delegates at that time was considered a capital offense by the Trump campaign. It was clearly an attempt to deny him the nomination, which he had won fair and square."
Hageman was one of 12 Rules Committee members who voted in favor of unbinding delegates — falling far short of the 28 needed to force a floor vote, and averting a "potentially embarrassing spectacle for Trump."
"Though the fight was over, Ms. Hageman participated in meetings over the next few days in which Cruz delegates discussed whether they had any remaining options to stop Mr. Trump," the Times reported.
Prior to his endorsement, Trump was aware of Hageman's support for Cruz, and her work to block his nomination, but the Times notes that "he has taken particular pleasure in collecting the support of converted never-Trumpers."
When Hageman ran for Wyoming governor in 2018, she didn't invoke Trump or MAGA during her campaign, and she finished third. Last year, when she ran for one of Wyoming's two Republican National Committee posts, she aligned herself with Trump – and won.
"For Ms. Hageman, joining forces with Mr. Trump to attack an old ally — the two Wyoming women were once so close that Ms. Hageman served as an adviser to Ms. Cheney's short-lived 2014 Senate campaign — presents an opportunity to accomplish something she has been unable to do without him: win a statewide race in Wyoming," the Times reported.