Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) didn't make any new friends in the GOP with her star turn bashing former President Trump in prime time on Thursday night. It doesn't bother her a bit.
Cheney, a dynastic figure who sits in the House seat once held by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, used her high perch on the Jan. 6 select committee to accuse Trump of abusing the powers of the presidency to orchestrate nothing short of an attempted coup — explosive charges that have reinforced her status as Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the MAGA faithful.
The much-watched hearing has further complicated Cheney’s path to reelection in deep-red Wyoming, a Trump stronghold where her primary opponent has the energetic backing of the 45th president, who is actively stumping against the mutinous incumbent.
But as Cheney's attacks on Trump have grown only louder, it's increasingly clear that she's motivated by something other than securing her future in the lower chamber. Whether that thing is a self-sacrificing desire to save the country's democratic traditions from the former president or an egomaniacal effort to advance her own fame and political powers largely depends on the perspective of her fans and critics.
What is not in question is that Cheney has staked her legacy on her relentless anti-Trump activism — a reputation that will become only more deeply entrenched as the select committee airs its investigative findings in a long series of public hearings that will dominate discussion in Washington through the rest of the month.
“President Trump summoned the mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the select committee, said during the panel’s prime-time hearing Thursday night.
For the like-minded Trump critics, Cheney is an enormous asset to the investigation, offering the committee not only a good dose of bipartisan legitimacy, but also a seasoned legal mind who knows the ins and outs of the GOP conference and its complicated dealings with the former president.
“She’s an awesome lawyer, … [and] she was the chair of the House Republican Conference,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former professor of constitutional law who also sits on the investigative panel. “So she obviously knows the terrain better than anyone else on the committee.”
To Trump’s allies on and off of Capitol Hill, however, Cheney is simply a traitor to the party — a “Pelosi Republican” who’s been all but disowned as GOP leaders try to tap Trump’s popularity in their effort to flip control of the House in November’s midterm elections.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who wants to take the speakership next year, said this week that the responsibility for the Jan. 6 falls on “everybody in the country.”
In one sense, Cheney is an unlikely figure to assume the role of Republican iconoclast. Her family ranks among the most powerful GOP dynasties of the last half century, and her father's unique brand of conservatism — combined with his no-apologies approach to power-policymaking — made him a favorite with the Republican base.
In a similar vein, Liz Cheney’s staunch conservative positions — including strong attacks on gay marriage during an early campaign — made her a villain in the eyes of Democrats nationwide, but helped propel her quickly into the leadership ranks once she arrived on Capitol Hill in 2017.
In another sense, however, Cheney is the natural fit to play Trump's foil.
Trump had devoted much of his successful 2016 campaign bashing the overseas entanglements of the Bush-Cheney administration, most notably the 2003 decision to launch the Iraq War, which was championed by the elder Cheney. After taking the White House, Trump continued those attacks on the old Republican guard that had pushed an aggressively interventionist foreign policy, a group that included both of the Cheneys.
Although Cheney had opposed Trump’s first impeachment, she was furious with his actions surrounding the attack on the Capitol, where a violent mob of Trump supporters tried to overturn his election defeat. More than 150 police officers were injured in the rampage.
Cheney was one of just 10 Republicans to support Trump’s impeachment following the riot, and she’s jumped headfirst into her role investigating the tragedy. On Thursday, she used the platform of the televised hearing to warn those Republicans still backing Trump that history won’t treat them kindly.
“Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she said.
Supporters of the far-reaching investigation note the significance of having a Republican of Cheney’s stature joining the probe.
“It's important, because like she said, this is not about political parties, or your political views. It's about finding out the truth,” U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell said following the hearing. “And from what the committee laid out today, it seems like there's a lot more that needs to be done.”
But Cheney’s recalcitrance has come with political costs.
Last year, after Cheney refused to stop criticizing Trump for his role in the Capitol riot, the GOP conference voted overwhelmingly to boot her out of leadership, replacing her with a Trump loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has embraced the former president's lies about a stolen election.
More recently, the Republican National Committee voted to condemn Cheney — along with the only other Republican on the select committee, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — for their willingness to join Democrats in the Jan. 6 investigation. That decision, the Republican National Committee charged, “has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic.”
In the wake of Thursday’s select committee hearing, the attacks on Cheney from Trump’s allies have grown only more pronounced. During the hearing, Tucker Carlson, the wildly popular Fox News pundit, characterized Cheney as “the Iraq War lady” who’s now “lecturing us about honor and truth.”
Carlson’s guest was Joe Kent, a Trump supporter from Washington state who’s launched a primary challenge against Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who also supported Trump’s second impeachment. He, too, had some sharp words for the Wyoming Republican.
“It's absolutely absurd and insulting,” Kent said of Cheney’s attacks on Trump’s defenders. “She thinks that we can't go back and look at her record that she has been lying to the American people basically for her entire career and profiting off of it, but also she has to bring up this whole, ‘Oh it must be a big Trump thing.’”
Kent said the Capitol rioters were in Washington on Jan. 6 not because of anything Trump did or said, but because “a vast majority” of Americans “did not feel like their voices were heard at the election box, and therefore things started to get a little bit dicey.”
In the face of such attacks, Cheney has found a new group of allies: Democrats, who have always opposed her conservative policy prescriptions, but are now cheering her on as she takes on a shared adversary in Trump.
“Liz Cheney and I do not agree on almost probably 80 percent of the contentious issues that come up, give or take 10 points,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters this week. “But what she is standing up for is the truth.”
“That's why she was removed as the leader of the Republican Party,” he continued. “Because the Republican Party didn't want to hear the truth."
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack is hours away from the first of its highly anticipated series of public hearings.
The prime-time hearing kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday and will be aired on the big three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as cable networks CNN and MSNBC. Fox News announced it will not air the hearing on its main network.
The committee described Thursday’s hearing as an initial summary of a “coordinated, multi-step effort” to overturn the 2020 election results, including previously unseen material and witness testimony.
Here are five things to watch for at tonight’s hearing:
How strongly the committee connects Trump to the riot
Some Democrats have voiced hope that the panel’s findings will amp up pressure on the Justice Department to prosecute former President Trump for his role in the attack.
But exactly how strong the committee connects Trump himself to the riot remains a central question of the panel’s hearings.
But Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who sits on the panel, said in a Washington Post Live interview on Monday that the committee has found evidence on Trump that supports “a lot more than incitement,” the charge Democrats laid out in their second impeachment trial against Trump.
The House had voted to impeach the then-president for incitement to insurrection before Trump was ultimately acquitted in the Senate.
Raskin said he believed Trump and the White House were at the “center” of Jan. 6.
“The select committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here, and we’re gonna be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on Jan. 6,” Raskin said.
How the committee leverages testimony from Trump’s inner circle
The committee has conducted more than 1,000 interviews in its yearlong investigation, subpoenaed more than 100 people and has promised to share video footage of some of its depositions.
The committee has pledged to air footage from interviews with “Trump White House officials, senior Trump administration officials, Trump campaign officials and indeed Trump family members,” the aide said.
The panel also sat down with a wide range of senior Trump White House officials, including some who were with the former president on Jan. 6.
It has also sat down with former Justice Department officials who spoke about Trump's pressure campaign at the department, as well as with legal advisers to former Vice President Mike Pence.
The committee has also interviewed multiple Trump family members, including Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son; his fiancee, Kimberly Guilfoyle; Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter; and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said on Wednesday that Ivanka Trump’s testimony would not air in Thursday’s hearing, but he left open the possibility it may be played later.
Those videotaped testimonies will be part of a multimedia presentation. The committee hired a veteran ABC producer to assist with assembling the videos as it looks to transform its evidence into a ready-for-TV package.
How organized groups played a role in spurring violence
Among the thousands of people who traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 were extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Dozens of these groups’ members have been charged in connection with the riot.
The role of the Proud Boys is expected to come into particular focus on Thursday when documentarian Nick Quested appears as a witness.
Quested filmed footage of Proud Boys members during the Capitol breach and a Jan. 5 meeting between the leaders of the two extremist groups.
Prosecutors charged five Proud Boys leaders with seditious conspiracy on Monday.
The committee has also taken interest in the groups that planned the now-infamous rally on the Ellipse and other events preceding the riot.
The panel issued subpoenas to individuals listed on event permits filed by Women for America First for the Ellipse event and some of the group’s contractors.
The committee also subpoenaed people affiliated with the “Stop the Steal” movement, with one organizer having said the group intended to direct Ellipse rally attendees to a subsequent event on Capitol grounds.
How the committee looks ahead to future elections
Perceptions of the committee’s end goal are varied among lawmakers. Some Democrats hope the hearings will provide a high-stakes history lesson for the public, while others desire greater accountability for the riot’s central players.
As Democrats weigh their options, the panel itself has reportedly become divided about what long-term reforms to implement.
Axios reported on Sunday that Raskin has argued for abolishing the Electoral College to prevent future subversion of the electoral counting process. But Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chair, has voiced opposition to that proposal out of concerns it would diminish the committee’s credibility, according to the outlet.
Axios reported that other committee members have pushed more modest reforms, like changes to the Electoral Count Act and federal voting rights legislation.
How Republicans combat the hearing’s messaging
The panel scheduled its first hearing for prime time in attempts to cut through to large swaths of the American public, but the committee is already facing headwinds.
Fox News announced it will not air the hearing on its cable channel, although its lower-profile sister network Fox Business will do so. Prominent Fox News host Tucker Carlson will host his show at 8 p.m. on Thursday just as the hearing begins.
But Republicans are mounting a broader media battle as the hearings approach.
The GOP is arguing the hearings are just meant to distract voters from issues like inflation and crime. The House Committee on Administration Republicans sent a letter to the Jan. 6 panel asking it to preserve all records in preparation for an investigation of the investigation.
At House Republican leadership’s press conference earlier on Thursday, just one of nine attending lawmakers said they would tune in to Thursday’s hearing: Rep. Kelly Armstrong (N.D.).
The biggest moment of the Jan. 6 House Select Committee’s existence is about to arrive.
On Thursday evening, the panel will hold the first of its televised hearings. The event will take place in prime time and be broadcast by almost every major network and news channel.
For some, it will be the most dramatic congressional investigation since the Watergate hearings a half-century ago.
Others — committed supporters of former President Trump, in particular — will likely tune out the hearings.
Here are five big questions that have yet to be answered.
What will we learn that’s new about Trump?
Democrats are promising explosive revelations about the former president’s role in fomenting the attack on the Capitol.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on Tuesday promised in a CNN interview, “We’re going to see how much Trump was involved. Trump ran this show. He ran it from the time he lost the election in November, and he did it with his son, or sons, and all of his henchmen up there.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the committee, told The Washington Post in a Monday interview that the panel had “found evidence about a lot more than incitement here.”
Raskin added, “I think that Donald Trump and the White House were at the center of these events. That’s the only way of really making sense of them all.”
Ironically, the main difficulty Democrats may face in making the case against Trump is the vast amount that is already known.
Trump was, after all, impeached by the House only one week after the insurrection, becoming the only president in history to be impeached on two separate occasions.
At a rally at the Ellipse near the White House, immediately before the assault on the Capitol, he told supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” And he also told them that President Biden, if certified as the election’s winner, would be an illegitimate president.
There have also been subsequent media leaks about other things the panel may have uncovered — including, recently, the suggestion that Trump was sympathetic to the demands of some of his supporters to “hang Mike Pence,” then the sitting vice president.
There could be more shocking evidence to come. But the knowledge already in existence sets a high bar.
Can the panel incriminate the Republican Party more broadly?
The committee famously features just two Republicans — Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who serves as vice chair, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — both of whom are vigorous Trump critics.
That leaves the wider GOP in the panel’s crosshairs, especially if it can pin culpability for specific misdeeds on other members of the party.
No fewer than 147 Republican members of Congress voted to invalidate the election results in some shape or form on the evening of the insurrection, with debris still littering the Capitol’s hallways.
Yet, at that time, senior members of the GOP were willing to acknowledge Trump’s culpability.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in February 2021 said on the Senate floor that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” In a recorded call with colleagues later obtained by two reporters for The New York Times, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Trump’s actions “atrocious and totally wrong.”
But McConnell voted to acquit Trump on the impeachment charge in the Senate and McCarthy made his peace much more publicly, traveling to Mar-a-Lago to meet Trump. Last week, Trump endorsed McCarthy for reelection to the House.
The GOP would far rather talk about the issues bedeviling Biden than Jan. 6.
But if the committee can make a compelling case with fresh and additional evidence, Republicans may have little choice.
Can the Democrats put on a show?
For good or for bad, the theater of politics matters.
So, one question will be how compelling Democrats can make the hearings.
The first hearing is likely to be the most important of all, much as the first presidential debate in a series tends also to be the most vital.
All three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, have said they will shelve their regular programming and replace it with live coverage of the Thursday hearing. So too have CNN and MSNBC. Controversially, Fox News will not air the hearing live, instead confining such coverage to Fox Business.
Conservatives have taken umbrage at the decision by the committee to turn to a former president of ABC News, James Goldston, to help make Thursday’s presentation as compelling as possible.
Axios, which first reported Goldston’s involvement, wrote that he was “busily producing” the hearing “as if it were a blockbuster investigative special.”
We’re about to see the results.
Do the hearings change the political agenda?
There is little doubt that Thursday’s hearing will eclipse almost all the political news out of Washington. For that night at least, it will be the only show in town.
But how long will that effect last?
Trump allies have promised “counterprogramming” to push back on the narrative being advanced by the committee.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) is kicking off that effort Wednesday, at a morning news conference with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and ardent Trump allies Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Stefanik told Fox News that she and her colleagues were “pushing back against lame-duck Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi’s sham political witch hunt.”
More broadly, the White House has spent months on the defensive, embattled by a host of problems including inflation, high gas prices, an infant formula shortage and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The hearings will give Democrats a chance to put the GOP on the back foot — but for how long?
Can the panel shift public opinion?
Politically, this is the biggest question of all.
Many independent experts, and even some liberals, aren’t at all sure the answer is yes.
For all kinds of reasons, opinions around Jan. 6 have calcified.
While Democrats see Trump’s culpability as self-evident, many Republicans seem willing to dismiss anything the panel uncovers.
Meanwhile, a politically segmented media environment combines with the bias-reinforcing dynamics of social media to deepen those divisions.
That doesn’t mean the committee is wasting its time. New evidence regarding Jan. 6 is important by its nature.
But it may not be enough to change many minds.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) on Monday said the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has found evidence on former President Trump that supports “a lot more than incitement.”
The comment from Raskin, a member of the Jan. 6 panel, referenced Trump’s second impeachment in January 2021, when the House voted to impeach the then-president for incitement to insurrection.
The Jan. 6 panel is set to hold its first public hearing on Thursday, where Raskin said the committee will lay out information regarding individuals who played a role in the attack — including Trump.
“The select committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here, and we’re gonna be laying out the evidence about all of the actors who were pivotal to what took place on Jan. 6,” Raskin said during an interview with Washington Post Live.
Trump was impeached in the House by a 232-197 vote, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in sanctioning the president. The following month, however, the Senate acquitted him in a 57-43 vote. Seven Senate Republicans joined the entire Democratic caucus in voting to convict.
The select committee says Thursday’s prime-time hearing, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., will feature new material and witness testimony from the nearly yearlong investigation, which has largely been conducted behind the scenes
Raskin on Monday told The Washington Post Live that this week’s hearing will “tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power.”
Asked if Trump is at the center of that conspiracy, Raskin said “I think that Donald Trump and the White House were at the center of these events.”
“That’s the only way really of making sense of them all,” he added.
He noted, however, that "people are going to have to make judgments themselves about the relative role that different people played."
The Maryland Democrat then pointed to Trump’s second impeachment, in which Raskin was the lead manager of the Senate trial.
“Of course the House and the Senate in bicameral and bipartisan fashion have already determined that the former president, Donald Trump, incited an insurrection by majority votes in the House and the Senate,” Raskin said.
“Although, Donald Trump wasn’t convicted by the requisite two-thirds majority, but commanding majority found that he had in fact incited this insurrection,” he added.
Updated at 2:21 p.m.
On Tuesday, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin – one of the impeachment managers against former President Donald Trump – called the GOP “an authoritarian political-religious cult.”
Raskin, who objected to certifying the electoral college after Trump’s win in 2016, made his remarks during an interview on MSNBC’s program “All In.”
An authoritarian cult of personality powering the Big Lie has adopted rule-or-ruin politics. Encouraging to see resistance grow across the spectrum, but reforms to the Electoral Count Act alone won't save us.
We need to fortify all institutions against this fascistic menace. pic.twitter.com/oUJ9C9pzt9
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) February 16, 2022
‘Authoritarian Political-Religious Cult’
Ironically speaking on a segment about certifying the 2020 election results, MSNBC host Chris Hayes said, “There are hundreds of elected Republicans across the states and a relatively small amount that were actively plotting along with the president’s coup, as far as we know.”
Raskin replied, “That’s right, and there were people who deliberately defied him, like secretary of state Brad Raffensperger in Georgia. There were dozens of election officials who refused to just nullify and vaporize the actual votes of the election.”
Raskin then said that he believes Trump has a cult-like hold over his party.
“What’s interesting, though, is that Donald Trump has only consolidated his control over the GOP, which now operates like an authoritarian political-religious cult,” the Democrat insisted.
“The people who said no to him are being systematically opposed and purged by his party,” Raskin added.
The Democrat believes Republicans now operate outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.
“So you’ve got an entire political party which has positioned itself outside of the constitutional order, which is attacking the outcome of our elections and our basic constitutional processes.”
Leftists always accuse others of what they are or what they wish they were
Raskin: GOP ‘Operates Like an Authoritarian Political-Religious Cult’ https://t.co/zgOLkur4rk
— The Good Dissident (@GoodDissident) February 16, 2022
Raskin Objected To 2016 Certification
Raskin objected to certifying the electoral college in 2016, claiming that some Florida electors “were not lawfully certified.”
He was immediately gaveled down by none other than then-Vice President Joe Biden.
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) went on “The View” on Monday to attack Donald Trump, claiming that the former president “remains a clear and present danger to the American people” despite the fact that he is out of office and has been banned from social media.
Raskin Attacks Trump
“I believe in Donald Trump’s mind he absolutely is the future, and he’s going to try to maintain that kind of authoritarian relationship with people in the Republican Party,” Raskin said.
“I think we need to confront his criminality, his corruption, and his dangerousness every single day. As long as he’s still out there, he remains a clear and present danger to the American people,” he added.
“He spent four years in office cozying up to every dictator and despot on earth, from Putin in Russia to Orbán in Hungary to Duterte in the Philippines, el-Sisi Egypt,” Raskin said. “You find a criminal in public office that was Donald Trump’s guy.”
“They’re going to be, you know, sending Jared Kushner out there on a globetrotting tour of every kleptocracy and autocracy on earth in order to collect the money they feel they deserve from having worked with all of these regimes,” he continued.
Raskin Doubles Down
“That money will be used to try to get Donald Trump to return to the White House,” Raskin said. “Of course, if he were to ever able to get back in, he would try to stay forever. He was already talking about a third term and how the Democrats owed him more terms and so on.”
“So I think he remains a very clear and viable threat to the American republic and obviously to the Republican Party. He is likely to destroy the republican party because of his authoritarianism and his determination to remain a cult leader,” he concluded.
.@RepRaskin to @TheView: “[Trump] remains a very clear and viable threat to the American republic, and obviously to the Republican party. He is likely to destroy the Republican party because of his authoritarianism and his determination to remain a cult leader.” pic.twitter.com/OiABDubMQd
— The View (@TheView) February 22, 2021
During the four years that Trump was in office, Raskin was one of the most fiercely anti-Trump people in Congress. That’s why it came as no surprise when he became the lead House impeachment manager during the Democratic Party’s latest attempt to impeach Trump.
This piece was written by James Samson on February 22, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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