At Newly-Diminished CPAC, Hageman Embraces Conservative Stardom

The Wyoming congresswoman decried the alleged ‘weaponization’ of the FBI: ‘We need to name names’

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Mar 03, 2023

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) participated in a panel at CPAC on Thursday alongside Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), highlighting the federal government's alleged bias towards conservatives. (Photo by Zach Roberts/NurPhoto via AP)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Once a mandatory stop for would-be Republican presidential aspirants, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC, has taken on a diminished standing this year — despite attendees’ rock star welcome for Wyoming Rep. Harriet Hageman.

Matt Schlapp, CPAC’s lead organizer, faces a high-profile sexual misconduct allegation from a former aide and broader concerns about his combative leadership style. Meanwhile, expected 2024 hopefuls — Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former Vice President Mike Pence — are each skipping out, as are House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), leaving the festivities absent appearances from the two top Republicans in Congress.

Despite former President Trump’s diminished standing in the Republican party as of late, CPAC attendees still held him in high regard — and sold lots of MAGA gear. (Wyoming Truth photo by Jacob Gardenswartz)

But despite some Republicans’ fears that CPAC may be losing its pull, for Hageman, the conference stands as just another stop on her stampede towards conservative media stardom.

At the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., Hageman spoke Thursday morning shortly after the day’s programming kicked off, participating on a panel entitled “No Dominus Vobiscum FBI” — a reference to a leaked memo from an FBI field office in Richmond, Va., which labeled some Catholics a domestic terrorism threat. Florida Rep. Kat Cammack, with whom Hageman serves on the “weaponization of the government” select subcommittee, joined the new Wyoming representative to call out what they described as the federal government’s “targeting” of conservatives.

Introduced to cheers by Fox News contributor and panel moderator Katie Pavlich as “the woman who made Liz Cheney a former congresswoman,” Hageman was the clear crowd favorite. Wearing her signature “gothic cowgirl” attire — a sleek black dress, black boots and turquoise necklace — she promised to rein in Washington’s power over Americans.

“These agencies have decided that they’re going to pick winners and losers. And right now, the conservatives and Republicans and parents are the targets of these folks,” Hageman claimed. “We need to ferret it out, we need to expose it, we need to be passing laws to stop it. And we need to make sure that this nonsense never happens again.”

Hageman’s rhetoric stood in stark contrast to the more subdued tone she took during her first hearing as chair of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs on Wednesday. Instead, she echoed her remarks from the first hearing of the weaponization subcommittee last month, when she alleged that the “culture and mission of the FBI and DOJ have changed in a manner that run counter to the rights and liberties of the American people.”

On Thursday, Hageman took things even further, insisting Republicans must pursue not just the leadership of federal agencies but the individual employees carrying out such policies.

“We need to hold the individuals accountable, because it’s the agencies as well as the federal employees who are doing it,” Hageman said. “We need to start naming names, and we need to hold them accountable — either by losing their jobs or suing them.”

Hageman’s appeal hinges on her political history

Despite Hageman’s raucous welcome from the crowd during her panel in the hotel’s Potomac Ballroom, interviews with conference attendees reveal a conservative base less familiar with the specifics of the Wyoming congresswoman’s policy platforms than they are with her signature feat: ousting Cheney.

Still, Hageman’s ability to do just that was enough to earn her praise from many at CPAC, who view Cheney as among the biggest enemies in contemporary conservative politics.

“I think Liz Cheney’s bought and paid for,” Jason Ladd, an information specialist who’s lived in Montana for the last seven years, told the Wyoming Truth.

“The Cheneys are part of the ‘deep state,’” echoed George Lansing, a retiree from Richmond, Va., just one hour’s drive from the University of Virginia, where it was recently announced Cheney would serve as a professor of practice. “We need to move away from the Bush-era control of international affairs.”

Indeed, though attendees mentioned issues ranging from abortion to education to health care as key concerns, foreign policy remained the top priority for many interviewees. Lansing decried what he described as “inroads into our government and our corporations” by alleged Chinese communists, while others pushed back against U.S. support for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

“Why are we sending so much money to them?” asked Tamara Nealy, a college student from Oklahoma. “We have Republicans voting for it — that’s a problem.”

Trump looms large, but some are ready to move on

Though the conference began Wednesday, its central event won’t come until Saturday evening, when Donald Trump — whom Hageman recently endorsed — will headline what he’s promised will be a “monster” speech. In recent days, the former president has sought to push back against the chatter of CPAC’s waning influence, insisting that the “only reason certain ‘candidates’ won’t be going to CPAC is because the crowds have no interest in anything they have to say.”

But though many prospective candidates are skipping the conference, others still are scheduled to participate, among them former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, both of whom have entered the 2024 presidential race, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Asked who they intend to back in 2024, conference attendees were split.

“Trump is my number one,” Lansing said. The former president has won CPAC’s annual straw poll a record five times, every year it’s been held since 2019.

Still, Lansing noted he’s interested in some of the other candidates as well, singling out DeSantis as “setting a high bar and example for other states in the nation.”

“I certainly hope to see him run one day. Maybe not this time around,” he added.

Ladd, meanwhile, is backing Haley: “I don’t think she can be bought, I don’t think she can be paid for. I think she’s her own person.”

Despite previously supporting Trump, Ladd predicted he’d ultimately drop out of the race this time around. “I think he’s lost a lot of supporters,” he told the Wyoming Truth.

Would he count himself as one?

“No comment,” Ladd said.

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