NEW YORK — Former President George W. Bush will headline a fundraiser next month for top Donald Trump critic Liz Cheney, turning her reelection race into a proxy war of sorts between the ex-presidents who represent two competing factions of the Republican Party.
Bush will be the featured guest at an Oct. 18 event in Dallas supporting the Wyoming congresswoman’s campaign, according to a person familiar with the plans who was not authorized to discuss the fundraiser by name and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Cheney, a daughter of Bush’s two-term vice president, Dick Cheney, was the most prominent House Republican to vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. She has since emerged as one of his most vocal antagonists, and Trump has vowed to exact his revenge.
Bush’s involvement puts the two former Republican presidents directly at odds and underscores the deep tension that remains within the party between Trumpism and the GOP’s establishment wing.
Earlier this month, Trump announced his support for Cheney challenger Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming attorney looking to unseat the three-term congresswoman.
Bush spokesperson Freddy Ford said in a statement that the former president “has historically helped a few key candidates and friends each cycle, so this one shouldn’t come as any surprise.”
“President Bush is impressed by Liz Cheney’s strength and vision, and he’s proud to support her,” he added.
Trump on Wednesday evening fired back in a statement that cast Bush as a “Republican in name only,” despite his lengthy leadership of the party, and labeled Cheney “warmongering” and “so bad for Wyoming.”
Cheney’s campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday on the significance of the fundraiser. Bush aides did not comment on any possible plans to campaign on the congresswoman’s behalf.
While Bush has generally kept a low profile since leaving office in 2009, he delivered a pointed speech earlier this month on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in which he warned of the country’s growing internal division and a “violence that gathers within.”
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” he said as he delivered the keynote address at the national memorial to the victims of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
The warning came eight months after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters attempting to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. It marked some of Bush’s sharpest criticism of that attack and appeared to be an implicit criticism of Trump’s brand of politics.
Trump, a longtime critic of Bush who ran on opposing the country’s wars in the Middle East, responded to the speech by slamming Bush for suggesting “terrorists on the ‘right’ are a bigger problem than those from foreign countries that hate America, and that are pouring into our Country right now.”
“He shouldn’t be lecturing us about anything,” Trump said in a statement. “The World Trade Center came down during his watch. Bush led a failed and uninspiring presidency. He shouldn’t be lecturing anybody!”
Cheney was ousted from her leadership position as the No. 3 House Republican for taking on Trump but has nonetheless posted huge fundraising numbers, with two consecutive record quarters, according to financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
That includes bringing in $1.88 million from April through June and $1.54 million in the first three months of 2021, reports show.
Trump has endorsed several other Republicans challenging GOP incumbents who voted to impeach him. That includes Kelly Tshibaka, who is running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska; Michigan state Rep. Steve Carra, who is trying to unseat longtime Rep. Fred Upton; and Joe Kent, who is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington.
Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio announced last week he will be retiring instead of running for reelection next year against a Trump-backed opponent.