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Liz Cheney says she found trading insults with fellow Republican Rand Paul ‘enlightening’

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) appears at a news confereence at the Capitol in Washington earlier this week.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) appears at a news confereence at the Capitol in Washington earlier this week. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Friday characterized a feud in which she has traded insults with fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) as “an enlightening exchange” and took a fresh dig at him for not fully supporting President Trump on military spending.

What began as an exchange of different views on Afghanistan policy sharply escalated on Thursday as the two lawmakers sought to position themselves on Twitter and television as more aligned with Trump while saying snarky things about each other.

“I enjoyed it,” Cheney said when asked about the spat during a news conference at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore. “I thought it was an enlightening exchange. And here I thought the Senate was dull.”

During a CNN interview on Thursday, Paul questioned the allegiance to Trump of both Cheney — who is considering a Senate bid next year — and her father, the former vice president Richard B. Cheney.

“I guess the problem with the Cheneys, both Dick and Liz, is that they’ve always been Never Trumpers. They hate President Trump’s foreign policy, they want to stay in Afghanistan forever.”

Paul then brought up John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish national security adviser who parted ways with the president this week after clashes with Trump on an array of issues.

“They’re apologizing for John Bolton, they love John Bolton,” Paul said of the Cheneys. “So really they’re part of this foreign policy swamp that’s trying to undermine President Trump.” In an earlier tweet, Paul accused the congresswoman, who holds a position in House Republican leadership, of “pro-Bolton blather.”

A Liz Cheney vs. Rand Paul spat epitomizes the GOP’s increasingly Trump-ified foreign policy

President Trump fired national security adviser John Bolton on Sept. 10. The Post’s Carol Morello describes the disagreements that led to Bolton’s ousting. (Video: Joyce Lee, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

Cheney responded shortly afterward on Twitter, referring to Paul’s Republican bid for president in which he was eclipsed by Trump in the primaries.

“Hi @RandPaul I know the 2016 race was painful for you since you were such a big loser (then & now) with a dismal 4.5% in Iowa,” Cheney wrote of Paul’s fifth-place finish in the nation’s first caucus state.

Cheney also tacked on a 2015 tweet from Trump about his then-rival Paul.

“Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!” Trump said.

“No truer words were ever spoken,” Cheney added in her own voice.

Paul didn’t take long to fire back.

“Hey @Liz_Cheney I feel like you might just be mad still about when Candidate Trump shredded your Dad’s failed foreign policy and endless wars,” Paul wrote in a tweet, attaching a news article about a GOP primary debate in which Trump decried the U.S. intervention in Iraq during Cheney’s vice presidency.

Liz Cheney, in response, pointed to the photo of candidates that accompanied the article.

“Weird. I don’t see you on stage here, @RandPaul,” she tweeted. “Oh, right. My bad - you had already lost.”

She added a hashtag: “#weirdRand.”

Paul later fired back at Cheney with several more tweets in which he shared news stories about Cheney’s criticism of Trump on various foreign policy topics, such as the importance of NATO. Paul also added a few hashtags of his own, including “#WarmongerCheneys” and “#NeverTrumpCheneys.”

The tone of the exchange between Paul and the younger Cheney was noted by CNN anchor Brianna Keilar as she interviewed Paul. Keilar noted that both the congresswoman and the senator had been critical of Trump at times in the past and asked if Paul worried that the spat had devolved into a competition for Trump’s attention “that’s a little unbecoming of two members of Congress?”

Paul, who’s repaired his relationship with Trump enough that they sometimes golf together, insisted his differences with Cheney were rooted in genuine policy differences, including how quickly the United States should withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

“This isn’t just about me butting heads with the Never Trumpers in the Cheney family,” Paul said.

He echoed that sentiment in a statement on Friday, saying: “Few people have been as wrong on foreign policy over the last few years as the neocons and Liz Cheney. The Twitter exchange represents a real and significant debate on the future of our foreign policy between realists like myself and NeverTrumper neoconservatives like Cheney.”

During Friday’s news conference, Liz Cheney also sought to make the case that important policy issues underlie her feud with Paul.

“There are issues that surround whether or not you put America first, as President Trump does, or blame America first, as Rand Paul does and has for years,” she said.

Cheney then turned to Trump’s efforts to boost spending on the military.

“One of the most important things this president has done since he’s been in office is devote the resources we need to rebuild our military, an effort that Senator Paul has not supported,” she said.

Cheney’s relationship with Trump could be particularly important to her political future if she moves forward with a Senate bid next year in Wyoming, which in 2016 was the most pro-Trump state in the nation. Trump prevailed there over Democrat Hillary Clinton, 67 percent to 22 percent.

Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

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