EXCLUSIVE – Perry Pendley, who served as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during the Trump administration, is expected on Thursday evening to give a speech in his home state of Wyoming where he'll strongly hint at launching a Republican primary challenge against embattled Rep. Liz Cheney.
Cheney, the third-ranking lawmaker in House GOP leadership, was the most high-profile of the 10 House Republicans who voted in January to impeach then-President Donald Trump. Cheney immediately came under verbal attack by Trump and his allies and remains at the top of his list of Republican enemies he hopes to topple in the 2022 midterms.
Pendley, a Wyoming native who also served as an Interior Department deputy secretary during the Reagan administration, is scheduled to address and take questions at an event with the University of Wyoming College of Law chapter of the Federalist Society.
"Wyoming needs a congressional delegation united in the fight for economic survival. It is a fight that must be waged with 100% of our energies, for 100% of the time, in 100% of the arenas available," Pendley will say, according to an excerpt of his remarks obtained by Fox News.
"We have no time for distractions whether they are with forums or issues of marginal and little real interest to Wyoming. We have no time for warring against one another, against fellow Republicans, or against a former president who served Wyoming well," Pendley will emphasize.
Cheney, who sits on the House Armed Services and Natural Resources committees, has long followed in the footsteps of her father – former Vice President Dick Cheney – in advocating for a hawkish and muscular U.S. role overseas.
Pendley was appointed as BLM deputy director in July of 2019. Soon after, he was elevated to acting director, but was never confirmed by the Senate. Environmental and conservation organizations, as well as tribal and racial justice groups, opposed Pendley’s nomination, saying he was unfit to lead the bureau, as they pointed to his past support for the selling off of some federal lands and to controversial comments about immigration and race. Pendley moved to a different role at BLM after a federal judge ruled last September that he had served unlawfully as director.
Sources close to Pendley tell Fox News that he is mulling a primary challenge against Cheney, and point to Thursday’s speech as the next step as he moves toward potentially launching a campaign.
Cheney, a longtime vocal GOP critic of Trump, was the most senior Republican to vote to impeach the then-president on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters, who aimed to disrupt congressional certification of Trump's presidential election defeat to now-President Biden.
Trump loyalists in the House attempted to strip Cheney of her role as House Republican Conference Chair, but the three-term congresswoman easily crushed the effort to dump her from her leadership position.
But Cheney already faces multiple GOP primary challenges when she is up for reelection next year. At least four contenders have already filed, including Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard.
Trump has continued to target Cheney, as well as the other nine House Republicans who voted to impeach him and the seven GOP senators who voted to convict the now-former president in his impeachment trial in February.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, Trump urged his supporters to "get rid" of Cheney and added "hopefully they'll get rid of her with the next election."
Last week, Trump endorsed Wyoming GOP chair Frank Eathorne's reelection bid, pointing to Eathorne's censure of Cheney earlier this year.
"Perhaps, most importantly, Frank has Censured the incompetent Liz Cheney, who couldn't care less about our brave soldiers overseas, and who is willing to fight ridiculous, endless wars instead of preparing for the Big Time enemies that may someday soon face our Country," Trump wrote in a statement.
Trump has yet to endorse any of the primary challengers or potential challengers to Cheney. But both he and his son, Donald Trump Jr., have warned against multiple primary challengers.
The younger Trump called into an anti-Cheney rally in Wyoming earlier this year, emphasizing "let's not split this vote up and blow an opportunity to get rid of a RINO."
RINO is the acronym for Republican in name only.
The attacks from Trump and his supporters seem to have energized Cheney’s fundraising. Earlier this month the congresswoman reported a record $1.54 million haul during the January-March first quarter of fundraising for her 2022 reelection campaign.
And Cheney hasn't backed down in her criticism of the former president. After Trump once again claimed without providing proof that the presidential election was "stolen" from him – during a recent speech to the Republican National Committee's spring donor retreat – Cheney said the next day in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the former president continues to wage "war on the Constitution."